We are what we create
We are creators made in the image of gods. While other animals can create things like nests (birds) and artificial ponds (beavers), only we can create anything and everything, from practical, concrete things like beautiful clothing and gourmet food, to highly abstract, like paintings and scientific theories. Things are created through intent rather than by instinct, though perhaps it is instinctual that we have this drive to create by intent.
This done with intent, or praxis, demonstrates our agency: our control over our circumstances. When we are in control, we can create what we want to create rather than what others want us to create. For example, we aren't practicing praxis when building something as part of a factory assembly line. In that case, we aren't deciding what we want to build. Rather, we flourish when we find enough time to be ourselves, to practice our praxis creating what we want to create.
We have agency when we don't have to ask for permission or apologize for what we do. It's beyond simple survival. It's what we do that shows our uniqueness. Our personality. What we do that not everyone else does.
Praxis isn't about being rich or wealthy. It's not about having power. But, whether we're rich or poor, at the top of the heap or the bottom, we can always find some space in which we can be ourselves. At least as long as we have a roof over our head, a shirt on our back, and food on our table.
Praxis is about self-actualization, becoming who you really are, deep down, as you would be if no one else were looking and no one else expected anything from you. This is really what it means to "flourish." Having the luxury of being your true self.
Another way to see praxis is through our hobbies: the things we enjoy doing in our spare time—the things we do without expecting anything in return. For example, maybe we enjoy hiking and nature photography on the weekends. Or perhaps we enjoy cooking for our friends or grandchildren.
We can't devote time to our hobbies if we have psychological or physical needs that aren't being met. For example, if we don't have a roof over our heads, we will be preoccupied with finding shelter. If we are hungry, we'll be preoccupied with finding food.
Only when we no longer have to pursue our basic physical and psychological needs can we spend energy (mental or otherwise) on things that we do because of what makes us unique humans rather than just another living being.
It's only after all of these needs are met that we can realize our "ultimate goal" in life. So what is it that you plan to do once you're retired? What would you do if you had all the money in the world and not any of the cares? Whatever that expresses who you are.
The hobbies that we gravitate to are those that express our virtues. The ones aligned with who we believe we are, deep down. These aren't activities that we do once to demonstrate our goodness, but activities driven by the patterns of our lives, our practices over the years, or even over a lifetime. We can only keep doing these things over the years if they are consistent with who we are. They are the path of least resistance for us. Anything else we try to do will not be sustainable because we will constantly have to fight ourselves.
Think of what you want to do when or if you retire. Are there things you want to do that you can't do now? Or do you want to sit around and do nothing? Are there ways to start working on those activities now, like researching them or spending a small amount of time trying them out?
Just wanting to do something because you think it will make you a better person, or make others think you are a better person, isn't enough. It's not what we believe, where our faith is, or what we say that defines us. It's what we do. The actions we take back up what we say, or our actions are driven by our beliefs or faith that show others who we really are.
In fiction writing, we learn to show rather than tell. Show the action, the emotions, the forces at work on a character, and the character's reactions rather than telling the reader about them. Showing has a much bigger impact than telling because it makes it real. This is partly because walking someone through the action requires consistency with the world in which the action takes place. It's one thing to say that we believe in a personal savior if we're fundamentalist Christian, but it's another to show what that means with the same humility and love that Christians like to boast was a hallmark of Christ. Evangelical Christians would be better off showing rather than telling.
It is through our actions that we can find the truth. True things are simply things that are consistent with the Universe around us. The Earth is round, for example. Gravity exists. Light travels with a speed limit. The climate is changing. There are a lot of things that are true because they are consistent with everything we can see. This is how science works: discovering what is self-consistent and consistent with the Universe. The assumption in science, perhaps the fundamental article of faith among scientists, is that the Universe is self-consistent. If one team can discover something, then another team can discover the same thing. This is why reproducible results are critical in science.
We might believe that the climate isn't changing, but that belief doesn't have to be consistent with the world around us. We can be blind. We can be ignorant. But if we act as if the climate isn't changing, we will make decisions that will have consequences we don't expect. For example, we might buy oceanfront property believing that the sea level will not rise and then lose it because of enhanced erosion.
Some things aren't true. These are things that we can show aren't consistent with the Universe. For example, the Earth is flat, or sea levels aren't changing. If we act on these, we will run into inconsistencies. Our trajectories will take us to the wrong place or have water damage that wouldn't have happened ever before. However, nature has a way of correcting us regardless of how strongly we believe something.
Finally, some things can't be shown to be true or false. The existence of God or gods is an example of something that can't be true or false by examining our Universe. The optimist might consider these supernatural because they are outside the natural. The realist might consider them of no consequence for the same reason: there is no impact on the world around us so that they can be ignored. Either way, there is no impact on our ability to do something. Whether there is a God doesn't change what we can do or the impact we can have on lives around us.
Not everything we can create is physical. We can create goodwill, peace, stability. We can give people space to be themselves, just as we want to be given space to be ourselves. But, we can also create turmoil. We can create hostility and hatred. We can create anything we set our mind to, as long as it is consistent with the Universe.
So what are you creating? What are you doing that aligns with who you are so that you can keep doing it? Do the results reflect who you want to be? Do others see you for who you want to be? If not, what can you start doing that might change that perception by changing who you are over the next decade? After all our words are spoken and forgotten, what we do will leave a lasting impression and show who we really are.