Enlightened Conflict

outlines are often vague and it’s the details that count

September 13th, 2017

 

vague definition unclear indistinct

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“The world is not as simple as we like to make it out to be. The outlines are often vague and it’s the details that count.

Nothing is really truly black or white and bad can be a disguise for good or beauty … and vice versa without one necessarily excluding the other.

 

Someone can both love and betray the object of its love … without diminishing the reality of the true feelings and value.

 

Life is an uncertain adventure in a diffuse landscape whose borders are constantly shifting where all frontiers are artificial where at any moment everything can either end only to begin again … or finish suddenly forever … like an unexpected blow from an axe.

 

Where the only absolute, coherent, indisputable and definitive reality … is death. We have such little time when you look at Life … a tiny lightning flash between two eternal nights.

 

Everything has to do with everything else.

 

Life is a succession of events that link with each other whether we want them to or not.”

 

—–

Arturo Perez Revarte

 

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Vague sucks.

 

outline vague certain uncertaintyAnd, yet, I would argue the majority of people only really have some vague outline of how the world works, or how effective or ineffective a leader is, or even only have a vague outline of any specific relationship between cause & affect.

 

This vaguery exists because it takes a lot of work to parse the details, and the appropriate details, and the ‘right’ details to make the outlines less vague and more tangible.

 

Is this work valuable ? Sure.

 

Is this work necessary to increase some certainty in Life? Sure.

 

But the majority of people have shit to do <other than this type of work>. That is neither good nor bad … it just is what it is.

 

A lot of pseudo intellectuals and smartish pundits bitch & moan and gnash their teeth over this but they would lead a significantly less stressful life if they just accepted it.

 

What this means is that in this ‘vague outline’ people inevitably create a vague/semi solid outline belief. From there they look around on occasion and question that outline. The questions raised either support the vague outline or raise doubts and … well … more questions.

 

All the while this is happening more information barrages the vague outline. In this barrage is a confusing mix of real, fake and quasi truths. All these confusing things do in the people’s minds is, contrary to belief, not confuse but rather make the person more dismissive of the incoming confusion and steadier in whatever vague outline they may have constructed.

 

Once again.

This is neither good nor bad … it just is what it is.

 

A lot of pseudo intellectuals and smartish pundits bitch & moan and gnash their teeth over this but they would lead a significantly less stressful life if they just accepted it.

 

Ah.

 

But at some point the questions gain some gravitas. This can happen several ways but let me point out two:

 

  • The questions themselves coalesce into some easy to understand ‘blob’ from which people who have a vague outline decide … my vague outline is wrong <or sucks>. Let’s say that this is the point at which the doubts and questions begin to outweigh the beliefs that created the vague outline.

 

 

  • Someone weaves a narrative using the doubts & questions into a relatively succinct, believable and non-hyperbolic driven framing of an outline which people look at, scratch their heads, go “hmmmmmmmmm …” and decide this new vague outline will replace the one they had in place. Oh. To be clear. This narrative must not only use the doubts & questions to dissolve the current vague outline but must also offer an alternative vague outline <outlines need to be replaced not simply destroyed>.

 

 

The first never happens fast enough to people who just cannot understand how and why some people have decided to live with some vague outline <that just seems ‘not really a smart outline’ to them>.

 

The second is not as easy as it appears. It isn’t as easy because problems are rarely as clear as we would like them to be and a narrative never lives without the context of all the barrage of real, fake and quasi truths impacting and denting and solidifying a vague outline that already exists. Or someone weaves a  great narrative to destroy but forgets to offer an alternative.

 

In other words … everything has to do with everything else.

 

I imagine I have two points today.

 

 

First.big-decisions-stress-uncertainty

 

We humans have come to accept a certain amount of uncertainty with regard to our lives and our decisions. This uncertainty is also built into the vague outlines we tend to construct for ourselves. What this means is that the construct of our beliefs and thoughts and ideas may be certain to us and, yet, its silhouette accommodates some uncertainty.

 

I began today by unequivocally stating that vague sucks. And I believe 99% of people would agree that it sucks. but in today’s world the majority of people have enough shit to do that they slot their thinking thoughts time. in one slot they place unequivocal certainty type thoughts. In another slot they place the “I will always be uncertain about this shit and thank God there is someone else at some higher pay grade than I who can be certain about it.” and, lastly, we slot all the shit in which we have formed some vague outline which accommodates a certain degree of uncertainty.

