A profound look at choices by David Foster Wallace called “This is Water”:
From wherever we are in life, if we project our self forward into the future to the end of our life with as much imaginary vision as we can muster… if then from that imaginary perch, we look back and reflect on what happened and begin to divide what really mattered from what didn’t matter much at all, we then have the proper perspective for what to focus on as move forward toward that day when this vision becomes an inevitable reality – that is, if our life is not cut short. There are no guarantees.
If we apply serious thought to this we will probably find that we don’t value or even remember much of the many extra hours we traded for dollars so we could afford fancier clothes, a gadget, or a needlessly trumped up car that carts us in higher style – or any other glitzy trap that tricked us into hugely investing in walking a trail mind numbing chores in exchange for a few fleeting moments of exhilaration.
We will remember and value the friends, family and the experiences we shared – the laughter, the tears, the triumphs and the failures, and we will ambivalently cherish and mourn the time we had with those who we have loved and lost. Everything will have happened in the blink of an eye from that future’s past. We will not hold any value for what we now know was wasted energy spent trying to fit in to groups that didn’t accept us as we are, but demanded that we fit the mold they prescribed for us. We will have long since learned the painful lesson that not everyone that wants us to come to their party wants us there as a guest; that sometimes it is to parasitically feed on our flesh. We will have shed that charade that drained us with bait of promises that never bore fruit.
Form our future’s past we will remember the lives we touched, and those that touched us and we might wonder why we were ever so scared to be our self in front of others – because it was the only thing we were better at than anyone else on Earth. We will measure what we value from that future place, not in terms of stuff, but of the bonds of intimacy between those we care about and those that care about us, and we will realize that everything else we ever did would have been better spent in service of cultivating that community which we now value the most – and we will realize that the degree to which our lives were not centered on these values with all the practical strength we could summon is the degree to which that life was a slave of our own ignorance of our self – that in those cases we did not own our own life – at the same time we will realize that we had the key to release our self from that prison all along. Perhaps we will remember that time – long ago, when we watched the wizard of Oz, and a wry smile will subtly stretch across our weathered and wiser cheeks.
Posted in Wisdom
Tagged Awareness, cooperative relationships, culture, freedom, fulfillment, Healing, inspiration, life, Nature, philosophy, Storytelling, wisdom
Intimacy is an essential social nourishment requirement for human beings. Trust, vulnerability, and a continual proportionate bidirectional flow of nourishing actions toward one another in the context of that intimate communal membrane are essential for intimacy to develop to full maturity. Except for developing children, relationships characterized by lopsided giving or taking cannot result in intimacy. This is why children who are not properly weaned or falsely believe their role is only to serve the needs of others are not able to cultivate fulfilling intimate relationships.
Here are some links to studies on the link between health and relational deprivation.
Social deprivation and premature mortality: regional comparison across England. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1679128/
Adding social deprivation and family history to cardiovascular risk assessment: the ASSIGN score from the Scottish Heart Health Extended Cohort (SHHEC) http://heart.bmj.com/content/93/2/172.short
The phrase “form follows function” is a principle associated with modern architecture and industrial design. It centers on the idea that the shape of anything designed should be centered on its intended function or purpose. Form and function are certainly intertwined. We cannot use a holey bucket to carry water. Form enables function or purpose. If we use this as a lens through which to look at ourselves some interesting thoughts come out. Because of this, we can infer our function as biological creatures through our form.
Cells are sometimes called the basic unit of biological life. When working properly, they consist of a community of interdependent structures which function as a unified whole. Although parts within the cellular system perform different tasks, they share a unified purpose toward nourishing the whole system as a community. This principle of shared purpose in the context of a community of mutual dependence for nourishment does not stop at the boundary of the cell. In human biology cells must cooperate with each other to compose organs. Organs must also demonstrate this mutually nourishing cooperative relationship in the context of body community. We also see this in the shared relationships between many other biological life forms such as bacteria, plants and the environment as a whole body of life. Without this web of relationships with other biological life forms and the environment our biological form breaks down.
We depend on each other to work together as a community for life. This is the community principle. It is our nature, and finding our place as a nourishing contributor in the context of our local community, and as a species in the context of the whole body of life, is our purpose. This is what nature speaks to us through its structure.
Pretty nourishing thought… huh?
