Beyond the Obvious

Posted in Uncategorized by jerry betts on the April 17th, 2014

We – humans, I guess – are cursed to be always short sighted, essentially to a couple of generations, OUR OWN generations, of course. Lucky for history books, even if no one does read them any more.

So? Well, they say history repeats itself; of course it doesn’t, because the situation always changes due to our progressive development. But it does come back to haunt us when we forget its lessons, which we do with regularity. Beyond the obvious? Well, being short sighted, we are also guilty of a certain lack of depth of view: we like to find simple solutions – to everything! And that is the main, but not only reason for unintended consequences; by stopping at the most obvious cause that comes to mind, missing others, and their consequences. But the rest of it is we fool ourselves by believing what we want to believe. Bad combination.

Simple solutions, the first that come to mind, and usually the ones not only obvious, but closest to current awareness. Frequently they are based on immediate causes, which are often not the real causes, but symptoms; real causes more often go further back in time and culture, and are thus obscured. Why did Germany start WWII, because they were left crippled by reparations from WWI; which was caused by what? Don’t get me started on that, but suffice it to say that its causes had been germinating for generations, with myriad symptoms and a veritable pile up of related causes. Relationships are never simple; but we WANT them to be. I almost wrote we pretend them to be – fooling ourselves into believing what we want to believe – but it’s more than just pretending; the believing is because we accept the obvious and go no further.

Life, after all is a continuum, whether we are able to see it so or not; change is gradual at its foundation even though we like to see it as rapid and dramatic. Why do we so desperately want to see only the obvious causes and simple solutions? Laziness? that’s one. Ignorance? that’s another. But perhaps the greatest is that’s what we WANT to see. And why do we want to see it that way? Because it make so much sense to us, and is so easy to connect; why seek the complex when the the obvious is so readily available?

Personal Thinking Outside the Box

Posted in Uncategorized by jerry betts on the April 16th, 2014

We humans are a selfish lot, that is, we are into self; but considering survival, how could we not be – - and survive, just as with all other animals, like that or not? Of course we are not homogeneously selfish, nor even universally selfish, being as we are all different – and capable of thinking – and we do evolve, both as a species and individually, over time, either more or less selfish, depending on the progress of our thought process.

I should make the case for; within the limits imposed for survival, at all of its levels; that a softening of self-ness, that is, self absorption, is healthy. Well, first it is natural; children, in order to mature – even to just get along, must learn to deal with others and that requires a softening of self-ness. And the more social interaction that entails, the more potential motivation there is for softening; but it doesn’t necessarily come naturally, at least not for all. It takes wanting to – motivation – and much of that motivation comes in the form of goals; including career success, social success, and even family success. We are, after all, social animals – pack animals – that do better in the pack than on our own. That much is pretty basic. But it’s also still oriented toward self – for self, and what self can get out of it.

To go beyond those basics, that is, going beyond the socialization for the purpose of enhancing self, requires an additional step; I call it personal thinking outside the box, the box being self. Confusing? Well, let’s try this: inside the box is doing it for self; outside the box is shifting the emphasis to other, for other.

Let me put it this way; is the emphasis on self or other? Or more to the point, are we intent on trying to focus others on us, or are we trying to place our focus on them? It makes a difference in how we go about our lives; are we dominated by the impression we make in the social relationship, or is our interest more oriented toward making other feel better – about themselves, the situation, anything. That is what I mean by thinking outside the box.

A useful word suggests itself as a starting point: empathy; it is different from sympathy, which might be better defined as us feeling their pain. Empathy is making the effort to understand where others are coming from and understanding why they are doing and saying what they are doing and saying. And with empathy one often discovers motivation for action; does it matter? It really does because once the why is understood, it can be easier to deal with the what.

The next step is shedding self consciousness and concentration on worrying about what they are thinking about us; focusing instead upon them. Sometimes that means refraining from saying or doing something that might be insulting or confrontational – or even unnecessarily hurtful. Sometimes it is looking for something to say or do that could be helpful. Such usually costs little and could yield great benefit – not for us, but for other.

