I need to make a confession up front. This is my trash can category. This is where I am going to put things I can’t put anywhere else. I know this is a problem of my own making. The people who make the rules for Pages at WordPress had no way to anticipate that I would try to label the big chunks of my life at the rate of one per page.
But…I have. I know I am going to be writing about “love and marriage,” for instance so that will be a Page. I will try to describe, on that Page, what my orientation is to questions of love and marriage and to do so in such a way that anyone reading a Post with that label could refer back to the Page as an introduction or a cheatsheet or a decoding device or whatever.
And before you judge me too harshly for all this compulsive category-building, you might just try to arrange your own mind into ten boxes. That’s only one box per commandment. It’s not many boxes.
So I need a label I can use when none of the other nine labels really fits. “Living My Life” is that label. Let’s go to the good news first. Then we’ll survey the bad news.
The good news is that Living My Life has all the capacity anyone could want. It is only one box, but it is a really big box. I can talk about being the second child in a family where the first child was a very bright, high-achieving, un-rebellious boy. Thanks for that, Karl. I can talk about death and dying; meaning, by those terms, that our lives end (death) and how they end (dying). I already have one for “getting old.” I can talk about how easy it is for me to value intimate friends and how hard it is to value casual acquaintances. I can talk about whether it is better to be judgmental on behalf of good values or to be tolerant on behalf of bad values. It’s hard to say, really.
The bad news is that this page is not going to “introduce” anyone to anything. It’s not going to be a cheatsheet. It’s not going to be a decoding device. No more than a starting gun, really.
I do feel good about life. I’ve liked mine. I’d like to go on living it and go on liking it.
People talk about whether life is better thought of as a journey or as a destination. Neither of those has ever made any sense to me. In the first, I would be an aimless nomad; in the second, something like a precisely targeted missile. The former is all means; the latter all ends. I think of myself more as an actor in an improvised dramatic production. I have great trust in the director and that is good because I have no idea about the plot. I’m fine with not knowing how it’s going to turn out—with not knowing, even, how the Act I’m in is going to turn out—because the director is really very good (One of a kind, so to speak) and fundamentally, I’d rather go with trust than knowledge.
I think life is something like a card game in which you don’t want to get caught with high-resource cards (since I don’t actually know anything about card games, I’ll say “face cards”) in your hand. But the skill doesn’t come just in getting rid of them. It comes in getting them into the hands of people who can put them to good use. So when I get the queen of hearts, I know it is my job to get rid of it. But my pleasure comes from getting it into Bette’s hand, because she needs one and knows how to use it. This is as far as I can back away from “whoever has the most toys when he dies, wins.” And the criterion I would formulate, by contrast, is not “whoever has the fewest face cards in his hand when he dies, wins.” It is “whoever has put the face cards he got into the hands that could best use them,” wins—and has been winning as long as the game has been going on.
I really like your idea of life being like an “improvised dramatic production.” It really resonated with me.
I like the way you think.
Professor Hess you are a dispenser of wisdom, you definitely know how to get the face cards into the hands that need them.
It’s a real pleasure, Ben. I’m glad it caught your curiosity.