The poignant parable of the drunk man looking for his keys often comes to mind:

A policeman sees a drunk man searching for something under a streetlight and asks what the drunk has lost. He says he lost his keys and they both look under the streetlight together. After a few minutes the policeman asks if he is sure he lost them here, and the drunk replies, no, and that he lost them in the park. The policeman asks why he is searching here, and the drunk replies, “this is where the light is.”

This all came to mind as I read about biological research on yeast and fruit flies. We don’t use these creatures because they are perfect for finding out truths about our world. We use them because they are easy to grow and procreate at an insane rate. Have we lost anything by not putting our time and effort into other test media?

I see this same phenomenon happening as many of my peers seek out true love. The bright light of dating apps illuminates the path of least resistance, drawing in the vast majority. But, perhaps quantity is not the proper metric here. Here, the keys to another’s heart are probably far from the streetlight. And any keys that are there, have been stepped on by millions of drunkards, looking for a perfect set of keys. Search differently, do something uncomfortable. Then you might find the hidden set of keys that you were looking for.

Lets be clear, the easiest path is not necessarily the wrong path. But, one must be thoughtful before choosing it. Modern day Space Exploration is mesmerizing to watch. We can shoot a projectile off of the surface of our planet, and land it on Mars eight months later. ‘Why Mars?’, one might ask, ‘Why do we think that the most likely place to find signs of life is in our galactic back yard?’ Here, we choose Mars because its the most feasible. (Venus is actually a fair bit closer than Mars, but good luck designing a vessel that can withstand its surface conditions). And by this choice we set our selves up to gain knowledge and experience that will change how we approach space exploration in the future.

I battle with this streetlight pull as I think about what jobs I’ll pursue in the future. Consistently these debates take place with a sedentary mind. Which of my friends has the ‘best’ job? Maybe I should pursue that. Its far easier to adopt an interweaving of friends’ dreams and pursuits than to truly develop an organic one. I completely agree that one is the average of the five people they spend the most time with. But that does not suggest that we should aspire to emulate these five friends.

Applying a simple rule helps me stray from the street light. I ask myself the question, ‘How many times have I made myself truly uncomfortable in the last week?’. If the answer is zero, its time for a change. The street light shines brightest on the things we do all of the time. It illuminates the friends we know well, the activities we think were good at, and locations that feel like home. The twilight of the fringes are where things get interesting. Spend more time in the twilight.

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