Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Aiming For Infinity

I had a very interesting dinner conversation tonight.

(We ate at Rai Rai Ramen in Franklin Township, NJ, which, along with neighboring Somerset, is the most promising and fertile chow zone in the Tristate area. Rai Rai is another instance of Taiwanese fascination with Japanese food, but while the ramen's pretty good, their short Taiwanese menu is super - even better than can be found in Flushing.)

Over pork rolls and fried chicken pieces, we discussed the sort of people who spend their lives pushing like crazy to make more and more money, even long after they have more than they need. My dining companion had an interesting perspective: that raising and supporting a family is such a formidable challenge that people can easily get stuck in a panicky sense of aspiration.

This reminded me of a great insight from my yoga teacher, who's observed that students working to achieve a difficult stretch often aim for infinity. That's a big mistake. If you don't aim toward a specific arrival point, you will, over time, wind up overdoing, pushing your body to do things it's not made to do, as you stretch further and further toward infinity like an out-of-control robot.

I think that's the mistake people make with money. They get so lost in struggling toward infinity that they shoot unknowingly past the "enough" point. That's why some people never experience any sense of enough-ness, and remain weirdly money crazy till the end of their days.

Updated in November, 2017
I'm thinking this point might benefit from a concrete example. The following yoga pose is hard for many people to do (at least with straight elbows). Note that palms are facing upward:

But having practiced it for forty years, I actually find myself turning my hands backward - i.e. too far the other way. This is: 1. unhealthy, and 2. messes up the alignment (and thus the benefit) of the pose. After spending decades investing full effort into this - not in itself a bad thing! - I find that I've worked beyond the landing point and strayed into the terrain of Bad Results. I should never have been aiming for "as far as I can go", I should have been aiming for "to the correct point". This is a very helpful insight, applicable to all sorts of realms.

Photo credit: Holly Walck Kostura via Maria's Farm Country Kitchen.

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