Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Some Thoughts

It's night time at the cottage. It's so quiet here that the only sound I can here is my fingers on the keyboard. I began to feel philosophical as I packed my pipe with tobacco, and have opted to share some of my personal ethos with the friends, acquantainces, and complete strangers that make up the readership of this mish-mash.

Before I begin, I'll preface to say that I do not wish to impose my beliefs on anyone else. This is the code that I follow because it works for who I am, and my sole intent in posting a portion of it is to give you a more personal glimpse of what's going on behind my eyes. If it gives you something to think about, that's an unexpected bonus. And if you're not interested, there's a funny article about my shitty old car ("Saying Goodbye to an Old Friend") on the right hand margin.

Okay, here we go.

First and foremost, I believe in serving a calling that is larger than myself. To live for oneself is to discard any hope of immortality. This is not to say that there is not another path beyond this mortal realm, but immortality in the reality that we know is perpetuated through our legacy. Live only for yourself, and your actions end when you expire.

Everyone deserves happiness as the person they are. We have become trained to view the question, "What do I want?" as being selfish, and "How can I improve?" to be progressive. Happiness is not a destination to be arrived at, but a way of viewing the world. Much suffering comes is self-inflicted by those of us who believe that they should be something that they are not. In following our dreams and doing what we love, we serve our legacy - whether curing cancer or shining shoes is better for the world is a matter of conjecture.

Money is neither good nor evil. It is something that we trade our life energy for, and it is the value that we gain from it that is important, not the dollar figures that are involved. Material envy is pointless. Regardless of how much you may have, there will always be those that have much more. No matter how little you may have, there are always those that have far less.

True virtue requires suffering to the benefit of others. Even the most noble of gestures, done for personal glory or gain, are without meaning. Our ethics are shown in the way we live our lives when no one is watching.

We are only human. We are weak. We make mistakes. We act selfishly. We hurt others. But the past does not matter. The only thing that matters is who we are right now, and the choices that we make in the face of our failings. Failure is inevitable, but it is only a true failure if we fail to learn from our mistakes.

Honour. Duty. Courage. Love. Trust. Compassion. What has become of these simple, noble ideals? There is no one defining moment when all of our values are called into question. It is a series of small choices, almost indefineable. Do we let our waiter know that we've been undercharged? Do we cheat on our taxes? Do we confront our employer when we are belittled and brushed aside? Do we let someone into our lives, dropping our guard even if it means that they could hurt us worse than we've ever known? Do we acknowledge the suffering of others, even if it means weeping for those you've never met? A thousand such challenges face us every day, with every breath.

Appreciate what you have. If you take a moment to stop and reflect, you can find at least some small part of your life that you have taken for granted... some simple pleasure that you have not expressed gratitude for. Tonight, most of us will fall asleep in a real bed. We will not be troubled by pangs of hunger or chronic illness. We will not fall asleep to the sound of distant artillery, or fear that our loved ones will be taken from their homes in the dead of night.

That's it for now. I need to get to bed. Cheers.


At 1:29 p.m., Blogger JTL said...

I find it a little bit sad that people are willing to devote hours upon hours of their life to the watching of "reality TV," but are hesitant to take a moment to stop and reflect on their place in the grand scheme of things.

Post-WWII, our culture has grown more selfish and isolated. You drive alone in your car, you sit in front of your television, you look out for Number One, because it's a dog-eat-dog world out there. Meanwhile, we lose sight of the impact of our actions (or inactions) on others, and the connectedness we desire as human beings goes unfulfilled.

In addressing the latter point above, a friend of mine has described blogs as "a new communication paradigm for the 21st Century," which may not be as cracked as it initially sounds. We are, by nature, social beings; sitting in a chair for eight hours a day doing work by oneself does nothing to address that. So, we use the technology at hand to fill that gap, and here we are.

Wow. That went off on a tangent, eh? Oh well. I think it's worth saving.

At 1:49 p.m., Blogger Ryan said...

I couldn't agree more. A sense of community is so vital, yet it is definitely one of the declining aspects of our society.

At one time, you needed to rely on your neighbours as a matter of survival. As our economy grew and prospered, it became possible to live a life of virtual isolation. It's interesting that you mention the Second World War. I remember reading for one of my courses that suicide rates were dramatically lower during that time frame, and they believe one of the main reasons for this was the sense of purpose that came from working towards a shared cause.