 

My point here is we tend to make this a binary discussion where the reality lies in a more complex mix of vagueness & clarity, certainty & uncertainty.

 

Second.

 

uncertainty-principle-here-thereCertainty, in and of itself, has degrees … it is not a simple black or white binary.

 

People can have vague outlines AND have questions with regard to their outlines … and not want to ditch the outline. “How can you still believe that?” may be one of the most misguided and unenlightened questions that has ever existed.  It completely misses the point in that it assumes ignorance, stupidity or some negative trait in order to hold on to some vague outline regardless of doubts.

A vague outline is a choice.

No more and no less.

We question choices all the time and, yet, remain with the original choice despite some fairly extensive doubts.

I say this because that said … it is silly to point out doubts and questions as a reason to ditch a vague outline. My easiest example is President Trump. His followers have a vague outline of what they like and believe about him. We scrutinize them for doubts and questions and when they share them we immediately pounce and suggest “then how can you still believe in your vague outline!?!” <usually said with a slight overall disbelief & wonder>.

Within their lives of doing shit that is important to them they created a vague outline of who and what Trump is, or isn’t, and … well … uncertainty was built into their certainty. The moment they will begin to disbelieve their vague outline is when the uncertainty overpowers the certainty. Until then … we should stop acting confused that someone believes what they believe.

 

Anyway.

 

I love the quote I opened with even though I hate vague. The truth is that we all live with some vague outlines albeit your vague outline may actually be one of my non-vague outlines, and vice versa. And when they are in conflict then … restless spirit fly vaguewell … there is conflict.

 

All that said … while vague sucks there is a reason we do it … and this reason is not stupid, nor unenlightened nor ignorant.

It is just damn practical to have some vague outlines.

 

 

Life is an uncertain adventure in a diffuse landscape whose borders are constantly shifting.

 

 

Life is restless.

Our vague outlines need to accommodate some of its restlessness. Not recognizing that is either naive or foolish.

 

what horrifies me most is

July 11th, 2017

 

completely useless me

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“What horrifies me most is the idea of being useless: well-educated, brilliantly promising, and fading out into an indifferent middle age.”

 

Sylvia Plath

 

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“My life amounts to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean.

Yet what is any ocean, but a multitude of drops?”

 

David Mitchell

 

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Being useless.

 

legacy great shit noticeWhew.

 

Can you think of anything worse than feeling like you are, or have been, useless?

 

Well.

 

Of course.

What is worse is actually being a useless fuck.

 

Regardless.

 

 

99% of us think we are smart <or smart enough>.

 

99% of us have felt a sense of promise.

 

99% of us want our Life to amount to something.

 

So what happens if that 99% actually thinks they may … uhm … be useless?

While I imagine depression or becoming extremely depressed would be the first thing most people would think about … ‘horrified’ may actually be the more appropriate sense.

 

Maybe it is a general sense of meaninglessness?

 

Ah shit … I don’t know.

 

But just thinking about the possibility of thinking I am useless is a fucking depressing thought. And I am not a wildly ambitious person and I think it would be pretty fucking depressing to think that way.

 

This came to mind after I had a discussion with one of the kindest, nicest, most generous … and smart … people I know.

 

falling down the rabbit hole

After scanning Facebook updates and thinking a little bit about Life and ‘what do I have to show for it all’ their mind, quite expectedly from my point of view, started going down the ‘fucking useless Life’ rabbit hole.

 

<note: I did remind them that Facebook is not typically where you advertise your losses, disappointments and failures but rather is a place where one goes to conflate their wins, supposed happiness and successes>

 

But the conversation did remind me that assessing usefulness is not an easy task.

 

Yeah. yeah. yeah.

 

We talk about integrity, doing things the right way, honesty and kindness as well as the infamous “a flower doesn’t judge itself next to the flower beside it … it just grows” but reality continuously punches us in the face with ‘proof, proof, proof.’

 

Where is the proof for your Life and usefulness?

 

And this gets even more difficult when you look around and see people who obviously are not doing things the right way, who have a dubious relationship with integrity, truth is something they store in some closet to pull out for special occasions and, yet, they have a lot of useful stuff to showcase proof that competition compare yourself to themin some way they have been useful.

 

Usefulness can occur in a variety of ways.

 

And 99% of us know that but it sure don’t make it any easier to actually not be horrified when looking around and assessing one’s own usefulness.

