Telos

Hopefully this will be as "New Age" as this blog EVER gets
The ancient Greeks had a philosophical concept known as telos, which very loosely translated means something like "end", "purpose", or "goal". Another way to think of it is as a representation of the greatest potential achievements that a man can strive for, given his abilities and temperament.

The excellent TV show Last Man Standing features a video blog on the subject starring Mike Baxter. (Actually, I should say, "starring Tim Allen as Mike Baxter", but Tim Allen isn't really acting when he's portraying the lead character in the show.) I wish I could embed it here, but that is rather beyond my skills with HTML. That video goes into the concept of telos very nicely indeed. As Mike Baxter puts it, "the challenge of our lives is figuring out what we were born to do, and doing it to the best of our abilities". That is absolutely true.

Every man sooner or later faces the fundamental question: "what is my purpose in life?". Some men squander their entire lives in directionless pursuit of all the wrong ends. They waste their lives in dissipation and idleness, or are pushed into paths for which they are categorically unsuited.

A classic example comes from a schoolmate of mine back in Australia. This guy was the uber-nerd- spelled "geek" with a capital K. The school that I attended at the time was- and as far as I know, still is- a hyper-competitive academically oriented place that regards chess and debating as sports and used to routinely get thrashed 40-0 in rugby by other private schools that were somewhat less interested in books and rather more interested in, say, pounding their rivals' faces into the pitch. This chap was the top student academically; at the awards ceremonies at the end of each school year, he would receive a list of prizes and accolades as long as my arm. By the time I left the school, halfway through the 11th grade, he was a sure bet to be one of the highest-scoring and highest-achieving students in the school's long and illustrious history.

His greatest passion and skill was in mathematics. This guy wasn't merely good at mathematics- I was "good" at mathematics (or at least, I got to be good at it eventually), and I have two degrees in the subject to prove it. This guy was on an entirely different planet. The difference between him and me in terms of ability and sheer skill in the subject was roughly equivalent to the gap in linguistic ability between a mute chimpanzee and Rudyard Kipling. If he had had his way, he would have gone on to study mathematics or theoretical physics in university, and would likely have gone on to a career of magnificent achievement and acclaim as one of the greatest mathematicians of our time.

But his father had different ideas. He insisted that his son go to university to study medicine, as he had done. The father could see no point in studying something as esoteric, as impractical, and as unlikely to lead to significant monetary reward as mathematics.

His genius son reluctantly acquiesced... and, as far as I know, spent the next seven years of his young life miserably unhappy, studying a subject that he was good at but had no real heart for.

His telos may never be achieved. And that, ultimately, is a tragedy.

All of that human potential, gone to waste.

What is your telos? What are you truly good at? What do you need to change about your life in order to rediscover that potential? And are you willing to make the sacrifices necessary to achieve that end?

Because, make no mistake, if you come to the point in your life where you truly understand who you are, what drives you, what your greatest strengths and biggest weaknesses are, then you will be able to create for yourself a plan to maximise your own potential- to become the man that you always wanted to be.

But you have to be willing to face the cost of doing so.

I've been discussing that cost with a reader via email, who had much to say about his particular situation and why he felt like he needed to make some changes in his life. Out of respect for him, I won't go into any details, but suffice to say that the changes he is making are causing rifts with other people in his life.

I know the feeling. I see every day how different I have become from those men around me who are still content to follow the same path that was determined for them by a society that has repeatedly failed and abused them. And even though I do many of the same things that they do, I know deep down that, in order to achieve my telos, I will have to commit to a final break between what they think is right, and what I know to be right.

I have read somewhere that the perfect definition of Hell has got to be lying on your deathbed, and seeing a vision of the man that you could have been flashing before your eyes as you enter the Long Dark.

What are you going to do to stop yourself from staring into the abyss of that very personal Hell?

Find your telos. Do whatever it takes to make that end-goal a reality. Concentrate on becoming the best man that you can be. And in the process, as "you begin to build your life upon the rock of honesty and fairness, with the cement of the faith in God that you have, then, you have a real start."

Comments

  1. My Telos is to become a politician.

    Forgive me if I don't wish to live up to my potential.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Eh, Why not? I will even change my name to get your vote!
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzF2bdHIXcs

    ReplyDelete

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