Means without a goal is not a means at all, but merely empty movement.

We get so distracted in the medium, almost forgetting that it is only the method. It seems as if the medium has taken priority over the message. We may want to communicate, for example, the idea of interconnected knowledge or something more commonly conveyed, like love, whether musically, verbally, through literature, painting, or architecture, these means are not the end, they are a MEANS to the end.

Whether I want to pursue comprehension of a particular idea or the deep understanding of a truth, in all of these I may conform the means, the medium, to whatever most effectively and simply communicates the message. The means must conform, completely, to the end. A watchful eye can protect us from falling into the trap of movement for its own sake, rather than a final purpose. Like a woodworker so lost in his tools and configurations, obsessed with gadgets and such, he never really gets to the purpose, creating wood products! More or less I have seen this happen with my own eyes. It is quite comical, watching all of the knowledge and time and effort go towards nothing. Nothing other than a partner muttering, “well, it keeps him busy…”

“There has been an explosion of activity simply because it can be done, without giving thought to if it should be done or why it should be done or when it should be done.”

Why are we as people so often susceptible to getting lost in the means and forgetting the end goal? Our films have lost their storytelling acumen. Stories have given way to special effects. Speaking to a friend of mine, she lamented the remake of The Lion King, while it has very life-like CGI overall, there was a lack of emotional details in the faces of the characters. A dramatic story told without the much-needed attention to detail and painstaking focus on the minor reactions to pain and triumph. We end up with an interesting story conveyed, yes in realistic imagery, but in emotional bull-it points.

Photo by Disney

Let’s take a closer look at the craftsman clearly treading in an off-balance pursuit. A continual obsession with new tools, rearranging equipment, distracted by obscure materials and how they sharpen chisels and what brand they are, and what hand-made case they reside in, and so forth and so on. I have known a craftsman whose only projects were those of making the shop; from the workbench and the cabinets then on to fussy details of increasing uselessness. Yes, it is great, even advised, to build up a shop yourself, make your benches and stands and tables, but if that is all it leads to, building a shop to have a shop to then rearrange the shop, and maybe build a fancy bit holder, and then rearrange the shop, and maybe redesign the bit holder, and of course by that point, its time for tool upgrades…what then is the point! It may sound goofy, but it happens a lot, it may sound harmless, certainly it is a better alternative to vice or laziness. But as a craft, as a means to an end, it is meaningless. To pave a parking lot to have a nice parking lot on which to work at repaving the lot again. While it may seem benign, it is propagation toward a society of doing things to do them without a bigger picture or purpose in mind.

“Keep things in the channels that lead to the proper ends of their means”

There has been an explosion of activity simply because it can be done, without giving thought to if it should be done or why it should be done or when it should be done. Most things are great in their time, but not understanding or having a picture of the ultimate end goal of these means, leaves us with misapplied and misappropriated craft done for nothing, or for boasting rights, or more obscured illusions. Of course, it is great to go out and just lose ourselves in a hobby. Yes, there are times to just do a thing because we love it. Go out and golf if you enjoy it, go out and do it for the purpose of doing it. But remember to seek to understand why it brings enjoyment, and to reflect and pick up the life lessons it brings. Take a moment every once in a while to put it in its ultimate perspective. This can be applied in all things.

We don’t have to always be cycling around frantically trying to connect all of our actions each moment of every day analyzing some deeper purpose. But for work and our primary hobbies, we can certainly take time to reflect, once in a while, realize their purpose and place and end goal, and every so often check our data and make necessary corrections to ensure we are still on course. Keep things in the channels that lead to the proper ends of their means, whether that be for pleasure and ensuring it doesn’t become too big a part of our life, (CGI for a movie and keeping a keen eye to make sure it doesn’t steal attention away from the story and its message) or be it principle arenas significant enough to question life’s purpose and the track we are on ultimately.

We can all afford to take some moments out of our week, months and years to question, analyze, and adjust. It will bring the renewed energy and focus of having a clear picture and perspective of life from its little joys to its major demands.

Remember, means without a goal is not a means at all, but merely empty movement.