Try it some time when walking along and coming in contact with people, who are often looking glum or self conscious. It is surprising what effect a pleasant word, a smile or even an encouragement can have on another. One of the things that has attracted people to Americans in the past has been our friendliness as a people; our open-ness, our approachability? Do we still possess it, or have we become convinced that people do not like us, and resent us? It can be surprising how quickly such a notion can be dispelled, with a little effort. How much unfriendliness is auto pilot, us being lost in self? How much can be almost instantly driven away with a friendly word or a smile? Personally thinking outside the box, outside OUR personal box?

Try it and see – not to impress others with our friendliness, but to make them feel better by extending it; not aggressively, not effusively – just friendly.

And the real revelation is it makes US feel better for doing it, because the feeling it gives us when we see the reaction in THEM – not toward US but within themselves.

It can result in a good feeling all around.

Liberal – Social – Guilt – Government – Debt – Collapse

Posted in Uncategorized by jerry betts on the April 15th, 2014

This is the inexorable path most of the world has been sliding down since at the latest the beginning of the Christian era. The slide stops every now and then, when the resources dry up, and/or anarchy takes over and desperation ensues. And resources will dry up and anarchy take over, eventually, when there are not enough resources for everyone to be afforded everything they dream of having – especially when it is paraded in front of them with dreary regularity. Now add to that, that when resources that are not available (call them deficit resources) are made available anyway, there will be those, an increasing number of those, that see the way things are going, will give up trying, and join those already availing themselves of the resources that are not available, but made available anyway – somehow.

This is not a political statement; it is a simple recognition of reality. Stated simply it says when there ain’t enough there ain’t enough. It seems axiomatic, unless one is bigger or cleverer or quicker than all the rest or thinks they are, at least for awhile. We, after all, tend to view life in the short term, and lose sight of the long term. But then all animals do; and that is survival.

The sequence is Liberal; that is, wanting to help others and make things better – Social, calling forth all to assist and help out; Guilt for those who have less; and Government as the last resource. But – and here is the key: the government as only resources allotted to it (or taken by it) from the people. But then, if something doesn’t turn it around, everything falls apart: anarchy. And anyone who has read Scottish Professor Tytler (1798) knows that when things get bad enough, something will finally happen; anarchy, as we all know, is unstable. And what is that something else? we all know that too: someone who is not liberal and socially concerned, does not succumb to guilt; and uses a different kind of government, a government of force to solve the problem in a different kind of way: that is, to restore order and allow nature to take its course until the resource momentum is restored. The one maxim, of course, has to be: if you don’t have it, it ain’t there and someone is going to go without. The other maxim is, might makes right.

It doesn’t have to go that way; if everyone would just get together and agree to consume less, we could get by until things turned around; but that’s not human nature; law of the jungle is. And asking people to work together and consume less is tough. And government in a liberal, social, democratic republic is severely challenged in saying no. So, collapse is inevitable? No, but the cycle has to be interdicted somewhere, and the only place to deal with it where we are now in the sequence, is debt; but that means doing with less, and the people don’t WANT to do with less, especially when they see others that have more than they have telling them they have to do with less.

Wow, that takes real leadership! And that goes back to government, the step before unsustainable debt. But that’s a problem too, because government is generally made up of elite leaders who are the very ones that have the most when others are asked to sacrifice. So where do we find that kind of leadership? It’s even tougher when you recognize that to come out of it requires leadership beyond the government that expect to be incentivized to make the effort it takes to turn it around. That human nature bug-a-boo keeps raising its head; how do we deal with human nature? Interestingly, where some tried to deal with it was the step before government, or at least before a republic form of government – at the social sequence. Where that didn’t work was that it took away the incentive that it takes to get it moving again.

