Friday, April 3, 2009

Life is not a zero-sum game

It's hard to know sometimes, as much as you try to keep other people's points of view in line, what is right. Philosophers have struggled with this question to no successful conclusion; we call it moral relativity and leave it at that. Religion and science both compete for this answer but neither one moves me as a person. Neither one will answer "Should I stay in this relationship or strike out for somethimg better?" or "Do I need to buy better work clothes?" Usually this type of input is left to friends and family, but what if those support structures aren't there? What if they perpetuate bad systems of thought like abuse or self-neglect?
We don't have a net for people who learn too late that the tools they've been given in life don't do the jobs they need. Supposedly, you're supposed to be able to figure this kind of thing out on your own, but I don't buy that conclusion, either. Life is too short to try and figure this out alone, yet that's really the only choice. Perhaps I just need to find friends at the same stage of life that I'm in, which is hard because I'm unmarried, no kids, and atypically smart. And whiney...did I mention that?


Anonymous said...

All systems of thought are flawed, but none of them are useless.

The purpose of education (formal and informal) to give us shortcuts from having to experience things to learn them all. If we had to rely on our own experiences, we wouldn't be completely acclimated to survival until shortly before we're relieved of it. Most often, the most important life sustaining lesson is the one we've learned right before we no longer have to worry about life anymore (Heart of Darkness style).

But, education fixes that for us to some degree. It gives us the shortcuts from those who had the experiences we're pretty glad we don't have to have to learn it ourselves. The openness that we have to that learning exercise is our most important tool. There's no recipe for it, either. We accept the things that we find useful and discard the ones that aren't, hoping we have the wisdom at the time of the encounter necessary to discern one from the other correctly.

Acceptance that even this we won't do perfectly is a grace and has to come with it the willingness to dust ourselves off, after the last encounter with the windmill, and go at it again with slight alterations for aesthetic or practical purposes. All of the other people in the world are doing this, too, and are reaching it at its various stages but no one is really materially ahead of the others. I think the people most behind are those who think that they have it figured out, regardless of who they are or regardless of the quantity of experiences that they have. With regard to living, real living, certainty is a killer that dulls the mind and numbs the senses.

Above all, allow your past experiences to give you confidence in who you are (as a function of this act of construction). Right or wrong, these experiences are yours and every one of them adds value to you as a person and that value should ennoble and recreate you. It is something you can share, modify, reserve, enhance, or discard completely but all of the choices to do so are yours and the function of acting on them solidifies you in a way that the hammer and chisel makes the statue more real with every blow, more rational, and more of an experience.

You can rely on outside input, direction, and even a framework from others. You should accept all inputs freely and re-architect them to fit you like interesting clothing or a good super hero costume. But the best decisions, the ones that really matter and shape you, will belong wholly and completely to you regardless of their origin.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and therefore in good dialectic style (let's just pick a an applicable philosophy), the answer to your questions are that you should stay in your current relationship unless, of course, you need new work clothes. If you need new work clothes then you should search for a suitably matching relationship. I recommend mauve, that's a good color for a relationship.

Fenixmagic said...

That's funny...and very HHGTTG. Reminds me of a shirt that used to have all the world religions and their views on "shit happens."