In Silicon Valley it isn’t unusual to hear someone use the phrase, “But what’s your North Star?” It is a good, centering phrase to use because it feels like a dramatic line in a movie. It’s generally followed by an epic pause where everyone listening is prepared to have their entire reality re-align. Because the North Star is the single source of truth — and by having one, you never have to feel or get lost. Just look up to the sky, and follow the North Star.
But Roger von Oech in this ancient blog post from 2007 points out how the North Star isn’t necessarily the same star over time. It is a cool concept because — think of it for a second — that star up there that has been guiding your life’s mission all along, and you think it has been there for eternity. But it wasn’t always the guide for “true North” — no matter how absolute you want to believe its role should be.
Via NASA, also
At present, the star known as Polaris is the North Star. However, Polaris has not always been the North Star and will not always be the North Star.
The reasoning behind why the North Star changes (apparently in 26,000 years it will be updated to a different star) is that the earth itself is shifting and changing in its relation to the universe. It’s a nice metaphor for how the changes in oneself can result in reorienting one’s relation to the universe. You can still have your North Star, but it may end up that it has changed for you — and it may have happened so slowly that you never really noticed it.
So in that sense, periodically asking for one’s North Star isn’t a bad thing because it doesn’t have to always be the same — so you need to poll what this might be. Someone whose North Star keeps changing may not be as flaky as you might think — they may just be going through a lot of change. Whereas someone whose North Star remains always the same could be someone you don’t want to trust all too much – because they are completely static and frozen in the universe. Their North Star hasn’t changed because they themselves haven’t changed.
What’s my North Star? It’s a bit hazy and fuzzy out there for me right now. I am looking in the part of the sky where I know to look — but I am also open to looking at other parts of the sky, too. Part of the fun of being a little lost is knowing that you can’t be lost forever because the provisions on your little life raft will eventually run out. So you have to choose — your time will run out. And I am a terrible swimmer. So … back to the sky for me.
>> photo via NASA