We are what we repeatedly do. - Aristotle
Why has a course in Chinese philosophy that teaches lessons about an openness to opportunity and the satisfaction of living in the moment become one of the most popular classes offered at Harvard?
[Professor of Chinese history Michael] Puett tells his students that being calculating and rationally deciding on plans is precisely the wrong way to make any sort of important life decision. The Chinese philosophers they are reading would say that this strategy makes it harder to remain open to other possibilities that don’t fit into that plan. Students who do this 'are not paying enough attention to the daily things that actually invigorate and inspire them, out of which could come a really fulfilling, exciting life,' he explains. If what excites a student is not the same as what he has decided is best for him, he becomes trapped on a misguided path, slated to begin an unfulfilling career. Puett aims to open his students’ eyes to a different way to approach everything from relationships to career decisions. (emphasis supplied)
Perhaps the appeal of such a course to the bright, ambitious and exceptionally goal-oriented students that attend the school should be obvious.
But I was struck too by the idea that what each of us want from life is readily available, if only we pay attention to what our biologies are saying. Sadly those cues often clash with what we think we ought to be doing, a subject raised with "Happiness" author Oliver Burkeman in this "Five Questions" video. And insofar as our happiness depends on "the daily things that actually invigorate and inspire us," it's sad that we're willing too often to ignore moments of energy, of living, in favor of an action plan that may or may not be working.
This kind of lived curiosity is also essential, as Puett says, to the creative act, whether it involves important life decisions or "other possibilities." Why?
I think it's because people interested in things make interesting things.