Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Process Based Approach to Life

There are two basic ways to approach discovering one's value in the world. One may determine one's value from viewing the ends derived from one's striving. Another individual's satisfaction might arise from viewing life as a process, as one long continuous event offering enriching experience and occasionally provoking profound insight.

Most Western societies and cultures impress upon individual members the paradigm that justification is only, and always, found by assessing end results. Parents want to know what final grade their child earned in their classes, not how much knowledge was gained and retained. In business, the main concern revolves around the bottom line, not product or service quality, and certainly not the necessity or real value a product or service offers the world. Social status accrues from the degree to which one can ostentatiously display one's ability to both earn and spend. Even the two religions which predominantly influence the West, Judaism and Christianity, teach that an individual's right of entry into heaven is a determination made by tallying up the deeds of one's life. This essential pattern, tattooed upon our minds from infancy, that worth is arrived upon by determining a hypothetical end value, is what seduces people into adopting the immoral position of "the ends justify the means."

The problem with this approach lies in the acceptance of the fallacy that ends ever exist. There is never an instant during which humans can live which any human could properly term a finality or end. There are only instants which transition into new instants which transition... and so on. Not Greek, not Roman, not Mongol, not English, nor Russian Empire, not Communism nor Capitalism, neither Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam nor Judaism; no, no empire or system has ever proven to offer the final answer. No utopias have ever arisen.

As we see, there are only transitions, and each yields a cycle of events. Cycles of love and hate, kindness and cruelty, honesty and greed; yes all kinds of cycles are the games people play to make economies and governments necessary. Governments assert their authority, purportedly in an attempt to regulate behavior in a nation, but really design to do no more than punish bohemians, individualists and non-conformists, beating them into submitting to the social order government enforces. But change is the order of the universe, change amid adaptation to changing conditions and the essential elements of Hegel's dialectic, all of which describe the way the universe and life on our planet thrive.

Viewed from this perspective, one can see that life is a process. Redemption is constantly reassessed in every action, deed and omission. When life is lived as a constant and continuous process, the illusion that any end result one might arrive upon which can be used to assert legitimacy for the life lived dissolves like photons in light waves. Thus, one is constantly forced to prove one's worth over and over again, in every deed. Each moment throughout the long process determines ultimate worth fluidly from moment to moment, breath to breath, deed to deed, thought to thought.

There is more to life than simply living a moral, kind and altruistic life. However, we need not succumb to banal opulence and the narcissistic accumulation of wealth as providing the test of worth. The value in developing a discerning world view which both informs individuality with the values useful to making proper judgments and incites the personality to assert the talents inherent within the individual lies in the Janus-faced dilemma, the balance between the yearning for self-expression, discovery and pleasure and the necessity of maintaining a modest appetite, a sound ecology, and understanding one’s place is in nature, not apart from it. Living in and with nature, we will find a more enduring pleasure than that offered by the glittery intransigence of bank account balances built on loans and paper investments. Nature offers a real world to engage. Thoreau and Emerson will lament the loss of their beloved Walden to the ravages of climate change. Whitman weeps at the changing American spirit, so divorced from the splendor which is our bounty it pollutes and destroys nature while being infused with an indifference and unwillingness to admit responsibility for anything. Jefferson and Lincoln lie in their graves speechlessly, rendered silent by the publics' inability to rise up in its own self interest and demand government be responsive to the needs of the individual. However, the saddest commentary is that our grandchildren will suffer a far reduced quality of life because of the wasteland we will bequeath to them.

1 comment:

Joy Leftow said...

You should be giving lectures on this stuff - like new age living & how to mix it with our lifestyles to help us focus better.