Blogs go a long way to ease the gap. When you visit someone's blog, it's like you're stepping into their home. It is a place to visit, vent, laugh, berate, and otherwise fill the chasms spawned by the modern office environment. For myself, I work in complete isolation. Keeping up a blog and visiting the blogs of others is a nice social break in the middle of an otherwise busy work day.

At 6:56 p.m., Blogger Wandering Coyote said...

You're right about happiness not being a destination, however I believe we are all - especially women - socialized to not be happy with what we have. We live in the give me give me give me age, and advertising and media play into this big time. We covet too much, and we will covet more when we have what we originally coveted! Also tied into this, in my opinion, is an inflated sense of entitlement humans seem to adopt at certain times. I personally don't believe we're entitled to anything other than the basics in this life, and anything extra has got to be earned or is a gift. And yes, we need to appreciate what we have, because it is a gift.

I do not want to go through my life playing the martyr. I don't believe there is any glory in it at all, and it'll only keep me in a victim place. And I firmly believe that my life is about me and that I should be able to live it on my own terms and be able to have my own self-determination. All that being said, this world does lack serious community and I so believe that community is vital to creating the type of world I want to live in. I would therefore be willing to sacrifice quite a few things to be able to reap the benefits of living in a caring, compassionate, respectful society where all our differences are honoured and we all have things like freedom of self-expression.

At 8:59 p.m., Blogger Channing said...

Ahhhh "reality" TV. So unreal, yet for so many, so real. It's sad really. This does go off on a bit of a tangent, but the notion of these types of shows has driven me crazy for a long time. Shows like "A Wedding Story" and "Big Brother" have always made me shake my head at the people who would spent their entire day watching them, dreaming of the day when they too had the perfect 8 Million dollar wedding, or won 8 Million dollars by backstabbing complete strangers. I often find that the type of person who swears by these shows often thinks that every vaccation taken should be at a completely unadventurous 5 star resort in the Domincan or Mexico. I mean, getting drunk on a beach can be a good way to relax, but there's so much more in this world to see. Why pay a horde of money to get drunk on a beach all the time?... You could pay far less and get drunk in a tonne of interesting places. This type of mentality (routinely shopping at Walmart, watching mentally dulling {as if it were a drug} "reality" TV, working 8-4, spending $50,000 on a wedding, vaccationing at an unadventurous resort, etc etc)has always driven me nuts...

After WWII, our culture certainly grew more selfish. And why shouldn't we have? Nearly every icon of "ask not what your country can do for you" was assasinated and they were replaced by those that believe more in "ask what I can do for me." Vietnam and Iraq I&II are very good examples of wars fought for reasons that don't seem to justify the means. Both WWI and WWII (hell, even the Korean War to some extent) were fought out of a sheer desire to protect life. Can the same be said for Vietnam or Iraq?

Whew... some rant.

At 9:05 a.m., Blogger Ryan said...

W.C.: We are, of course, socialized to be consumers. When I think of the kind of resources that are going into conditioning us to want things that we don't really need, it's really quite staggering. I've gotten to the point where I can barely watch television anymore. At present, I watch roughly one hour a week, and only then because the show is an absolute favorite. Had I the option of purchasing it on DVD today, I would much rather do that instead. I hate the ads.

The entitlement issue is one that I'm very passioante about. Sadly, it seems to go hand-in-hand with a poorly developed sense of responsibility. Not only do people feel as though they're entitled to everything they ever wanted, but they refuse to take responsibility for their actions. Again, the conditioning comes into play. We're bombarded with images of these perfect, happy people who resolve all of life's difficulties in 22 minute segments, and some part of us starts to believe that's how life really works.

I'm not entirely sure what the answer is. I suppose it's education, not in the traditional cram-and-dump of reems of knowledge, but in developing new ways of perceiving and responding to the world around us.

Channing: I wouldn't paint WWII and Korea in quite as rosy a light, but certainly much better than the motivation behind Vietnam and Iraq. The thing that scares me is that quite a number of people are genuinely misinformed about what's going on. It's one thing when someone has a well-informed opinion that greatly differs from my own. But when the opinion is formed from sound-bites and half-truths, it's downright frightening.


Post a Comment

<< Home