Friday, February 26, 2010

Mimes of Sophron

There is nothing wrong with the very natural feeling that is sorrow until it relents to despair.

Speaking to my friend "T" yesterday it became abundantly clear to me there are two kinds of creative people in this world:

1. People who have followed a singular dream since they were small, seeing everything they desired early, and have sought after it relentlessly throughout their lives. They made the choice about what they wanted long ago.

2. People who desire to have the greatest amount of agency available to them possible. They don't want one path, they want several. They want to make the choice about what they want every day.

I'm certainly fall into the first category while my friend T is firmly in the second. I think that both are admirable, romantic notions that have great potential to produce good works. Both notions of personal order grant a creative person tremendous power if it they understood with some degree of personal clarity.

"Life is growth; not to move forward, is to fall backward; life remains life, only so long as it advances." - Ayn Rand

The more I read her book, "The Virtue of Selfishness" the more tragic the world seems. Her words are stark, unrelenting, and lacking any sort of compromise. Aside from being a badass book, it is an excellent guide for anyone creative looking to become (or remain) an ethical creature outside the confines of organized religion. Old news.

"And with regard to moderation, courage, high-mindedness, and all the other parts of virtue, it is also important to distinguish the illegitimate from the legitimate, for when either a city or an individual doesn't know hot to do this, it is unwittingly employs the lame illegitimate as friends or rulers for whatever services it wants done." - From Plato Republic

I think this statement is equally true of our own endeavors. There are so many things I do on a daily basis that lead me no closer to my goals while there are things that head me down my road feet and yards. I think that to see these things as they truly are is almost impossible, but that there lies some merit in the task of the attempt. I've always looked at things as to whether they would produce a good or ill effect, while utterly failing to see the value of the path taken to get there.

Consider this:

[The Path taken to A] -> [Outcome A] [Bad Outcome]

[The Path taken to B] -> [Outcome B] [Good Outcome]

What if the path taken to A yielded a greater value than Outcome B? Exceeding even the benefits of the Path taken to B, and B itself? Sometimes it truly is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all. Not that anyone should seek a bad outcome on the basis of the journey, but the path taken to any destination should be weighed just as much or more so than the primary desire.

My wife often seeks the greatest destinations while choosing somewhat self-destructive paths and roads to get there. I'm the opposite. I often look to the road without considering what might be at the end of it as carefully as I should. Most of the time we make a great team, and occasionally we sit at the center of a great personal debacle. Our first and last time rafting the Boise River stands out in my mind of such an occasion.

"Developing a strategic analysis and outlining a strategic plan for training forces of a country facing insurgency is not necessarily a long process." - The US Army/Marines Counterinsurgency Field Manual

Optimism tends to be the road I often walk without thinking about the destination. Hope truly is the first step on the road to disappointment if you cannot see the forest for the trees. Even now I remain pretty optimistic even in the face of overwhelming evidence, my extremely analytical and objective mind warning me that I should prepare not for 'the worst', but for at least 'the bad'. Overreaching our own sense of things isn't the best use of our faith, if there is a God, he gave us a mind and the ability to reason for a purpose. The irony is that people often put their reasoning mind aside in the worship of a Supreme Being that created us to do the contrary.

Regardless of what a person believes, uncertainty is something everyone deals with in varying degrees. Some people simply relinquish control and whatever agency they had to cope while others grasp in ironclad fashion to the few things they believe under his or her control. Trying to exist in a way that defies either classification requires constantly reevaluating your own reasons for doing everything.

Brutal Introspection.


  1. Watching a successful marriage in action is a fascinating business: even more enjoyable is to read the man's perspective of the commitment. But I have to admit,I smile every time I see the words "brutal introspection" because I don't perceive brutal to be the opposite of ineffectual (or gentle, for that matter). Thorough and penetrating, yes. Cruel or beastly, no. Still, always thought-provoking and I'm grateful you put it out here to give me perspective on my own journey. Thanks again, Art Walker, for making my day a little brighter.

  2. You always say the kindest things to me Katherine.

    I think you see my use of the word clearly.

    When I use the term "brutal", I intend only to delve into my own feelings and thoughts without any attempt to disguise unpleasantness. I feel that to prevaricate with myself is, in a way, an open door to be dishonest with others.

    Ayn Rand used the word "Brute" when speaking about an outsider's view of the selfish, ethical or otherwise. In the way that people misunderstood her use of one word (selfish), I am likely opening myself to the same?

    That's almost awesome. Haha

  3. Perpetual optimism is a force multilplier.