Thursday, July 26, 2018

You are what you do!

Contrary to the many popular adages surrounding the desirability of doing nothing - inspiring quips such as Oscar Wilde's, "To do nothing at all is the most difficult thing in the world, the most difficult and the most intellectual" - I am nonetheless not persuaded by the elevated tone of the observation. I much prefer to earn my keep by doing something.  This visceral pleasure no doubt betrays either my indelible vacuity or thriving materialism.  I say "materialism" because the thrust of productivity of almost any order is delivery of a tangible end.  I therefore employ the mundane description in its metaphorical sense in addition to its more vulgar appreciation.  Truthfully I abhor doing nothing, whatever the cerebral implications.

Fulfillment of an agenda of fertility is by any assessment a challenge.  Even if one seeks to expiate the guilt of idleness through some form of mobility, there remains the pressure to perform something which is at least meaningful.  That perhaps is an ambiguous theme because it begs the question of what exactly constitutes worthwhile.  I don't for example adhere blindly to the so-called existentialist theory which demands activity in order to satisfy choice:

"Kierkegaard’s argument that life is a series of choices – and that these choices bring meaning (or not) to our life – is a cornerstone of existentialism. Rather than offloading the responsibility onto society or religion, each individual is solely responsible for making their life meaningful and living it authentically."

But neither am I satisfied to absorb the whirlwind of activity which perpetually surrounds us -  as though our personal authenticity can only derive from a passive adoption of the opinions constructed by the levelling mass culture.

"French existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre tells us that we’re alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of infinite responsibilities. We have no other purpose than the one we set ourselves; no other destiny than the one we forge."

Admission of these precepts is more than a bit demanding - indeed it approaches threatening.  If nothing else, the mere suggestion that we alone contain the ammunition for our achievement is radically novel.  Think of it! Whatever lurks within us, no matter how trifling it may appear to us in our indentured apprenticeship - is the seminal foundation of all that we are.  What a principle!  Our most private thoughts count!

"Yet many of us remain in denial of our responsibilities, writes Sartre. We fall into bad faith, deceiving ourselves about this radical freedom. In Existentialism is a Humanism, Sartre is blunt and unforgiving.

“Our doctrine horrifies people,” he asserts. “They have no other way of putting up with their misery than to think: ‘Circumstances have been against me, I deserve a much better life than the one I have. Admittedly, I have never experienced a great love or extraordinary friendship; but that is because I never met a man or woman worthy of it; if I have written no great books, it is because I never had the leisure to do so; if I have had no children to whom I could devote myself, it is because I did not find a man with whom I could share my life. So I have within me a host of untried but perfectly viable attributes, inclinations and possibilities that endow me with worthiness not evident from examination of any of my past actions."

 “But for existentialists there is no love other than the deeds of love… there is no genius other than that which is expressed in works of art; the genius of Proust resides in the totality of his works; the genius of Racine is found in the series of his tragedies, outside of which there is nothing. “No doubt this thought may seem harsh to someone who has not made a success out of his life. But on the other hand, it helps people to understand that reality alone counts, and that dreams, expectations and hopes only serve to define a man as a broken dream, aborted hopes and futile expectations; in other words, they define him negatively, not positively.”

The allure of the tactile is therefore captivating. It follows that activity is uppermost to psychology.  The good news is that the reward is manifest in the most inconsequential enterprise - proving once again that simplicity is perfection.  Take bicycling for example - an unglamorous but beneficial undertaking. I am easily convinced of its pragmatic value by its undeniably salubrious character - simple but true. Indeed there is unquestionably a logical nexus between need and response (a source of advice for guidance and intervention). Conditioning ourselves to adopt a schematic approach to living is always a hard-sell; we're only too willing to usurp our entitlement to personal singularity. But I am constantly haunted by the shadowy conviction that doing anything other than what appeals to me instinctively is an egregious mistake. This oddly applies to the internal combustion of what is best for others as well, not merely myself.  It is odd because one might naturally assume that the paramountcy of selfishness would trump anything else.  Yet altruism is far more palatable. Even if not instantly efficacious, it invariably proves to be less acerbic.  Besides who in their right mind will judge themselves or others by how many times they won?  The standard of perspicacity isn't that diverse!  Meanwhile I am content to mitigate my torment by reacting to my elemental needs. The human being is still a human animal - we have appetites - so we are obliged to address these very fundamental features many of which are as direct and incontrovertible as hunger.

All this is to say that committing ourselves to performance is both natural and accessible.  The real battle is to convince ourselves that it is worthy.  We suffer such a history of mistrust - distorted by what we've read or been told or perceived. Yet I ask you, "By what authority do others pretend to assess the world?" This isn't to promote a contest against the intellectual capacity of others; rather to remind us that our own decisions matter.  In fact, they're pretty much the only ones that matter.  It is a conclusion which derives some cogency from the proximity of mortality - basically, "What have I got to lose?" But we mustn't make the error of attributing plausibility to the mercurial ingredients of age or appearance or Time of any other purport.  Until we write a faultless prescription of the Future, it's a far safer bet to rely upon our own contribution.

The mandatory nature of this behaviour isn't however easy in the sense of effortless.  We must still awaken our mental acuity with an acceptable degree of activity. To overcome the anxiety and awkwardness of living requires attention to our inner motivations.  But once acknowledged nothing could be more fluid. The embarrassment of individuality is notorious; but its primacy is equally incontrovertible.  This isn't an admission directed purely at the practicality of life; rather at the mechanics of our personal expression. Blunted stated, we haven't any other resource than what we are motivated to do. It does at times involve a complicated palate - requiring an analysis which is both intense and immediate.  Make no mistake - we haven't the privilege of relentless delay - we cannot risk futility and profitability.

Today I have atoned myself by doing what needed to be done.  Nor does it matter what I did - not because it is private or inconsequential - but because it is functional and practical. The reduction of life to its basic instruments is relieving. The plausibility is its inherent direction.  You are what you do!

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