Enlightened Conflict

wonder how the same thing can be both

February 7th, 2017

good bad best worst think do life be

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“I’m always finding humans at their best and worst.

I see their ugly and their beauty, and I wonder how the same thing can be both.”

 

————–

Death

<in “The Book Thief”>

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So.

 

This quote is said by Death.

 

Yeah.

Death is suggesting he considers humans beautiful … as well as everything else that we are … all the while resting comfortably in his chair awaiting the opportunity to end it all.

 

We all know we're going to die, but it's one of the few human experiences we don't like talking about. How can we change that?

I admit.

 

The thought seems slightly counter-intuitive, but I like thinking the thought that Death is a lot more complicated than we may think.

 

I like thinking that Death sees us … and assesses us … and maybe even judges us a little … as not one-dimensional things to say ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down.’

 

I like thinking of death as not some grim reaper but rather a thoughtful person who has a job to do. One who contemplates the fact that some days will be good and some days just won’t be so fun.

 

I like thinking of Death One who can see the best and worst … acknowledging that good things can happen to bad people and bad things can happen to good people.

 

And, I imagine, I like thinking of Death as … well … intelligent and not simply some mindless executioner wandering about seeking his next victim.

 

For sure this quote reminded me of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s quote about intelligence:

 

“The test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise.”

 

 

I believe it was Keats who called this ‘negative capability.’

 

best worst faces life people good badAs he explained <or tried to > “it is when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason.”

 

In other words … you understand, or least come to grips with, that there is a shitload of inconsistency and uncertainty in Life and, yet, you deal with it and do what you need to do.

 

<that’s my translation>

 

The truth in Life is that we really don’t have to be one thing because you’re not another thing – or not be something if you are something <you get it>.

 

It may seem impossible to appear to be a contradiction and, yet, be quite a successful, happy, productive bundle of contradictions.

 

Not only do you not have to be one thing forever but you can actually be a couple of things now … at the same time … in this time & place.

 

I sometime believe individual happiness is found more often than not in our ‘negative capability’ intelligence. In other words … how smartly we can navigate the contradictions in Life as well as the contradiction of what is within who & what we are. If we don’t learn negative capability then we must seem to inevitably seek to isolate being one thing and one thing only as a judge of whether we are living Life well, productively and with focus.

 

And maybe that is why I believe Death was, and is, intelligent — it has mastered negative capability. Death has embraced the contradiction of being one thing and yet living another seemingly contradictory idea.

If Death can see beauty in that which it will inevitably have to end with its own hand surely we can see good in bad … as well as be both bad & good ourselves.

 

Regardless.

 

It seems like there is a lesson in here for all of us. And maybe the lesson is, unfortunately, not that simple.

 

Death looks, on the surface, as one thing … and yet … is most likely another.

 

Death does one thing … and yet … most likely thinks many other things.

 

We view Death as one thing and avoid him … and yet … should we meet him on the street on his way to meet someone other than us … he may greet us with a smile.

 

While Death’s perception challenge  is actually called “affective fallacy” <confusion between what it is and what it does> this is a challenge we all face in Life.

 

I imagine, in the end, the lesson is a simple one … sometimes Life just isn’t that simple.

 

Ok.

 

Ditch the ‘sometimes.’best worst good bad life complicated

 

Life is never that simple.

 

We are more than one thing … we are a sum of all our parts … we are part of everyone we have met <and will meet> … and we are, at our core, a reflection of a multi-faceted character containing aspects of all which we desire to be as well as some aspects which we view slightly glumly as ‘the aspects I do not desire to be … but am.’

 

We either embrace the contradictions or … well … we will most likely suck at dealing with Life and living Life.

 

Anyway.

 

What I do know is that I wish someone taught “negative capabilities 101” because we should all sign up for that class. It would be a better world if we were all competent in negative capabilities.

 

 

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“When the first living thing existed, I was there waiting.

When the last living thing dies, my job will be finished. I’ll put the chairs on the tables, turn out the lights and lock the universe behind me when I leave.”

 

Neil Gaiman

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normality is a paved road

December 15th, 2016

 

pretending-to-be-normal

 

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“Normality is a paved road: It’s comfortable to walk, but no flowers grow on it.”

 

Vincent van Gogh

 

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mener une vie normale <French>

to lead a normal life

 

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Benjamin Franklin:

 

“Human happiness comes not from infrequent pieces of good fortune, but from the small improvements to daily life.”

 

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“When inspiration does not come to me, I go halfway to meet it.”

 

 —–

Sigmund Freud

 

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normal-not-fun

Well.

 

Let’s just say “normal” gets a really bad rap.

 

It constantly has to fight off “boring” and “same as” and “routine” and … well … let’s just say a shitload of ‘not-so-positive’ sounding words.

 

I mean … c’mon. Is normal really that frickin’ bad?

And what hell is ‘normal’ … as in a normal life … anyway?

 

Anyway.

 

I imagine, as with most things in Life, normal is about balance.

 

Yeah, yeah, yeah … I know a shitload of people will suggest that ‘normal’ is defined by the individual and how they view life … but, in general, at one end of the  ‘how to live your life’ spectrum is wacko eccentric person and the other end is bland milquetoast boring to tears person.

 

Most of us reside somewhere in the middle of all that.

 

I tend to believe the problem is in how we most often have this discussion.

 

When we talk about living a ‘normal’ life it almost seems destined for some boredom and certainly when you decide to sit back with some self-reflection … uhm … it will most likely be generously dipped in some disappointment.