Back again to leadership; you have to have the right leaders, who understand the challenge and are wise enough to deal with it, meaning to be able to damp the greed without drying up the incentive; in fact you could argue that we had some that did a pretty fair job of it. Are there still such? I think there probably are those, but it’s late in the game to start searching for them; we’d best hurry!! And when we do, we had best have a better idea of what it is than we need than has been evidenced over the recent past. It’s simple in concept: control greed with encouraging incentive, by balancing the two; and that flies in the face of human nature. THAT is a real challenge, and as I said, we’d better get with it!!!!!!!

The [R] Capsule of Living

Posted in Uncategorized by jerry betts on the April 14th, 2014

———————————THE [R] CAPSULE OF LIVING—————

—–(Air, Water, procreation, survival/Human Nature, Health/Exercise, Dying——————

[RESPONSIBILITY] —————————————————————————-[REASON]
(Working, Contributing, Nurturing, Supporting, Loving)———————(Thinking, Feeling)

————————————————–[RELIABILITY] ————————
——————————————(Trust, Continuity)——————-

Personal Networking of a Different Kind

Posted in Uncategorized by jerry betts on the April 10th, 2014

Today I thought I might just make some observations, for what they might be worth. They are associated with what I do here, but in an interesting way, more removed.

As I have said, I jot down subjects I wish to explore, and tend to – try to – stick more to the general, philosophically oriented, than getting into current events and opinions there on, not always, but that is my intended focus, as the purpose is to flesh out my understanding and expand my personal views. So where do I get what I jot down? That’s where the reading comes in; and I, as with most, am guilty of reading that which attracts me, and therefor tends to correspond to what I (think I) believe; something of which most of us are guilty. But since what I read is more likely to be oriented similarly, I have developed favorites from which I find information that interests me. For the record some such favorites are: Michael Barone, Walter Williams, Robert Samuelson, Thomas Sowell, George Friedman and Robert Kaplan of Stratfor, Ben Domenech of The Transon and The Federalist, Robert Tracinski, james Pethokoukis, Kevin Willimason, Brian Fagan, Charles Murray – and others; those are just ones that popped into mind; and I also stop when I see authors of books I have recently read and found inspirational. One of those was Margaret MacMillan who recently wrote an intriguing book about the runup to World War I. I have favorites, for good reason, and that reason is mostly depth. I am also engaged with a friend, Peter Bahnsen, who has undertaken a project to attempt to gather a coalition to begin reform of the United States Government.

So I do have thoughts, ideas – even opinions – and I tend to follow those that seem to have similar ideas; I guess we all do. But I have interest in neither fame nor fortune, and those that visit this site are few and comments fewer, so I know that my influence is negligible. That’s ok too, but I find myself highly motivated when I can encourage those whose work I respect; I offer comments, seldom critically and more encouragingly, because those people do have influence and I wish to offer encouragement. So, big deal, you might say, many do the same but offer their own opinions instead. That’s their prerogative, but I have discussed that several times recently. Three of the above have responded to my encouragement: Peter Bahnsen, Robert Kaplan and Ben Domenech. I was impressed by their taking the time out to acknowledge my submissions to them. And Ben even included a link to a blog I had written in The Transom, not that that was my motivation, but it was thoughtful.

But that’s not the purpose of these comments. I recently attended a lecture by a gentleman by the name of Ken Paxton, who is a state Senator in Texas, and is running this year for the position of Attorney General of the State of Texas, and I had the opportunity to talk with him after the luncheon and it occurred to me that they all shared similar beliefs and were attempting to make the same kind of civic contribution. So I contacted each with an introduction to the others and suggested they seek each other out – professionally. I do not know the outcome of that; all are very busy; but it occurred to me that this is how networking occurs, and is how professional associations build. I felt good doing that, not for me, but for what might grow from it. Politics? yes, but the positive part of politics. What impressed me most was that they took the time to listen. Listening connotes thinking; sound familiar?

I guess the bottom line is that, with a little effort, we can all make contributions, and they could, just might, lead to something useful. Not for us, and unfortunately that is the motivation of most networking efforts, to network ourselves, but to make a contribution to wider networking that could help make something useful happen. We really need to be involved, and when we find our involvement useful, that is a very gratifying thing; and that is how things can get done, good things.

