The Personalist Project

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Accessed on September 24, 2018 - 5:30:24

Tracking the Person

Devra Torres, Jun 30, 2018

Become who you are!

I think I date my enthusiasm for personalism from the day I heard St. John Paul II say that. 

There's something else I could swear he said, though I can't find it anywhere: that by our free actions we become "somebody--or somebody else." I guess I have to bow to Google, which doesn't think he ever uttered those words. But the idea remains: what we make of our life is in our hands, much more than we imagine.

Fast forward thirty years or so, and I'm still mired in the nitty-gritty of trying to become who I am. If it's not too steep a tilt from the sublime into the ridiculous, I want to talk about that in the context of bullet journals, specifically the element of tracking certain actions from day to day, week to week, month to month.

In my esoteric little corner of the internet, bullet journals ("bujos") are all the rage. Bujos are a style of DIY personal agenda that you customize and make up as you go along. They appeal to those of us who cherish an exalted idea of our own uniqueness and are also too cheap to lay down serious money for a pre-laid-out daily planner. (The personal planner industry firmly believes there's a sucker born every minute, as evidenced by the price tags of their products.)

One appealing element of the bujo is the way you can track anything at all: grams of protein consumed, books read, sit-ups suffered, prayers said... But isn't that awfully artificial? Does it leave enough room for creativity, or just the general ability to live your life in an un-mechanical way? What am I, a science experiment and simultaneously a scientist observing myself under a microscope like some odd foreign object? Doesn't that ruin everything, making life too regimented and artificial?

It took me a while to realize that that wasn't going to be a problem. The level of chaos in my mind is more than sufficient to ward off any such danger. Tracking things, being aware of how I was really spending my time and whether I was really accomplishing any of the things I felt like I was working on would be all to the good.

And the self-knowledge! If you're going to try to become who you are, you need to have some sense of where you stand now. When I began tracking my actions to try to form habits, I was amazed how many things I thought I was doing but hardly ever did. Most of the actions I was thinking of as accomplishments actually never progressed beyond the velleity stage--that's what Thomas Aquinas calls something that's somewhere between a wish and an act of the will. Wikipedia calls it "the lowest degree of desire or volition" and notes that "the marketer Matt Bailey described it as a 'desire to see something done but not enough desire to make it happen.'"

I don't mean to say becoming who you are is just a matter of deciding on certain positive habits and tracking them until you're performing certain good actions X% of the time. Such things can pave the way for the supernatural transformation, but the kind of interweaving of faith and works, abandonment and human effort I talked about in my last post goes beyond setting a goal and proceeding towards it.

But exposing self-deception about where you stand and building up momentum towards getting somewhere--or, more, becoming someone--are starting points worth embracing.