It is easy to feel oppressed by things we are supposed to care about: we feel weighed down by demands that other people make on us, and things that ‘need’ to be done. Most of us could do better with practicing the (secret) skill of being selfish. Being selfish, in this context, is an inward mental move that can be very helpful for freeing our minds. There is no need to tell the world about your decision; just inwardly say “I don’t care, this is a waste of time”, and then if you can, turn your attention towards doing something you love and care about.
Very few things are actual emergencies, and very few consequences are as bad as we think. People go to lengths to make things seem like an emergency, but they are the deluded ones. Consequences can seem terrible when you are up close to them, but from a sane perspective, life should contain some ‘bad’ consequences or we are simply living a life being driven by fear. We will shuffle right into the thing we really should be afraid of – wasting our lives – due to running away from very small things.
As Plato said, most of the world is a shadow world. People are mesmerized by the flickering shadows on the cave wall, caused by a random fire. Most of the things people care about are simply random patterns of darkness. They get worked up over a particular shadow, but it will pass. They think the limits of the world are the limits of their cave, but in fact their inbuilt sense of what matters has latched on to things that do not matter at all. Most people’s brains are like swamps. Even though they look organized on the outside, inside it is a mess. Remember this when you are supposed to care about something completely unimportant which people have decided is important. It’s not even worth engaging with these people; trying to change their mind is like trying to change a swamp by pushing the vegetation around with a pole. A few people are different to this, and they are the ones worth respecting intellectually.
The challenge for someone who cares about clear ideas – about grand, noble, helpful, generous visions, and how they can be made real in the world – is to work out how to play the game of the shadow world when necessary. This is Plato’s point about the ‘noble lie’: if we are sane, there will always be two sides to us, the one side that loves what is truly worth loving, the other side that plays with shadows.