So I guess I have two observations: get involved, and encourage others to do the same; it could be good for all of us, and many others as well.

America, Religion, Science – and Thinking (again)

Posted in Uncategorized by jerry betts on the April 8th, 2014

“Read, think, disagree with everything, if you like — but force your mind outward.”
Once An Eagle, Anton Myrer

I keep coming back to that one; it is my motto henceforward. Although I might also add a qualifier; “let me be a little kinder, let me be a little blinder to the faults of those around me; let me praise a little more.” (attribution: I can not go beyond a song written by Glen Campbell).

Why the qualifier? because, and I have said this before, I am becoming very weary of continuous blind criticism – mostly seen in response to thoughtful on line articles written by experienced, knowledgeable writers; yes, there are still some, more than you might think, if you give them a chance. And that’s my point; the critics always seem to know better and say so. Maybe they do; maybe. But how often does one see a comment that is complimentary any more? That, I believe, is where “force your mind outward” comes in, to say nothing of “praise a little more”. Do we do that any more? or do we insist on pounding out our preconceived notions, whatever they might be? We believe what we want to believe – and that’s it; end of discussion. How can one learn from that approach? How can one even progress to “thinking” with that approach?

Thinking is what made America – and there are obligations that go along with that. One of them has to do with religion. I believe that people should be free to believe as they wish – and even not believe if they wish. But in not believing they should not be allowed to interdict those that do. And that suggests the science/creation discussion – and thinking, again. The religious dogma was developed thousands of years ago with only the benefit of observation – and thinking, and much, through science and mathematics, has been realized and understood since then, and the result is – to those that believe what science and mathematics has revealed – different from the traditional. That knowledge, and understanding of it, is part of what has led to the charmed life we have been able to life. We can accept it – believe it or not, but we cannot not appreciate what it has done for us.

But it has not replaced one (and the most important) part of what religion, faith, provides: the philosophy of living. To be fulfilled, and to continue enjoying the benefits we have learned to enjoy, we can not rely upon mathematics or science. What then? The most successful philosophy of life has proven to be the Judeo/Christianity tradition. Dogma and specifics are a personal matter, but the philosophy applies to all of us as we attempt to live in peace and cooperation together. I have referred often to that philosophy, which includes: truth, honesty, sincerity, honor, respect, reliability, trust and surely others of similar nature, but also the desire – no, commitment – to assist and support each other. Beyond dogmatic acceptance of how it came to be and proceeds, it has created a philosophy that works better than anything else ever known to man. We must not lose that; we must preserve it.

There are other facets that bear mentioning. Rights, but regulated in light of the understanding of and accepting human nature, that leads back to scientific observation that reveals the reality that is life, and continually makes the demands of compromise that comes from the philosophy. Part of that includes free enterprise, also regulated for the same reality of human nature. People are not perfect, and no matter how much we wish them to be, probably never will be; so we must accept them as they are, deal with them as they are, and prepare to confront the inconsistencies that we will inevitably encounter, within the guidance of the philosophy – and the regulations and laws they generate. Devine? What is divine? Created by a supreme being? What does that mean? What can a “supreme being” – call it God – beyond the possibilities of our understanding, even our contemplation, mean? Are our minds even capable of anything so far beyond us?

Why does it matter? Why do we let it matter? Science/mathematics, nature, reality is what it is: awesome, magnificent, but contentious; that is reality; but so is the philosophy. To continue we must accept it all; we must understand it all and strive to internalize it, we must live with it all, together, striving, if not to perfect, to make compatible. Science suggests that it may not endure forever. History suggests that it will entail strife, that must be dealt with. There will be droughts, floods, storms, earthquakes and other disasters; yes, even wars; that also is reality, and we must deal with them too. There will also be relationships among us, that are equally as important. Can we influence, for good and ill? We can, and will try, but realistically, realizing what we can and what we cannot do.

