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Thursday, June 06, 2002

What can I do right now that is not Bad?

"Never yield to remorse, but at once tell yourself: remorse would simply mean adding to the
first act of stupidity a second."
from Nietzsche's The Wanderer and his Shadow,s. 323, R.J. Hollingdale transl.

Another week seems to have gone by very quickly. What have I got to show for it? Have you ever asked yourself that? How often is often enough? There are a lot of schools of thought out there on what makes a life - what makes a life worth living - what makes a life well lived - what staves off the pangs of regret that come with less than 100% success - what provides the correct path - from where faith is derived.

This interview I went to last week has put me in something of a re-evaluative tailspin. I'm not too concerned with the interview itself or with that specific job. I'm more interested in how much light shown through the cracks in my educational armour (it felt more like a fishnet body-sock). I've got a thin skillset, a brief technical history and a tangentially relevant degree. Shocking!

I distinctly remember at University getting a "sit-down" by one of my professors. She said something to the effect of "you're a charming young man, but that won't last forever - if you think you can get through your whole life as a charming young man, you've got another thing coming." And she might have thought that I didn't hear her - flashing a wry smile and maybe a bit of a wink (you can't tell with me, I kind of squint when I smile anyway) - but I did hear her and it's been haunting me since, well, that day.

The other day, at that interview, I felt neither young nor charming. So I've been looking at what it's been that's gotten me here and how that relates to what it's going to be that gets me past here. I haven't come up with much. As an old Maori saying goes - "We walk into the future backwards" - I am seeing some things that have gotten me here in a different light and I'll probably use that vision in going forward, but looking backwards.

I think that's all you can talk about the future - the retrospective future - how you thought things would turn out - what you wished you had done. Actually addressing the future directly seems so futile and even primitive to me. Faith is the only place I feel I can touch the future - the future is more certain than death and taxes - it requires no Faith and it becomes an anchor, but that's useless for forecasting or fortune telling. The only value (and it's an important, but often taken for granted value) certainty of future allows is Hope. Without the certainty of another day, another moment, to follow this one - who would have hope? How could one have hope?

I guess hope at a basic level could be "expectation" and expectation is similar to premonition if it's justified. So there's a loose, almost superstitious, view we can all cling to about our future. But what actually makes up that future?

This is where I've been able to internalize some old thought on "Eternal Recurrence" (again with the Nietzsche). The idea is that if you had to live N-moment over and over again forever - but you never knew when this recurrence would start - could you live your life in such a way that each moment would be so excellent that you wouldn't mind living it forever? Now that's pretty extreme, and it's just a thought exercise - a perfect world on which to base an argument. But take it to the reality of your life and you get a question more like - could you live your life in such a way that each action you take prevents you from forming habits you don't desire while promoting a "body of work" that you'd be proud to have revealed on This is Your Life. And even more to the point - what can I do right now that is not Bad? That's about the best I can do for a doctrine to live by that, if followed, should give me a pretty good balance of weeks with "something to show for it."

D'you think if I did "not Bad" 80% of the time, I'd be doing Good?

The wheel is turning
and you can't slow down
You can't let go
and you can't hold on
You can't go back
and you can't stand still
If the thunder don't get you
then the lightning will

Won't you try just a little bit harder?
Couldn't you try just a little bit more?

-Words: Robert Hunter

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