 

It doesn’t make it any easier when we realize we may actually be no more than one drop in a limitless ocean. Because I tend to believe 99% of us know that but felt we would be smarter enough, have enough promise and do things the right way just enough to be a little more than just one drop in a limitless ocean.

 

All that said.

 

Feeling useless, or feeling like what you have to offer is being wasted, or even feeling that doing it the right way and having integrity hasn’t got you shit compared to others assholes who have no real desire to do things the right way or do not really care much about integrity <unless they feel a need to check that box> … well … sucks.

 

I feel like I should offer some optimistic and hopeful and positive thought now … but I don’t really have one to offer at the moment.

Why?

Because what horrifies me is the thought that I may end up useless despite not being the dullest knife in the drawer, despite that fact I most likely still have some promise and despite the fact I imagine I would really like to contribute to Life in some positive morally driven thoughtful way.

 

Because what horrifies me is the thought that I could pass over into an indifferent age in which I would be viewed as useless.horrify this is bad

 

Because what horrifies me is that I do not have any advice or can even offer some semblance of an answer today.

 

Because what horrifies me is that I had no answer for the person who teetered on the edge of feeling useless … and, well, that kind of made me feel a little useless too.

 

And THAT horrifies me to no have an answer for someone else … because what happens if it is me at some point?

 

Here is what I know.

Just thinking about the possibility of thinking I am useless is a fucking depressing thought.

Paddington goes home

June 29th, 2017

wondering i we could help you paddington

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“In London, everyone is different and that means that anyone can fit in.”

 

—–

Paddington Bear

 

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The great advantage of having a bear as a central character is that he can combine the innocence of a child with the sophistication of an adult. He gets involved in everyday situations. He has a strong sense of right and wrong and doesn’t take kindly to the red tape bureaucracy of the sillier rules and regulations with which we humans surround ourselves.

As a bear he gets away with things. Paddington is humanised, but he couldn’t possibly be ‘human’. It just wouldn’t work.

 

Michael Bond <Paddington author>

 

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Well.

 

paddington collection booksMichael Bond, the Paddington Bear author, died yesterday.

 

First.

 

Michael … thank you for a fabulous contribution to millions of people’s lives.

My sister and I poured through your books as children.

 

 

I still have the original set of Paddington books our parents bought for us and in the first book, A Bear Called Paddington <where the marmalade-loving bear from Peru arrives in London>, you would find a neatly placed label where my sister’s name is written as the owner of the book.

 

Second.

 

To many in this generation Paddington is a charming movie. But it is within the books where children find some of the lessons which bear fruit in growing up and viewing Life.

 

In general … it is a story about fitting in and helping someone fit in … and the struggles that inherently come with this.

 

While Paddington is a refugee … or a likeable harmless immigrant without a home … what child hasn’t found themself looking in the mirror thinking they were different? How many children have found themselves in a new school or a new home or a new neighborhood facing the struggles of what you think you know and what other people think they know? Paddington, as a bear, permitted any child to step into his life and see what he sees.

 

He also taught us we can change not by changing but by seeing things about ourselves or about Life that we have overlooked.

 

He taught us to always polite and well-meaning <always addressing people as “Mr.”, “Mrs.” or “Miss”> but through his simplistic well-meaning ways he is consistently faced with spectacular gaffe after spectacular gaffe within the traditional 1950’s middle class world.paddington paint smiles

 

He also taught us to view Life as if in a mirror to showcase some of the absurdities we place upon ourselves and … well … how we have a nasty habit of making the unimportant important and the truly important often gets overlooked.

 

For example.

When he makes his well-intended errors he finds that ‘very proper persons’ <adults and those in authority positions> tend to glare at him.

What does he do?

He responds with a penetrating, long hard stare of his own <thinking this is the proper response>.

 

Lastly.

 

One of my favorite parts is this:

 

Mary: We can’t just leave him here.

Henry: Of course we can, he’s not our responsibility.

 

Paddington is as much about the people around Paddington as it is about Paddington himself. Time after time in his simplistic slightly bumbling way he reminds people of … well … our general source of humanity.

 

Responsibility for others.

The importance of home.

Friends.

Intentions.

Perspective.

Not all mistakes are created equal.

 

Paddington bear book 1stThe list goes on and on.

 

Within a charming tale about a Peruvian bear in London a child gets glimpses of many things that adults seem to have forgotten.

 

Within this charming tale a child learns some of the little lessons parents forget to tell you when you are growing up.

