Saturday, November 12, 2005

Saturday Morning 11

kStyle asks what my top ten to twelve values, characteristics, or ideals are, and then asks me to narrow it down to three, and then down to one. This is such an interesting question I decided to answer it here rather than there.

11. The public good. I don't know that there is always AN identifiable public good. But we share the planet and our lives and spaces and selves with each other, and we should work toward understandings of a public good. I wish I knew more about the Quakers, because I suspect the "sense of the meeting," or whatever they call it, would be a useful concept here. Similarly, a notion of consensus--real consensus--is helpful. (And, thinking back on a conversation I had with S last night, the public good is not merely a collection of preferences.)

10. Humor. Often overlooked, often difficult to find, but really quite invaluable. I can't imagine spending a lot of time with someone with whom I didn't laugh. I like to make people laugh, when I can, and I love it when someone makes me laugh.

9. Practice. It's the rare thing that we do well the first time we try it. Most things that are enjoyable take a certain amount of effort, and I think the ability to enjoy that process--i.e., to practice, and to take the practice as an end in itself as well as a means to an end--is absolutely crucial. My yoga practice (!) has been invaluable in this regard, because there isn't a goal or an end. With handball, one wants to become competent in part so one can beat other people, or, at least, compete well (though there's tremendous enjoyment in the playing), but with yoga the practice exists as itself.

8. Patience. I kind of suck at this one, in some ways. It's not that I want everything now, it's that I don't always allocate my time correctly. Some things I need to relax about, and other things I need to relax less about. Sometimes I need the patience to allow myself to practice, and other times I need to focus better.

7. Peace. As Elvis said (if your Elvis is dead, try mine), what's so funny about peace, love and understanding? Some of my friends would be amused by this, given my propensity for ranting, but I think, if pressed, they'd agree that I try to find workable solutions rather than merely assign blame. And that, really, is at the heart of peace. Tolerance is probably part of this, too, hence the "understanding" part of the song.

6. Hard work. That's a little ironic, coming from someone who has slacked away all of yesterday afternoon--I could have done my laundry, read a book, put away my clothes, made some nougat, worked on a business plan; pretty much any of those things. So yesterday's not such a good example. At school, there are some people who just do the work that needs to be done, and there are others who . . . don't. I think there's value in hard work--I think it's related to practice, and to accomplishment and competence or excellence (I don't think excellence generally comes without hard work).

5. The golden rule. It was the guiding moral principle I learned from my parents, it's part of every major ethical or moral system, and I think it is tied, in fundamental ways, to the social nature of our being.

4. The ability to be articulate and the willingness to attempt to be so. While complexity of language and complexity of forms of life are intertwined (to be Wittgensteinian there for a second), I do not think that it's all or only about complexity in the sense of big words or lots of formal education. I've known way too many people who have thought about the world and have thought about the big philosophical questions, even if they don't have big philosophical words with which to do it, and they've done it in ways that provide insight. I've also known people with a lot of education and big words who are afraid to try to articulate any position other than one that feels safe.

3. Education. I don't just mean "higher" education--in fact, that may not be the best thing for everyone. I think everyone should have more-than-basic literacy (and numeracy), and that our school systems are obligated to provide that. Essentially, I'm a marxist, in the sense of the line about being a carpenter in the morning and a fisherman in the afternoon and a scholar in the evening (or whatever the occupations were). Narrowly technical "educations" don't prepare people for any damned thing.

2. Compassion, fairness, and justice. I think these values are intertwined. None of us is perfect, yet we have to figure out ways to deal with people, including ourselves, who have committed unacceptable acts--or even just hurt someone's feelings. Knowing that life isn't particularly "fair" means that we ought to try to be fair and just and compassionate in our dealings with each other.

1. Honesty. You knew I'd put this at the top (or the bottom, as the case may be). It is incumbent upon each of us individually, as well as within the collectivities we create, to do our best to be honest, with ourselves and with each other.


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