We all make ripples in the sea of history, some more significant, some more noticed. The value of events that shape history, and what we pay attention to, do not necessarily correspond. Fame without substance is fleeting even if it burns hot, but things of merit ripple far beyond the moment the stone splashes the waves of history and sinks beneath the surface. If we must choose between significance and being noticed, the nobler of choices is to cultivate significance with our lives because this is the key difference between a meaningful life and fleeting fame of whatever caliber.
No matter how much we want to be, or think we are rule makers, or that we can hope for an exception, we are really only game players. Gravity works no matter how we feel on any given day. Relationship possibilities exist in a membrane of a fixed set of rules that determine the possibilities and the potentials. Relationship seeds only grow to their full potential in the right soil and the right climate. We can nurture the environment but we can’t control everything. We can’t rush the development process beyond its own growing capacity. To influence the game we have to know and respect the rules, and even though that is sometimes painful, it is the highest form of self-respect we can have.
In contending with the difficult proposition of forgiveness of both oneself and others, it is important to consider the lens through which the issue is examined. If we afford ourselves the understanding that our identity is entirely built on what we traditionally call emotion which might be more accurately termed “a vast collection of behavioral triggers”, we can have a different perspective on both offense and forgiveness. We can also use the typical cultural lens that people think, and those thoughts are the basis for what they choose to do or not do and if they choose an offensive behavior then they are deserving of some retributive form of punishment because of what they chose. This second lens has a faulty premise and therefore produces a false image.
Words themselves are part of the much larger collection of behavioral triggers that make up our total identity. Our particular brand of verbal triggers we call vernacular can form lenses if they are appropriately tuned to focus on specific things, but that lens is by no means guaranteed to be geared to focus on those things which support our fully nourished state, nor is it guaranteed to be an accurate depiction of anything. In fact that verbal collection of triggers can conjure up false images that appear quite real to the sightseer. What triggers offensive behavior in our mind or what makes anyone tick at all including ourselves should be seriously questioned if clarity accuracy and credibility are recognized as values that lend us good vision by which to navigate.
Our verbal reasoning capacities are often a mere sideshow we use to further express the deep emotive affective behavioral language that we are actually composed of most of which has never seen the verbal light of day. If we were exposed to a developmental environment that was inclined toward betrayal and cruelty, this is what we will either express or be attracted to as on our social landscape. In this case we are behaving, but also wounded from our capacity to realize our potential because as social creatures our fullest state of nourishment depends on a community of mutually nourishing relational elements. From this perspective we are wounded and broken, not offensive at all. Our dependence on a community of mutually nourishing relationships to realize our full potential is written into our biology, but we can catch some pathological values in that native biological web based on environmental conditions that can trigger us to behave in ways that frustrate our participation in that environment that cultivates our optimal state of being. Maladaptive behaviors also can infect others with the transmission vector of offense. In other words, taking offense perpetuates the social wound.
We come equipped with a vast array of behavioral linguistics and we learn some more acutely local ones within the span of our brief time of heightened awareness before we are reabsorbed into the larger body of life. Many people do not live as if they are aware that much of what they feel and do was installed in them by their environmental circumstances and not chosen by them. As a consequence, they never develop the capacity for choice and cannot cultivate their life in any intentional direction. Ignorance in terms of a lack of self-examination is the same as sleeping on the currents of culture all the way to the grave.
Sometimes people who “offend” are simply not equipped to cultivate a nourishing relational environment due to the local or deeply historical behavioral echoes in their particular brand of biological stew. Sometimes people who are offended when behaviors do not need to be interpreted through that lens because they are neutral in terms of real effect and abrasive only by virtue of that individuals social rules which are also riding on their own wave of triggers. Real offense it could be argued is warranted when someone causes real harm. But as for forgiveness, before we even ask that question an even deeper one begs to be addressed: Given the fact that we are barely self-aware, are we qualified to condemn anyone for expressing triggers that were installed largely by a conspiracy of events outside that person’s control? Do we really think we should conjure up a crime and punishment lens for the effects of what are essentially wounds and starvation? Wouldn’t it be better to focus our energy on what is needed for healing and nourishment in our common community of life rather than expend energy in the mud of offense?
Dealing with the pragmatic necessities of staying out of harm’s way is one thing, feeling the authority to take offense which cooks us in bio poisons that do more to perpetuate the wounds than to heal them is yet another non nourishing pathology. In that case, taking offense is like the pot calling the kettle black and forgiveness is at best an antidote to our own poison pill of offense.