Prioritizing

Sunday, August 14, 2011

6:45 AM. Glancing at this morning’s SchwartzReport depressed me, as it makes me feel that I am missing, or rather avoiding, the real story of what is happening in our time. Leonard Peltier, corruption, the whole works. It makes me sick to read of it, so I don’t read of it. Is that any way to live?

Guys? I know you’ve said we should – well, no, you tell me your reactions to my reactions. Am I living with my head in the sand?

Everybody to his own work. What is one person’s true work is another’s evasion.

It is specifically evasion that troubles me.

Should you be worried about everything? Or, if not worried, is it your true duty, or even your actual opportunity, to become informed about everything? Not just political news, or governmental news, or the news behind the news (conspiracy speculations) or the revealed facts put together to make new understandings on all fronts?

Life is vastly too big for anyone to comprehend. Even a genius must live his life vastly ignorant of most things. So what can anyone do who is not a genius? To stay even reasonably well-informed is not possible, not really, not if the net you cast is cast widely enough.

Consider. This book The Fourth Part Of The World you are reading. How long did it take the author to put together the story? A good part of his lifetime, if you count the time you must spend in acquiring background knowledge that allows you to make sense of what you read as you do your research. Would it have been of any use to him to have spent that time following politics or doing whatever other thing? The short answer is that you can’t know, because you can’t know what unsuspected interconnections may reveal himself. But you can know, in advance, that nobody can know everything.

Hemingway, speaking of the craft of writing, said something about how we have to spend time to learn, and the little we can learn is all we can add to the human experience.

He said, the little you can learn by experience that hasn’t already been expressed by someone else. We would add that when you talk about human experience rather than a specific skill, sometimes what you can add is something that had been known and had been lost. Hence the value of study of impractical things. Hence, for instance, Carl Jung’’s study of medieval alchemists. But the point remains: you only have so much time in any given life. And you never know ahead of time where you are going. And your logic may be correct and yet still not apply to your situation, in the way that a financial bet that “should” pay off may not do so because the market does not react in a way it seems it “must” react.

Whatever your intentions, your ability to change the way things are is going to be limited. You will live your life in the presence of injustice, regardless how hard you work. Men and women who spent their entire lives in the anti-slavery cause did ultimately make a difference there but they did so at the absolutely unavoidable price of averting their gaze from, or never noticing, multiple other evils and causes of evils. If they attempted to address more than one thing they drew attention to themselves more than to the evils, and if they had attempted to address all, they would have doomed themselves not only to futility but to becoming seen as cranks or malcontents, and indeed to a large extent they would have been.

You cannot arrive at a situation in which the world or even your tiny part of the world is all good and no evil. Could you arrive at a state of things that was all up and not down, or all inside and no outside, or all hot and cold? Duality means more than that there will be opposites. It means that the opposites will be intricately interconnected. The line between good and evil is always within a given thing or person or situation, never between them.

Take slavery. There was good mingled with its bad, as slave-owners and the slaves themselves well knew. And there was bad mingled with the good, as they both knew. If you were going to have slavery, you were going to have its peculiar mixture of good and bad, regardless how the admixture would vary by specific instance. It was the inability to see, or any way to admit, the mixture rather than the total blackness of the institution that allowed the anti-slavery societies to function, and infuriated those who knew better. But when slavery was abolished, a new situation arose, and it should be no surprise to see that it was a mixture of good and bad.

We aim the particulars of this history lesson at you because if you are anything you are anti-slavery, but your readers will be able to follow us so far. As with slavery so with every other evil. We do not say slavery was not (is not) evil. We say rather that good and evil do not come unmixed, ever.

So, if you are tempted to abandon your siege of a hencoop to march off to a pretended siege of Babylon, remember that only you are created able to do your work. And what is your work? It is to be present to your opportunities and problems, and make of them what you will. For some it is the expansion of their awareness along social lines. For others, it is the absorption of patterns. For still others it may be the dissemination of insight or learning. For others, it is the day-to-day execution of defined responsibilities. How are you going to say that any of these life’s paths is wrong? How can you know how any one is going to react with others? The short answer is that you can’t and no one can. And, since it can’t be done, obviously it can’t be the path.

Live your own life; and live it your way.

Does this mean that you or anyone must lead an eccentric path? Well, yes and no. Yes, in that the true path for you or anyone must seem an eccentric to at least some onlookers, and they may not be wrong. No, in that truly following your own path may lead you to a life very much in conformity to society’s externals. There is no guarantee of authenticity in eccentricity, and no requirement of eccentricity in authenticity. But what must be there is the following of your true path.

Now, if that were easy to define, would it not have been defined ages ago? But what cannot be defined for one and all may nonetheless be lived. Emerson said it all – plant yourself on your surest instincts and there abide, and the world will come round to you.

So does it not devolve to this question? How do I find my surest instincts? That is, how do I tell them from whims or crosscurrents? And if your work is not designed to help people do just that, what is it designed to do?

So – would you have better spent the past hour or so reading the news, or doing anything other than communicating with us? Not an unanswerable question, we realize, but still it is an example of opportunity costs. Whatever you or anyone have of value to the world you accumulate by devoting your mind to this thing and not that thing. Some specialize, some generalize. Some concentrate in science, some in theology, some in civic affairs, some in life as it appears in the media. Regardless the shape of their mixture, each finds his own way of being, even if only by default.

You can’t do everything, hence you can’t be required to do everything. Not by conscience, not by others. How can you be required to do the impossible? So – you will choose your activity, whether by default or by conscious intent. Our bias is toward more consciousness, always, but that doesn’t mean it is a universal answer. Think how many people cannot live in communication with the other side at a conscious level. For them, better communication may be only possible at an unconscious level, and therefore more consciousness may actually seem to distract or divert them. This is merely to repeat, there can be no universal rule, applicable to all people, all circumstances.

So I may leave to others the task of worrying about Leonard Peltier’s hard life.

Do you know no means of sending comfort and support non-physically?

That’s a thought.

But in any case, we repeat. Do not deceive yourself into thinking that all evils may be eliminated. Do not deceive yourself into thinking that becoming aware of a given evil is the same thing as doing something about it. Do not deceive yourself into thinking that what is good action or good concentration for one is necessarily good for another, much less good for all. This is your only life as ringmaster. Use it as well as you can.

3 thoughts on “Prioritizing

      1. I was just talking about that with a fellow traveler. Seeing all the Houston people who’d been to Egypt infected, I checked into it and saw that our boat was about three days ahead of their boat, so we never intermingled with them at the sites. I think it definitely took some higher level planning.

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