3.25.2009

You have a lot more power than you realize and a lot less power than I realize. It's as if, metaphorically speaking, you're not living up to your potential and, at the same time, I'm giving you too much credit--and neither is necessarily a negative (at this point).

Weird, eh?

Not if you consider absolute truth within a context.

Non sequitur
(or is it?):

Words have meaning. Ideas have consequences. Nothing operates in a vacuum--especially culture and love.

Non sequitur (or is it?):

I once professed that I could never be offended. How naive a statement. It was, I suppose, that I could not understand the concept of being so deeply moved by a remark--mere "words"--that it would cause me emotional distress. It is a mockery of the term "offend" to use it in a non-personal context. No one is offended by a wardrobe malfunction at the Super Bowl or nativity scene in the town square. People may find those displays distasteful or inappropriate or "gross" or scary--but not offensive. A "people" cannot be offended. Only a person can be offended. And an offense comes not from experiencing something you do not like but from a violation of your values by someone you trusted not to do so and whose opinion you value. Consequently, it is impossible to be offended by a known scoundrel, a person without the capacity to control his or her language, or your known enemy. That being said, it seems silly to take offense to the truth or a statement made with a lack of knowledge--assuming the statement is recanted once the knowledge is available. These criteria leave very few experiences that fit into the "offensive" category, but they also acknowledge that truly offensive statements are not something to be taken lightly. With these constraints in mind, consider what it means to be offended: You are, essentially, betrayed--though that word has some interesting connotations about motive that I do not (necessarily) intend--by someone you trust through an experience that violates one or more of your core beliefs--values that you have "grokked" honestly by your rationality that guide your life. To be offended is not to acknowledge that you derive your self-esteem from someone else's opinion. It is, in fact, a recognition that your values are what drive your life, and that you take those values very seriously. A violation of those values, even in jest, is not tolerable. As long as it's not a reoccurring theme, a joke may be forgiven as a slip of the tongue or repudiated quickly by mentioning that the joke isn't all that funny--some things are just too important.

Non sequitur (or is it?):

Fundamentally, all I have are my actions. The corollary of that statement--as much as I dislike Kenneth Burke--is that "words are symbolic action." My "word," in fact, is a metaphor for my integrity and honesty and love of justice. Stripped of all other bartering tools, my reasoning mind gives me my actions and my symbolic actions as a means of dealing with other people. Therefore, I take both of these very seriously.

Non sequitur (or is it?):

I consider myself to be a very honest and open person. It is not in my rational self-interest to evade truth or reality. I often spend hours--if not days or months--critically reflecting on different aspects of my life searching for contradictions, false conclusions, and outright evasions. To date, I think I have a fairly high success rate, and I only continue to improve.

Non sequitur (or is it?):

The foundational criterion for someone to be considered my friend--the one value on which all my other criteria are built--is that he or she trust me. I'm not speaking about classmates, acquaintances, roommates, or even people with whom I hang out occasionally. I refer only to the few people with whom I have a close enough relationship that I have earned their trust and trust them in return. This point, however, does not imply that we agree on everything or that our trust is a substitute for our own judgment or that the trust is infallible and perpetual. Trust, like all relationships, is based on values within a context. If those values change or if the context changes, then the trust must be reevaluated. What I mean by trust is the knowledge that our relationship is built on common values: "Love, friendship, respect, admiration are the emotional response of one man to the virtues of another, the spiritual payment given in exchange for the personal, selfish pleasure which one man derives from the virtues of another man’s character." What you trust is that I have no ulterior motives for our relationship, that I am not manipulating you as a means to an end, that I am not sacrificing your life for mine for any reason. What you trust is that we deal with each other not as beggars, looters, second-handers, or murderers but as traders. "A trader is a man who earns what he gets and does not give or take the undeserved. A trader does not ask to be paid for his failures, nor does he ask to be loved for his flaws. A trader does not squander his body as fodder or his soul as alms. Just as he does not give his work except in trade for material values, so he does not give the values of his spirit—his love, his friendship, his esteem—except in payment and in trade for human virtues, in payment for his own selfish pleasure, which he receives from men he can respect." Without this level of trust, there is no friendship. Acquaintance, yes. Someone to hang out with in group settings, perhaps. But I cannot trade my value with anyone who believes it is a faulty transaction from the beginning.

Non sequitur (or is it?):

It is often pointless to be angry or resentful, so I'm not. And I won't be. I love life too much to waste it with any form of regret.

Non sequitur (or is it?):

There is a nuanced philosophical difference between "expect" and "deserve" that I want to explore later. This note will remind me to do so: You may deserve something you don't expect, but you cannot expect something you don't deserve. This idea has some interesting implications for love and relationships, methinks.

1 comment:

Brent S. Robida said...

dan, your post, which is too long for me to read - for being a literature student, i read surprisingly little, can't stomach it always - DOES NOT FOLLOW.