like the shampoo bottle says: “repeat”

My life is both happiest and most productive when it is structured. I seem to need structure and routine to make the most of my time. On the one hand, this accords with the way the archetype of the Professor manifests, as portrayed by Cowden, LaFever, and Viders in their Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes & Heroines. They note as one of his flaws that he is:

Inflexible: The Professor is set in his ways, and not enthusiastic at the prospect of change.

Reading through the eight male archetypes that the authors describe, there can be no doubt that the Professor is me (possibly mixed in with a bit of the Chief), and, true to form, I am set in my ways.

But, on the other hand, this is not necessarily (only) a flaw. For, as William James notes in his superb textbook The Principles of Psychology, in the chapter on Habit, we need habits in order to live:

There is no more miserable human being than one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision, and for whom the lighting of every cigar, the drinking of every cup, the time of rising and going to bed every day, and the beginning of every bit of work, are subjects of express volitional deliberation. Full half the time of such a man goes to the deciding, or regretting, of matters which ought to be so ingrained in him as practically not to exist for his consciousness at all.

Predictable can be beautiful.

Habit is the automating of our behavior, but this always has a positive purpose: to free our conscious minds to work on higher, subtler things than the process we have automated. This allows us to think while we walk, to converse while we eat, to read while we drink tea.

I don’t want to be using my mental processing power to make small decisions, like which t-shirt to put on (I always pull the next one in order out of my drawer), what to have for breakfast (raw oat flakes with raisins and organic milk—unless I have, as today, made a batch of my excellent granola), when to have breakfast (always right after my first writing block in the morning), or what to do in the afternoon of a weekday (lie down, meditate, read). For the kind of writing and reading that I do, my mind needs to be free. And that mental freedom rides, like a howdah on the back of an elephant, on a life of routine. This allows me to absorb, think, and create at the highest level I’m capable of.

I’ve read that Immanuel Kant was a man of such regular habits that people could set their watch by him. He too will have embodied the Professor archetype (don’t you think?). In order for his mind to be as busy as it was, he had to have a life of peace, order, and good government. Non-Professors might recoil at the idea of a life lived in such predictable lockstep, finding it little better than the treadmill Bill Murray endures in the 1993 movie Groundhog Day. Was it for this that we were born?

For us Professors, yes it was. Right, Immanuel?


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