That is our challenge, and it is not a light one. We must deal with it – but realistically; and the reality is something with which we will likely also never agree; all we can do is try for the good – and attempt to influence others to try – to work together for the ultimate best possible for all. That will not be the best for every ONE, but the best POSSIBLE for all together, something we will never achieve because ALL will not always work for the common good, or even accept that as a goal, even if they could agree what that is, because humans are ruled by self interest – and dominated by their nature.

Free enterprise? Rewarding of initiative, responsibility and industry? Results will never be equal; people will never achieve equality or equal results because that is not the way we were “created” or have developed – back to the reality of what science and mathematics have taught us about what we call life, and the physical environment in which we live. To think otherwise is unrealistic; it will also not achieve the, if not optimum, at least best we might strive to achieve – results; not always the best for each, often uncomfortable for many, and seldom “fair”, but the best that have ever been achieved by anyone to date.

In short, we must accept what is, what has been achieved, what is possible, and natural consequences; and appreciate the strides we have made to come as far as we have, and to attempt to preserve the success that we have achieved; to appreciate it, what it as taken to get there, and what it will take to retain it. It will not happen by itself; it will not even maintain by itself. And forces perhaps beyond our control will continue to work against it. Nor can we ever be universally successful, and thus must we accept the imperfection which is humanity, and deal with it: reality.

Ultimate success is up to us, and it is not assured.

Patience, Introspection and Keeping An Open Mind

Posted in Uncategorized by jerry betts on the March 31st, 2014

Now there is a challenge!! Know thyself comes to mind…but this goes further in that it suggests we CAN CHANGE self, or perhaps at least work toward encouraging it, prodding self to change over time, in the process of maturing. You see, it does all really fit together – and requires a broad view, and as much undertanding as possible, all of which we must work toward and nurture. Ok, preaching again.

Patience; there is a tough one. How does one influence self to be more patient? Discipline helps, but only works if one
WANTS to employ it to that end. Forcing one’s self not to jump to conclusions; refusing to slide into generalization; resisting blind criticism, particularly when details and circumstances are not known or poorly understood, or when emotionalism has taken control. And of course thinking before acting helps – that old THINKING again.

Introspection? know thyself; but beyond that must be the effort to know as much as we can about that with which we are dealing and WHO we are dealing with. An effort to try and glean possible motives of others is helpful; why? Often trying to putting ourselves in the place of others helps us to understand better, so as to be able to deal better; the word for that is empathy. Note, empathy is not sympathy, but sympathy also sometimes helps.

Open mind is the foundation upon Which I built a previous blog site, one, no longer supported, that I called Middle Ground. To find middle ground requires an open mind, an ability to see both sidesbut seeing both sides does not mean becoming a mugwump. Mugwump is an old political attack term connoting someone who sits on a fence, with mug on one side and wump on the other; being open minded does not mean mindless waffling or indecisiveness. See why it is a challenge?

So what are the rules to becoming patient, introspective and open minded? There are no rules, sorry. Maturity helps, but only if properly directed; only if one WANTS to be patient, introspective and open minded. And how does one KNOW when that has arrived? We never do – either know or arrive; it is one of those objectives that is never reached, but must always be striven for. Why pursue it?

One reason is that it make life easier – less stressful. Another is that it makes one’s contbributions in life more meaningful, more useful. And why should we concern ourselves with that? Ahhhhh, isn’t that part of the problem, that we even ask that question?

Trust and Gaming the System

Posted in Uncategorized by jerry betts on the March 30th, 2014

Life is a game, right?

Is it? I guess that depends on the meaning one wants to assign to game; my Oxford lists 12. I suspect people who make that statement, however, see it differently than I; were gladiators playing a game? maybe they were.

I was about to say, that in the context I wish to address it, it is not; but there I might be wrong, if one accepts that games have rules, and to play them effectively, they need to be followed. Life has rules too; but maybe we don’t agree on what those rules are, or should be? Maybe that’s the problem; rule one may be survival, and that kind of pushes aside all the rest. Is the objective of a game to win by destroying the opposition? or to win by achieving some agreed upon result, together. I suppose there are all kinds of games, and maybe some of each – and maybe every game has an element of both kinds built into it, competition, but teamwork.

