Sunday, May 9, 2021
4:45 a.m. Can we go back to the implied conflict between “All paths are good” and our own ability and necessity to choose?
All paths are good. That is not the same as saying all destinations are good, nor that all values are good.
Why would you think it is?
I suppose I never thought about it. I heard the saying, it resonated – something inside me recognized it as the truth – and I didn’t parse it carefully, I guess.
Well, now you can. As you observed yesterday, this process slows you down enough so that you do not react so much off the cuff. It allows you to bring more resources to bear.
That gave me a sense of GI’s running to jump onto a jeep. Strange image.
Strange but effective. The jeep will bring them farther, faster, if they can first catch up with it and ride it. And that they are soldiers is merely to give you the sense of resources being brought to battle. That it is a jeep rather than something more modern is to tie it to your very young years rather than to the somewhat more complicated but somewhat worn version of you that followed youth.
Interesting. All right, so let’s spend some time parsing.
“All paths are good.” No two people are identical, hence no two people’s potential paths are or can be identical. And, obviously (once you think about it at all), nobody’s potential paths are the same as everything. That is, everybody’s potential is limited somewhere. Nobody could do everything nor every subset of everything. A woman born in China in 1946 did not have the same total potential Frank did, born half a world away. This is not to say one had it better than the other – that judgment is a matter of preference. But it is to say, the total possible paths each was born into had different bounds. Surely it is obvious.
Therefore, surely it follows, “All paths are good” means “All paths that are open to you.” What sense would it make to say, “All paths are good including those that do not exist”? Looked at from an overall perspective of 3D life as a whole, yes, true. But looked at from any one person’s life, true only insofar as it is an abstract statement about life such as “All is one”; not true if taken to be a pretended identical set of possibilities among individuals.
Your own range of possible paths is unique to you. You are not and could not be responsible for other people and the paths they take. You are responsible for your own, and you cannot escape that responsibility, nor should you wish to, for it is your life, of course.
So, among the paths open to you, “All paths are good,” meaning, it is your choice and you came into the world to do the choosing. This is the opposite of saying, “You must follow this path, and you will be in error to deviate from it.” We know the world is full of people who would have you follow their path rather than your own, but it is their path perhaps to try to convince or even coerce you to do so; that doesn’t make it your path to allow them to do so.
Emerson said, “Let each one do his own thing.”
Which was Emerson’s path, you see. He came in to liberate people from the Puritans. (At least, it could be looked at that way, that this was one aspect of his life.) That doesn’t mean that it is necessarily good (or bad) that anyone else follow his sparks, let alone everyone else. “Doing your own thing” will mean, to some, “letting others do their own thing,” and to others will mean “and instruct (and if need be, coerce) others to do my thing.” It is all in what people’s natures tell them is good and desirable.
But if, in coming into a life, your available paths could be numbered one through one million, say, the successive choosings that make up a life will continually whittle down from one end and expand on the other.
I take that to mean –. Let’s see, we need a good sensory image, or I’ll never be able to get this across.
Use your modern sensory experiences such as film and CGI. Previous generations did not have such sensory experiences to latch on to.
Okay, good idea. Well, suppose it’s a computer game responding to our choices. Initially we are presented with an array of possible paths. We pick one and the screen brings us into it – that is, the other paths disappear from our view and now we see only what is contained in the path we chose. But this path, it turns out, is also an array of choices, and as we choose among them, each time the same thing happens: Unchosen paths disappear from our screen, and the chosen path’s ramifications and possibilities are displayed, to be chosen among.
You can see that to find a similar sensory example in the age before electronics would have been difficult. Certainly any such example would have been more static, more labored.
I do see that. Our marriage of human senses and computer screens is actually altering what it is possible for us to think.
Well – we won’t argue that here and now, but the statement is a little broad. In any case the computer-game analogy serves.
Now, you can see that no two people are going to have exactly the same screens initially, because each incoming life its itself different. The philosophers who argued that each new infant experiences the world as a blank slate could hardly have been more wrong. No two people have exactly the same video game, hence from their very first move, their screens will not be the same. Their potential will be unique; the paths they might take will be a package entirely unique to them.
Similar? Of course they will sometimes be similar. But identical, impossible. So by definition, “All paths are good” means “One size does not fit all!” That isn’t all it means, but it does mean that. Your own mental peculiarities may lead you to think you know best for everybody, and so you should be able to tell them “Do this, do that, don’t do the other.” Perhaps, like Mao tse-tung, you will even acquire the ability to enforce your desires, perhaps thinking it for their own good. But it won’t change the fact that every individual has a unique range of possibilities and has the right and the responsibility to choose among them.
I see a pitfall, people assuming you are talking about our choices as members of a society.
Yes, but should we divert to explain yet again that our concern is with what individuals do in reality, rather than with what abstractions do in theory?
I’m just mentioning it as a place where people can fall off the curve.
As did your metaphor. All we are inclined to say is, Keep in mind that our conversations are intended to be of practical benefit to each of you as individuals. Pretending to legislate for social abstractions would be a waste of our time and yours.
It is not among the paths that are open to you and me, working together?
That could be an interesting question, but let’s leave it. Our concern is that each individual wake up to the greatest degree possible. What they do once awake is not our concern; that is the path for others, in non-3D as well as in 3D.
Now, within your range of possible paths, are they all equal, all equally desirable? Well, doesn’t that – must it not – depend upon the values you bring to it? If you don’t mind Pacman being eaten, then any path is equally good, as long as it lasts. If you acquire a psychological vested interest in keeping Pacman alive, you’re going to learn to do some fast dodging. If you also want to run up a big score, you’re going to value paths that not only let Pacman avoid getting eaten but let him destroy lots of potential enemies. You get the idea: Depending upon what you want to do, some paths lead in the right direction, some don’t. As soon as you have a goal, “All paths are good” doesn’t apply in the same way. It isn’t that the rules of the cosmic game have changed; it is that your participation is changing things as far as you are concerned. And after all, “as far as you are concerned” is – by definition – all that concerns you, except theoretically.
We can talk about values another time, if you wish. But your hour is up.
It is. All very interesting, thanks.
Frank DeMarco, author
Papa’s Trial: Hemingway in the Afterlife, a novel