Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Conceptual Framework for the Worst

We certainly don't want to belong in the worst category, right? I don't want to be the worst. Not much to redeem there. Not like I can try to get better from that point. Nope, the worst seems to be implacable. By definition, as bad as it gets. And yet, although I'm sure that I think of the "worst" category as existent, I'm not sure that it actually does survive my brain and independently establish itself. Sure, many people have a lot more money than me, and that money, yes, does buy a bunch of stuff that does in fact have tangible results about their social worth or relative utility. Yep. I can't fight that. Not all is equal.
So unfair that people would try to judge others as if there was equal footing, right?  But to the degree that I cannot change resource allocation in this world as it stands, is there a sense in fighting for that very change?

Well, welcome to our quick acting mind-worlds! As the video from yesterday made evident, clear cut choices help us act/decide and we like ease of decision, and we like to have categories, however sloppy, because they help us along in making distinctions.   The funny part is that we cannot get away from the valuation of ourselves by other humans.  We just can't do it, no matter how wrong it is.  In wrongful death claims, your spouse (or child, or parent) would get more money if you were a practicing attorney making 150k a year than if you were a starbucks barista making 15 an hour.  Because you're valued by how much money you would have made.  How else would you like to do it?  Don't like it?  I don't either, but I honestly can't see a different organizing principle.  If you do, show me.

Getting past the fact that we all value each other all the time externally and internally would be helpful, and potentially assuaged through . . . what, precisely?  I'm convinced that finding the answer to that question will also help us stay sober in this life, and I mean fully sober, in control and whatnot.  Sure, we'll be excessive at times, but not excessively excessive.  We'll have balance internally.  If we can't control the external world, it could be our only option.  The problem is that, so far, it appears just as difficult to control the internal world.  We aren't simply sponges of information, tabla rasa at birth.  That's upsetting.  But we know how to express our frustration through an incredibly adaptive language system, so there are some advantages as well.  In fact, try to find a stubborn viewpoint and you'll probably find one that holds some advantage for the believer beyond empirical assessment of the world.  Why hold viewpoints that are emotionally comforting?  Because they feel good and are easier and because at some level, they help us survive better.  Not [necessarily] because they are always true in and out of contexts. 

I spent a lot of time in my personal life trying to make sure that the people around me weren't upset, then letting my own anger about the world get the better of me.  I don't think I'll be able to avoid these traps in the future.  We can't avoid all blind spots.  The question, and perhaps I'm hitting my head on the wall to spite myself, is how we react when our reaction takes our foot back into a pile of warm mush.  Do we turn and look down at what we just stepped in?  How to pull away from that instinctual response to find order and patterns in the smallest of actions, or to assume one's importance in a situation.  Is there a way to assume that we're the least important and still to live, to be, to redeem our lives?  Is there a way to relish in being the worst, to be more true because of it?  I dunno!

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