 

And then, on the other hand, it seems like a choice to live an ‘anything but normal’ life it almost seems destined for some sanity challenges and certainly what-is-normal-youth-advicesome self-reflection generously dipped in some discouragement.

 

Yikes … so your choice is either disappointment or discouragement.

 

Look.

 

None of us really want to be normal all the time. We want to spice it up a little and maybe do something not so normal for us <albeit … it could be fairly tame, or absurdly reckless, in other people’s eyes>. And it is that little choice … that ‘step away from what we normally do and think’ that kind of gets us in trouble.

 

Why?

Because most times we ‘step away’ by ‘being spontaneous.’

 

<note: spontaneous has a dubious relationship with ‘something different than the normal’>

 

Whew.

 

Truth be told … spontaneity sounds awesome <in concept> but more often than not disappointing. Not many people point this out but spontaneity actually sucks because anything “abnormal” or “not normal” is a great concept but has a nasty habit of creating more problems than it is worth.

 

Truth be told … routines <which is a characteristic of ‘normal life’> do a shitload to help establish our day-to-day ‘normal’ with a nice side benefit that it encourages us to believe we do have some self-discipline  <because the alternative is that we start thinking we live a completely chaotic undisciplined life>.

 

normal-life-break-rules-paved-with-decisionsYeah. a lot of these routines look really minor and really mundane if you sit down and think them through.

My advice? Don’t.

Just let them occur as naturally as breathing because these stupid little things tend to create a larger sense of rhythm or normalcy in your life.

 

And, yeah, even eccentric nutjobs incorporate some ‘normal’ routines in their daily Life.

 

But here is where balance enters the discussion.

Because we want both <although in today’s world it seems like there is no in between.

 

It may seem weird but I tend to believe no one’s sole ambition in Life is to be viewed solely as ‘normal.’

 

And, yet, we can live a pretty frickin’ good Life ‘normally.’ And, in fact, our normal most likely incorporates some fairly ‘abnormal’ … or let’s call them ‘unique features’ … aspects.

 

Most of us actually incorporate some unique shit into our lives which are simply reflections of our personality uniqueness. But because they are extensions of who we are we overlook them a being ‘normal.’

 

Let’s face it.

normal-worst-2

Normal has a shitty reputation.

 

And it should not.

 

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“I don’t really want to become normal, average, standard. I want merely to gain in strength, in the courage to live out my life more fully, enjoy more, experience more.

I want to develop even more original and more unconventional traits.”

Anaïs Nin

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This isn’t about ‘fitting in’ or marinating some rigid code of conduct or even seeking approval in what you do. this is about doing shit that makes you happy … and I assume that ‘happy’ means you haven’t been <a> laughed at as a fool – just laughed at for having fun, <b> stared at as if you belong in some loony bin – just stared at because they know you are enjoying yourself  or <c> doing something insanely stupid just to gain some attention.

 

Yeah.

Sometimes this shit may be out of the mainstream but 99% of the time it is not unacceptable to everyone. It is just is not … well … the normal everyday 100% of the time shit people see or hear.

 

Whether you like it or not … suggesting ‘normal’ is completely self defined is … well … stupid.

 

Yes.

You should have your own way of seeing the world and the life you’re living.

 

Yes.

You should feel it is normal <as long as it is not a ‘statement’ but rather an natural extension of your ‘self’>.

 

Yes.

You should accept the idea that other people may feel differently about your version of normal.

 

All that said … here is where I think normal and abnormal go into conflict.

 

 

Yes.

You should understand that normal is actually defined by some standard operating procedures of the people, society & culture as a whole.

normal-slaves-of-ordinary-be-daring-different-assert

And, no, I am not suggesting some of the wacky crap society thrusts upon an individual <society tells me how I should be stuff> but rather the fact cultures, civilizations in a broader perspective, define some accepted rules of behavior – some “what I should do” stuff.

 

Let’s call them ‘core life action basics.’

These are some normal things which everyone should do and think in a normal day and a normal life.

 

Here is the good news for people who balk at ‘normal.’

 

The great thing about culture is it tends to give an individual a lot of room to expand upon these things. You can go about your life wearing whatever clothes you want and saying a bunch of different words as personal expression beyond the core. I call that ‘window dressing stuff.’ In other words I can dress up my core ‘normality crap’ in pretty much anything I want and express it with almost any words I want.

 

The trouble mostly revolves around the fact that some individuals infringe upon the core, change the core and sometimes do things which do not meet what most people would accepts as accepted normal behavior.

 

Here is not just a Life truth … but a civilization truth … a culture cannot permit that ‘abnormal normal’ to become normalized.

And while we often suggest it takes courage to express yourself in some ‘not-so-normal’ ways it actually takes even more courage to defend core normality.

 

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“My darling girl, when are you going to realize that being normal is not necessarily a virtue?

 

It rather denotes a lack of courage.”

Practical Magic

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Anyway.

 

When it comes to this topic the bravest people in the world are not the ones who dont flinch_by_peacelovemusicstand out through self-expression of self-identity even if that identity is ‘not the normal’ but rather the people who unflinchingly defend normal core beliefs & behaviors and unflinchingly express it in whatever personal identity way they want.

 

Far too often we slot people on one side or the other where, in truth, we should be also slotting people into the third more significant slot.

I imagine the problem with that is that those people are not interesting enough to make splashy headlines nor are they boring enough to be masticated for being milquetoast.

 

And, yet, they were the bravest of us all. They chose to be normal & not-so-normal and fought relentlessly for both.

 

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just-shower-thoughts:

 

On my headstone, I think I want, “No one deserved death more.” That way, people will research my life and find nothing interesting, then actually think that for wasting their time.

Enlightened Conflict