The Most Important Epiphany I’ve Ever Had

If there’s one experience I would wish on everyone above all others, it’s the chance to feel your conscious desires become so at odds with your instincts that, in one brief moment, it snaps into clarity that, whether or not you feel that your rational mind is “you”, you are not your emotions either.

For me, this happened while I was taking a course on the programming language, Prolog (a language very different from the half-dozen or so I already had experience with). I was working away at the assigned exercises and frustration was building as I tried to figure out how to reconcile what my program was doing with what I thought it was supposed to be doing.

I started to lose motivation and to feel that the endeavour was “stupid” because “I already know several perfectly good and very versatile programming languages, such as Python”. I struggled to continue on despite this and, in a flash of insight, I realized that I was simultaneously holding two conflicting viewpoints: On a purely conscious level, I was still fascinated and my desire to expand my mind by internalizing the mindset embodied in the language had not waned but, on an emotional level, I considered it a waste of time.

With that revelation in mind, I found a renewed sense of motivation and was able to more effectively dismiss the emotional desire as simply a product of an instinctively lazy neurobiology trying to save precious calories, much like the desire to give up when you’re engaging in physical exercise.

I still do backslide from time to time, which is unsurprising given that the conscious mind evolved merely as a pathfinding program subordinate to the goals set by our instinctive desires, but, whenever I do manage to recall this revelation and the mindstate which accompanied it, it never fails to bolster my resolve.

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