 

Within this charming tale adults, like me, can pull a well-worn book off the shelf and be reminded that a good heart and good intentions can defeat the most established stuffy rules adulthood can often, quite absurdly, place upon all of us.

 

RIP Mr. Bond. Paddington finally found his home.

questionable civil discourse, calm the rhetoric … and leading

June 14th, 2017

obama sad thoughtful tough

 

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“We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another is entirely up to us. I believe that for all our imperfections, we are full of decency and goodness, and that the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us.”

 

—-

Barack Obama on January 12th 2011

 

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On a day which we are faced with someone who decided to take a gun and shoot words rememberpoliticians … and appear to target politicians … I am reminded of several things.

 

The first thing is the rhetoric.

The rhetoric of the citizenry but mostly the rhetoric of our elected leaders. I say that because words have repercussions.

 

Yes.

 

I do believe in personal responsibility and choices are made by individuals.

 

But I also believe leaders lead with words <because most of us cannot view their actions>.

 

And if our elected leaders treat their words as if we will not remember them forever.

 

And if our elected leaders treat each other as if they are truly enemies <and even use that word on occasion>.

 

And if our elected leaders treat each other as if the opposite’s behavior is unfathomable behavior for sane, moral people.

 

And if our elected officials treat each other with verbal hyperbole as the standard rhetoric discourse … and the highest of the elected leaders, the president, tosses out the word ‘unity’ on occasion but 99% of the time does nothing verbally or behavior wise to unite … well … the electors will be tempted to do as leaders do.

 

We need to calm our rhetoric. We need to remind ourselves what we teach our children … that you don’t always get what you want and that most progress sis made in mutual effort.

 

We all need to be speaking more calmly and acting more civilly but we should be demanding our elected leaders do so. I get angry with how they act and what they say because it suggests to people that is behavior we should all embrace — and it is not.  Stop, and stop it now.

 

speechless

 

The second thing I am reminded of is one of the best speeches President Obama ever made.

 

To share my thoughts I will borrow <steal> liberally from a NY Times article written by Helene Cooper and Jeff Zelenyjan. The article was Obama Calls for a New Era of Civility in U.S. Politics and it shares the speech Obama gave on January 12th 2011 in Tucson after the shooting of a US Congresswoman and the deaths of 6 other people.

 

Apparently Obama wrote much of the speech himself the day before.

 

I suggest everyone read the speech but today I will share highlights because it is a nice reminder on a day on which we need some reminders.

 

 

President Obama offered the nation’s condolences on Wednesday to the victims of the shootings here, calling on Americans to draw a lesson from the lives of the fallen and the actions of the heroes, and to usher in a new era of civility in their honor.

 

The president directly confronted the political debate that erupted after the rampage, urging people of all beliefs not to use the tragedy to turn on one another. He did not cast blame on Republicans or Democrats, but asked people to “sharpen our instincts for empathy.”

 

It was one of the more powerful addresses that Mr. Obama has delivered as president, harnessing the emotion generated by the shock and loss from Saturday’s shootings to urge Americans “to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully” and to “remind ourselves of all the ways that our hopes and dreams are bound together.”

 

“At a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized, at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do,” he said, “it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.”

 

The president led an overflow crowd at the evening service at the University of Arizona in eulogizing the six people who died on Saturday and asking for prayers for the wounded, including Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who the authorities said was the target of an assassination attempt.

 

He warned against “simple explanations” and spoke of the unknowability of the thoughts that “lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man’s mind.”

He suggested that the events should force individuals to look inward, but also that they should prompt a collective response against reflexive ideological and social conflict.

 

While the tone and content were distinctly nonpolitical, there were clear political ramifications to the speech, giving Mr. Obama a chance, for an evening at least, to try to occupy a space outside of partisanship or agenda.

 

“If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let’s make sure it’s worthy of those we have lost,” Mr. Obama said. “Let’s make sure it’s not on the usual plane of politics and point scoring and pettiness that drifts away with the next news cycle.”

 

suicide losing care“If, as has been discussed in recent days, their deaths help usher in more civility in our public discourse,” Mr. Obama said, let us remember that it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy — it did not — but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to our challenges as a nation, in a way that would make them proud.”

 

In the end.

No, I do not believe we will learn anything from today’s event <or the other shooting events that cost people’s lives today> but maybe, just maybe, we can start talking to each other like we don’t want to shoot the other person if given an opportunity. That is a good start.

Enlightened Conflict