12 Self-Creating Actions and 12 Preoccupational Diversions

12 Actions and 12 Diversions

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On the last page of my 2009 Museum of Lost Wonder calendar, I found the following. Find out more about Museum of Lost Wonder by Jeff Hoke.

12 Self-Creating Actions

Not seeing: or not-knowing, leads to Wonder and curiosity. This starts the whole big wheel rolling. The lost blind man is the Mind trying to define its Self by groping for physical things.

Creating formative karmas: This refers to who we mold our fates by the identities initiated by our thoughts, feelings, and actions.

Consciousness: This anxious monkey, jumping from branch to branch, is a metaphor for the process of thought—the mind searching for a home, or sense of Self, in its physical surroundings.

Name form: These little guys boating are a metaphor for how individuality arises in the mind by separating itself from the sea of sensation through crafting a vehicle of its own classification of thought and perceptions.

Birth of connectedness: A friendly little house with five windows is a metaphor for the senses. The perception of the world through our senses is how the drifting, isolated mind finds a port or home in the world.

Touch: This cute couple symbolizes how the mind’s desire for connectedness finds closeness by physical contact. It is the marriage of the mind to the world by the sense of touch.

Feeling: This poor fellow, with an arrow stuck in his eye, exemplifies how physical contact can cause a deeper personal influence by creating an emotional reaction.

Wordliness: The pain and uneasiness caused by our emotional reactions can give rise to a craving for temporary diversions. In this case it’s a thirsty little man drinking beer.

Picking (or indulgence): One beer is never enough to ease all the pain, so one looks for a more permanent ownership of pleasure, here typified by a man collecting fruit.

Lust: Overwhelming attraction to another is viewed as the Self seeking a sense of permanence by joining with the identity of another. (One doesn’t need to drink beer to feel this, but it’s a common result of getting drunk and picking the fruits of desire.)

Birth: A common result of lust. What better what to solidify and extend the identity one has formed than to create a copy of oneself through procreation?

Old age and death: The cycle ends—an old man follows a wrapped corpse being carried to the grave. The persona dissolves. One’s hopes for permanence are left to the identities and memories imparted to one’s children.

12 Preoccupational Diversions

Start a hobby: For some simple diversion, for many a self-defining activity. It might not pay the rent, but it often reflects our passions.

Watch TV: The great disseminator of myth and culture is also the quickest way to compare who you are with who you’re not in the world. Culture at your fingertips, but always at a comfortable arm’s length.

Take a trip: From the pilgrimage to a vacation, there’s no better way to find your Self than going someplace else.

Choose a career: The most utilized tag for establishing what you are. Money, prestige, authority … all terrific ways we gauge our Self-worth and compare ourselves to others to figure out who we are.

Go shopping: Just as accessories make the outfit, our accoutrements make the persona. Know thyself by the stuff that surrounds you while getting confirmation from others.

Fall in love: There’s no better way to determine who you are than by orbiting someone else. In the bounds of love, they reflect you, while you reflect them. Seen as a private act, it hardly happens outside a social context—with others looking in.

Go to church: This weekly adventure provides a safe haven for souls who define themselves by accepting its cozy confines with others who do the same.

Belong to a cause: From saving the world to rooting for your home team, causes have always been a great way to create an identity and give life meaning. Zealotry confirms your individuality by establishing what you stand for by being against something else.

Get drunk: The balm of wearing souls since civilization began, a temporary Band Aid for those wounds of self-doubt, a way to forget your Self while allowing your Shadow to come to light.

Have sex: The best invention since the semipermeable membrane for defining oneself, sex has always been a favorite way to feel like somebody by feeling someone else’s body.

Make a baby: When all else fails, duplicating your genes and making a new Self has always been a popular way to express one’s identity. Cute, cuddly, adorable and full of potential—all the things we once were and would still like to be.

Contemplate suicide: Potentially the single most defining act of personal freedom. A perfect way to find meaning for those tired of the vain search for an identity in society. The contemplation of death represents the pinnacle of curiosity. It’s where the persona confronts the Self and the great mystery that lies between them. It’s the basis of all the great philosophical schools that seek to find meaning by prioritizing what’s important in life by comparing it to what you won’t get to do in death.

My current diversions (in order of prominence in my life):

  1. Choose a career
  2. Take a trip
  3. Fall in love
  4. Get drunk
  5. Watch TV

My ideal diversions (what I strive for):

  1. Start a hobby (writing & reading)
  2. Take a trip
  3. Fall in love
  4. Get drunk

Diversions that won’t ever suit me:

  1. Go shopping
  2. Go to church
  3. Belong to a cause

After reading about diversions, I wonder if, in our lives, we seek out the friends or lovers who possess the same manner of diversions as ourselves. I think so.

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Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has more than 15 years of experience in the book and magazine publishing industry, with expertise in digital media and the future of authorship. She speaks around the world at events such as BookExpo America, Frankfurt Book Fair, and Digital Book World, and has keynoted writing conferences such as The Muse & The Marketplace. She currently teaches digital media and publishing at the University of Virginia. Find out more.
Posted in Life Philosophy, Reading.


  1. Very interesting!

    I think I might agree with your last sentences. Though I've found myself intrigued, amused, inspired by people who are not like me at all.

    Let's see… for me I would like my hobby (writing) to become a career. So that's two things. I don't want to get drunk again because the first and last time I did that, I gave a lap dance to an 21 year old guy. Yes, yes I did.

    Don't like to shop for myself, but like to shop for others.

    And anytime I've taken a trip (especially abroad) I've returned a better, more engaged person. Would love to travel and stay longer in places but then the hobby turning into a career would have to happen. :)

    You give one plenty to think about here. Thank you for this.


  2. Your comment makes me realize that for two distinct items on this list – hobby & career – I'm always looking at how these 2 things can come together in a life (for myself and others).

    Should a division exist between career and hobby? Does it happily exist for some, not others? (You know, all that talk about this or that poet or novelist also being doctors, accountants, etc.)

    Is it possible to lead a full or fully realized life that might be focused on a career, but not a passion?

  3. Combining passion (hobby) and career is the Holy Grail for most creatives I know.

    We long to focus our energies into a meaningful stream of work that also meets our survival needs.

    If you have a dayjob, you are a split personality, and you tend to become very exhausted from juggling two worlds.

    If you don't have a day job, you are either blessed with amazing luck and/or skill, a sugar daddy or mama, or you tend to be hungry.

  4. Oooh! Such a good comment! :-)

    Does it count to have a sugar daddy who can't support you unless you have a day job? I guess that does NOT count. Ha.

    But I so appreciate your insight that THIS is what remains as the Holy Grail. I think you are absolutely right, and why so many blogs/books about making money “with your passion” are very popular right now.

    Working for money—or family or loyalty—seems to be a trend that is NOT popular nowadays.

    In short, I know what that feeling of hunger is like, and so many in this world know that same feeling.

    Then, in my odder moments, I think of those living in Lagos, Nigeria, and feel incredibly privileged!

    Yet we have no control over where we are born, and what we are born into. We have to live in the best way possible. And in the U.S … it seems like there's a consistent and nagging conflict between doing what we must (for whatever reason, all equally valid), and what we love.

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