RNF – The futility of absolutes… aka Us vs Them. aka The hero fixation.

SAMSUNG CSC

(Extended Random Neural Firing with excerpts from a presentation I have given a few times.)

Many years ago I wrote a fair to middling poem (quickly scrawled and near awful if I am honest) that had one phrase that came to mind recently:

Happiness never found at either extreme

But, joy can be found directly between

It came to mind because so many seem only able to deal in absolutes. As my family is well aware the language of absolutes is one of my major pet peeves. If you start a sentence with “You/He/She/They always…” rest assured I have already considered listening no more by the third word that follows. Very little in this world is ‘all good’ or ‘all bad’. When people say things like, “We need to go back to the way things were when America was great.” my first thought is “Great for whom exactly?” I would start on the the interesting diddy about how wildly profitable free land and free labor can be, but that is a digression for another day. Point is that any story has two or more sides and the roles of victim, villain, or victor in the narrative typically vary wildly depending on what side is telling the tale. Artistic license is as natural as breathing, but when one moves from minor deviation to major delusion that’s when things go wonky. I find it hard to listen to or respect those who are unable to consider anything that varies from what they themselves believe or have uttered. That is when individuals, groups, organizations, movements, and governments begin to be more concerned with being right than doing right. And history is rife with case studies on how disastrous that type of thinking is.

My father taught me that in relationships when the main goal of each individual is winning everyone loses. He was referring to marriage, but it holds true beyond that. When I read stories and watch the news (as much as I can stand in one sitting anyway) I see politicians, pundits, and talking heads bent on winning whatever argument they came prepared to defend with little consideration given to compromise or the greater good. Doing the right thing should take precedence over being right.

Do not get so caught up in the way things used to be or the way you think things should be that you stand in the way of the way things are supposed to be. -ELW

Us/Them

Artificial constructs of mans’ fevered, inherent desire to belong/persecute (Blue/Red, Conservative/Liberal, etc…) are used to divide when we need more than ever to unite and solve real issues plaguing society today. Even the Citizen vs. Immigrant debate loses focus when one steps back and looks at the history of this nation’s creation. Truth be told those who are immigrant descendants themselves (aka not Native American) are now looking to limit immigration. There is a history of fleeing less opportune social and economic conditions for opportunities and greener pastures in a new land. Now you tell me what nation, time-frame, and people I am describing in that last sentence. We are all much more alike than we are different. This is not a 50s TV Western or a scifi Jedi/Sith narrative. This is not about villains and heroes, chase scenes, pummeled baddies, riding off in to the sunset, and then roll the credits. These are complex issues requiring everyone’s best ideas.

Laziness, short attention spans, insecurities, and an obsession with irrelevance are roadblocks.

Laziness (Specifically intellectual sloth): Arguing about issues takes little or no effort, but solving issues requires heavy lifting. Few seem to want to put on their work gloves and get to it. To be blunt any knuckle head can point out a problem. It takes genuine effort, that few seem willing to exert, to craft and enact actual, workable remedies.

Short attention spans: Simply put we do not acknowledge the lessons history can teach us. Who am I referring to? All of us. As George Santayana states in his ‘Reason in Common Sense, The Life of Reason, Vol.1’, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Insecurities: My father also taught me that a person that lies to others is quite common and not that big of a threat, but someone who lies effectively to themselves is quite dangerous. Anger, bluster, outrage, fear, worry, arrogance are not signs of strength, but the fruits of weakness with insecurity most often at the very root. Insecurity is often driven by lies told to ones self of not being worthy. Little good fruit comes from one who does not love and believe in themselves. Attacks aimed at the insecure only deepen their insecurities. Though seemingly impossible at times the insecure must be encouraged before they can become enlightened.

Obsession with Irrelevance: How much of what is pumped out of the media today, as driven by demand mind you, has any real relevance? There is much fluff and nonsense. Even legitimate issues are often viewed through the lens of irrelevance in the interest of a marketable narrative and a catchy sound bite. People who are at best uninformed and/or hurting are often scrutinized and ridiculed. Major news outlets are often doing a fine impersonation of gossip rags nowadays. Ratings wins out over relevance as the two seem ever more exclusive objectives. Outside of enjoying the gifts of a celebrity’s chosen craft, knowing the misled, misshapen, or misquoted details of their personal lives adds not one drop to the quality to my life.

Much like dietitians recommend we all need to be ever diligent and take a hard look at what we take in and govern ourselves accordingly. We cannot change what is on a given channel, but we can decide not to watch it. We cannot change what others do, but we can control how we react and who we surround ourselves with. Believe change can come. Endeavor to change the world, and not be changed by it.

Choose your role models well. Be the role model you want to have.

  • You define you, do not let the world.
  • Don’t argue with folks. Who is the larger fool? The fool or the one who knowingly argues with a fool?
  • Don’t do guilt. Sustained guilt is useless. Listen, explain, adjust and/or apologize as need be and move on.
  • Don’t do anger. Perhaps even more pointless than guilt. A curse of the afraid. A tool of the intellectually weak. A mark of an utter lack of self control. Anger is borne of weakness and insecurity, not strength.

Fly Higher…

Three times in two upstate NY towns during my college years while working as a Transportation Construction Inspector II for the NYS Department of Transportation I was witness to birds ending their lives on the windshield of a vehicle I was in. Once as a passenger (outside Utica) and twice as driver (outside Schenectady). While a driver the occurrences were on the same morning and only separated by the time required to pickup donuts and coffee. After the shock of the sickening thud and bizarre sadness of the moment passed each time I had the same lingering thought.

Why would something capable of flying so high allow themselves to be struck down by something that is so hopelessly bound to the ground? 

After some time I would ask myself the same question. Now comes the time where I ask the same of you.

You, yes you, are capable of so much more than you allow yourself to imagine. You are capable of flying so high. Do not let intellectual sloth, guilt, obsession with irrelevance, or anger etc. shackle you to the same old way of doing things. Choose a new normal. Take flight.

The future depends on it.

ELW