Maybe that’s why the “game” of life is a tough one; it requires both – and at the same time. Well, you might say, all games require both teamwork and competition. Ok, but the game of life is BIG and many results are more like those of gladiators and not badminton players. But, in all that, games must have rules; if life be one of them, it can be described as a game, but a game in which enforcing the rules is challengingly difficult, even if we can agree on what those rules are.

Religion attempts to set rules, with some differences among them, but let’s not go there; let’s keep it simpler. Maybe the operative word I am looking for is inconsistent with a game – but maybe it isn’t; let’s see. The operative word, as one might have surmised by the title of this piece, I would suggest, is trust. And what is trust? oh, my, my Oxford lists seven, with further explanations. So let me simplify and suggest that trust is the confidence that all will play by the rules, even excepting that there may be different interpretation of what those rules might be.

Nope, life is not a game in that sense because there are too many who don’t play by the rules, and have no intention of so doing. Maybe that’s because there is game within a game. I think that is what I am driving at here. The game, playing by the rules, is all about trust, even if there is still need for referees to cite infractions. The other game, a third dimension? perhaps that’s what prompted the word underworld, a dimension beneath the two dimensional game based on trust that rules our primary game. This game is one I refer to as gaming the game.

Simply stated, unless I get myself tied up in knots, gaming the game is finding ways to defeat the rules of the primary game; and in the process it works counter to the primary game that is based on trust; it even takes advantage of the trust that forms that basis. The primary game, based on trust, counts on fair competition and trust that everyone will at least attempt to observe the rules; if that were life we could comfortably call it a game. But what when the third dimension is added?

This dimension depends on using trust of the primary game to win the other game. I am not talking about such as stealing, robbing or burglarizing, those are against the rules and are punished, if perpetrators can be observed and caught. But gaming the system, the system being the primary game, is finding ways to win the game, without actually breaking the rules, but finding ways to make them work for the gamer.

Tricky? How about prevarication? denying that any rules were broken. In the game of life there can never be enough referees to catch all the infractions. And in the game of life there is evidence that bribing the referees that could catch infractions might be easier? Why? because the bribed referees can be part of winning “the other” game. And the real problem with this is that when there are more people involved in playing “the other” game than there are playing the primary game, the primary game falls apart and the other game takes over. So gaming the system ultimately results in destroying the primary game. The question is, how much gaming does it take for the primary game of life to fall apart?

Maybe that’s something we will just have to find out, if we are unable to keep the gaming of the system below that critical level, whatever it might be.

Publish or Die, Free Enterprise and Books

Posted in Uncategorized by jerry betts on the March 30th, 2014

I read an article recently (duh) about a “new” approach being considered by colleges whereby they would have two distinct professor tracks, one teaching and one research. The writer was critical due to what he sees as yet increasing cost just that much more. And a line that particularly attracted me was a comment that this would result in more books that no one reads.

He may be right, in that fewer and fewer read anymore, and those that do tend toward light and lighter. So why bother? Uhhh, I am pained; I am a geek and peruse secondary catalogs almost every week for interesting sounding titles, mostly of the kind perhaps that, yes, no one reads. But I am also a rabid reader of articles on line that go beyond the normal pap that people still do read, Ben Domenech’s The Federalist is a favorite, and guess what, many of the thinking articles are from university professors. Sure, too many young people who are unqualified to do go to college these days seeking good pay, with little educational inquisitiveness; sure, there are too many classes being presented that, in my opinion, lack the intellectual requirement for presenting them; and, sure, too many professors seem to be pushing ideological positions. On that last, however, that may be overwrought propaganda, I have seen little proof that it is so.

