Category Archives: commentary

The Administration of Life

 

The deep, hollow ache of the heart arises from a life in search of meaning. But it’s by our very desire to find meaning that we create meaninglessness. The very idea of looking for purpose and meaning arises from our deluded thought. When we actually see Reality for what it is, all questions of meaning are transcended, and we’re free to engage the world as it actually is.

-Steve Hagen from Buddhism Plain and Simple

the efficient guise of an ethic of care

The water is being poisoned. Daily, people, as a function of their positions, are being forced to sit down and listen to ridiculous presentations by money grabbing consultants who promise nothing short of the fountain of youth for our aging workforce.

Their campaign?

  • All that is positive, optimistic and imbued with strength.

Their logic?

  • Why think about those things that we struggle with when we can hone what we do well into something we do great.

Take for instance Dewitt Jones. Jones, a national geographic photographer, has made training videos for workplaces to use that addresses how to Celebrate What Is Right With The World. While Dewitt is celebrating the beauty of the world he fails to recognize all that is not. It is not that I seek to dwell on all that is wrong with the world either, but I do think there is a compromise. Mark Strand, former poet laureate (90-91), said it best when he referred to critics who characterized his poetry as being dark or brooding. Strand, however, said that he found his poetry to be “evenly lit” rather than brooding or dark. This, in my opinion, is what is wrong with celebrating what is right with the world.

Therapist Bill Doherty (University of Minnesota researcher) was recently interviewed about the institution of marriage in Minnesota Monthly. In the article he talks about how the stigma of divorce has pretty much disappeared, but expectations for marriage have skyrocketed. He was quoted as saying, “Marriage has weakened as an institution while the ideas for what is should accomplish have gone through the roof.” Doherty points to our consumer culture for this discrepancy; once the widget stops meeting your need you purchase another widget that can. I also think this has something to do with people who have become infected with the Dewitt Jones line of thinking. It should be noted that Dewitt’s most recent book was created alongside of Stephen Covey. Covey, for those that do not know, is one of the chief proprietors of this type of thinking.

Now, let’s look at Denmark; the happiest place on earth. While I do not pretend to know the details of how the study was conducted or its reliability, I do think one of the ideas that has emerged from the study is interesting. One of the explanations for why the Danes are so happy is they have lower expectations than the rest of us. By having lower expectations the Danes are better able to celebrate and appreciate the world around them. This, to me, illustrates the flaw in focusing on all that is positive, optimistic and imbued with strength.

All the positivity and optimism spun by these CONsultants is just an efficient guise of an ethic of care. There are so many other ways to better yourself…chief among these ways is to resign yourself to listening to the world around you rather than talking over it. I will leave you with a paragraph from one of my heroes –

“One fine day you decide to talk less and less about the things you care most about, and when you have to say something, it costs you an effort…You’re good and sick of hearing yourself talk…you abridge…You give up…For thirty years you’ve been talking…You don’t care bout being right anymore. You even lose your desire to keep hold of the small place you’d reserve yourself among the pleasures of life…You’re fed up…From that time on you’re content to eat a little something, cadge a little warmth, and sleep as much as possible on the road to nowhere. To rekindle your interest, you’d have to think up some new grimaces to put on in the presence of others…But you no longer have the strength to renew your repertory. You stammer.”

Louis-Ferdinand Celine