Delusions of Adequacy

picture of toddler in a superman suit

My greatest trouble comes from thinking that I am up to a project when, in fact, I have to change significantly for it to succeed. This perspective is not to be confused with low self esteem or some other dysfunction in confidence. Freedom and growth are only available when reality — or at least the next manifest level of reality — is the backdrop.

Many like to say we create our own reality. I used to think so, too. However, research (mine) shows that the number of facts of existence over which we have absolutely no influence is far beyond our ability to comprehend. Our lives are a dance with the universe, not a reign of control over it.

The three most dangerous words: “I got this.”

Kindness

We cannot be kind to others unless we are kind to ourselves. We cannot be kind to ourselves unless we are kind to others.

Which comes first?

A Retort to Mark Twain’s Assertion — or Peeve

Mark Twain sitting in deck chairIn Mark Twain’s A Tramp Abroad, he takes exception with our convention of avoiding proximal repetition of word.

The Germans do not seem to be afraid to repeat a word when it is the right one. They repeat it several times, if they choose. That is wise. But in English, when we have used a word a couple of times in a paragraph, we imagine we are growing tautological, and so we are weak enough to exchange it for some other word which only approximates exactness, to escape what we wrongly fancy is a greater blemish. Repetition may be bad, but surely inexactness is worse.

As clever and experienced as America’s greatest humorist was, I’m going to take (brief) exception with this thinking.

Though I’m sure the Germans (and Herr Twain) would like to have it otherwise, allowing any dictionary to drop open will demonstrate that there is no such thing as an exact word. Not only does a single word have many official definitions, each person orders those definitions differently. A list of the sources of variation would be an interesting project.

Given the inexact ambiguity of language, employing multiple words allows for triangulation and increases the chances of communication. After all, words are only approximations. The more data points (within reason), the better the conclusions.

Please share your thoughts. They make a difference.

 

The Pace Increases

It’s a little dated — though the updated version would be even more…invigorating. There are really only two possible responses: moving forward into change or trying to stave it off. I haven’t had much luck with the latter. The former is thrilling.

Ignorance & Bliss

picture of mouse unaware there's an owl closing inTo say “ignorance is bliss” is to quote out of context:

“Where ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise.” -Thomas Gray

What’s the difference? When read carefully, it’s significant. It’s the original version of today’s TMI or, that is, Too Much Information. Knowing about stuff that doesn’t help us…doesn’t help us.

Having always been troubled by the phrase and before I found the full quote, a related truth dawned on me yesterday. Given that ignored or masked or hidden ignorance leads to misery, acknowledged ignorance can lead to bliss. It is only after the ignorance is recognized that any progress can be made. Turning a blind eye leaves one blind, regardless of the intention.

May we all feel a little more comfortable with the fact that we don’t know everything.

Your thoughts would be much appreciated.

 

Guilt and Entitlement

As I was walking around Costco shopping for Mother’s Day stuff, these thoughts came back to the surface. I can only touch on them here. They are troublesome, poignant, and arise frequently.

Though I don’t currently have any data (even if they would make any difference), living in America today seems to leave one wondering how to prioritize one’s senses of guilt and entitlement*. With respect to guilt, among many others, the issues of slavery, women’s roles and rights, abundance as compared to the rest of the world, and superpower-hood all vie for a place in the shadows of our self assessment. As for entitlement, it’s probably the same set of issues with different claimants that balance out the dichotomies. Wherever we fall individually on each issue, we come up wanting or come up wanting, here appealing to two different senses of the word.

How do we measure the impact and cost of personal and collective guilt and entitlement on all of us? Maybe we wouldn’t want to know even if we could? I hope we can learn to give it up for Lent or Passover or Ramadan or whatever. It’s an indulgence we cannot afford.

Generally, we deserve to be happier than we think we deserve. We are miserably poor judges of such things — and, consequently feel entitled to feel guilty about being so.

Ah, Costco. A place of dark inspiration.

*the yin to guilt’s yang

They’re Much Closer Than We Think

To run from one is to run from the other

Tragedy and joy are so much nearer to us and to each other than our consciousness maintains. The dark cliche: “I never thought it would happen to me” has a partner: “I never thought it could be this good.”

Joy and tragedy are companions to one another and to us.

Interesting conversation with my father

Some of the interaction that was meaningful to me….

Me: “I’ve been reading Gandhi’s autobiography.”

Dad: “What did you think of it?”

Me: “Well, I thi…”

Dad: “Ghandi was a stinker.”

Me: “Really.”

Dad: “He was similar to Hitler and Stalin. The new biography is not worth your time.”

Me: “Oh.”

Dad: “There haven’t been any real leaders for hundreds of years. We don’t have any authoritative structure now.”

Me: “So, who was a leader?”

Dad: “Kublai Kahn.”

Me: “Really?”

Dad: “You can’t have any impact without an empire.”

Does my father believe we’d be better off with a Kublai Kahn in charge? Maybe Gandhi’s view on anarchy rubbed him the wrong way? Did Ghandi make no difference to human beings? Did Kublai Kahn’s humanitarian work overshadow his conquests?

I’m going to be thinking about this conversation for awhile.