On the other hand there is indication that free enterprise publishing houses are beginning to suffer, at least those that publish serious books (other, that is, that university presses). Do we not need serious books any more? Any thinking person knows the answer to that question; there are still some of those around are there not? We know there are; not enough, perhaps, but can demand have something to do with that? I am worried about the free enterprise markets for serious books – about science, history, even politics; everything, after all, is politics. Yes there are too many trendy in-your-face books being published by politicians and political writers, apparently because that’s what our trendy, short-sighted shallow voters/readers seem to want – sorry, I get carried away on that subject, and frequently charge it off as propaganda, which (my opinion) much of it is. So what of serious and knowledgeable writing on current subjects? I surely hope that the serious historians, serious administrators serious educators and serious people of science continue to share their experience and knowledge, and that there is free enterprise publication capacity that continue to be able and willing to publish it. I think there will be; I hope there will be; but I worry. Certainly nothing on television or social media “discussion” can hope to supply anything even remotely adequate to substitute; but there are those who seem to think that may be enough.

Our education is often weak, but mainly because serious interest and motivation to learn are weak – or at least weaker than our democratic republic requires. And serious publishing, or publishing of serious works, could be endangered. Regardless, we depend on serious writers and serious publishers. University professors and researchers are part of both; don’t let them die. I am neither arguing for or against two tiered university education. I am, however, arguing for serious education representing real experience – and books! Don’t let them take away our serious books!!

Before finishing let me add that I am not suggesting that book learning and books are the only way; that is furthest from reality; experience is still, and will always be the best provider of education, but it must be guided by those who understand more than superficially. That goes for skills as well as scientific, administrative, judicial and geopolitical subjects; and for broad consumption, of all the above, that means availability of serious books.

So I repeat my plea: don’t take away our serious books!!!

An Unintended Challenge Associated With Success

Posted in Uncategorized by jerry betts on the March 27th, 2014

Why do people want to be successful? standard of living, of course, is obvious; but more? What, after all constitutes a “good” standard of living? it’s in the eyes of the beholder, but today one has to conclude, for many, “good” is never good enough. And it matters where the beholder is self or other.

And that is where I suggest there is is an important distinction. Is having a “good” standard of living even the most important criteria? How about a good perceived standard living? The perception of course comes from how it is conveyed; fancy car, big house, vacations, money to throw around; is that important? Is there any doubt? But that is nothing new, remember kings and aristocracy flaunting their luxuries, even gold implements to display to starving subjects. I have mentioned before a study that suggested several years ago that over fifty percent of a selected young population actually believed (ok, in a poll) that they would be famous within their lifetimes. Fame, surely another way of saying success. Is fame success? Is that not a perception? Or might it be something satisfying an inner drive for perfection, to be the best? How do we tell the difference?

So what is success worth? Obviously it depends on a personal definition of what success is? First it depends on whether it is real success or merely a perception of success, showing off and giving others the impression of success measured by visible luxuries, or self satisfaction – or both? Other than that would be real success; which is? Do we know? Do we care? What is really important to us? To ourselves? Or others? Again, this is a personal matter.

And obviously that depends on us, each of us individually. Does it matter? Is it any business of the rest of us? It probably doesn’t really matter to other than self, and it is up to the rest of us to evaluate motives only with respect to whom we wish to associate, and also admire, and even emulate. But does it matter? In the long term I submit that it does, because it shapes motivation. It determines that to which we, as a civilization, a society, even a nation, aspire. Ok, sure, we are all different and some aspire to one set of goals and others to others; but trends? If the trend is to perception rather than real (however defined), I would count that as a problem for the success of our nation. The word hypocrisy comes to mind – admittedly among my favorite targets of disdain.

May I take it a step further? What happens to us with the inception of success? Do we change? Clearly some do, as they become more and more impressed with their own success, and allow it to reflect in their expectations, particularly their expectation of how they should be viewed – and treated – by others. Is fame different? certainly it is in that it is forced on the famous; that’s part of what fame is. Is money success? it is surely an important measure, which is where the outwardly offered perception comes in.

It’s something to think about – in a general sense, but more importantly in a personal sense. It is an examination each of us should make – of ourselves; what is it that is important to US, individually, and what would constitute success – in our minds?

If your reply is why? mine is never mind, forget it.

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