Friday, January 29, 2010

The very windy day below twenty Fahrenheit ahead of us here in Boston may mean that today, I will get to learn yet another hue on the "color wheel" %#&& cold. That fact may make it seem very odd on my part to be posting about Boston, of all places, on the day I reserve for writing about things I enjoy. Such a sentiment would be understandable, but completely mistaken.

Let me explain.

For some time now, I have devoted each Friday's post to things I enjoy, and I plan to continue doing so for the foreseeable future. One of the hazards endemic to writing about politics and culture today is that one can easily become too focused on what's wrong with the world at the cost of forgetting too easily what's right with the world in general and, much worse, what's right with one's own "universe" in particular. To lose sight of the latter would be a shame, to say the very least.

The exact impetus of my weekly practice of exploring things I value is unimportant, but suffice it to say that after a series of very unpleasant confrontations, I had had it. Were I to summarize my overall reaction in words, I would put it something like this: "I refuse to live like this."

Obviously, I did not quit writing in disgust, but I realized that I was doing something wrong. At the time, I was not sure what that was, but the fact that I was not enjoying my hobby of writing as much as I could be was what really stood out in my mind. Why, after all, had I started this blog in the first place?

I decided that the answer to my dilemma probably had something to do with values and that I would do well on many levels to explore that theme. In a "philosophy for living on this earth," such an exploration is not and can not be a wholly abstract exercise or, worse, navel-gazing. (And it can't be done entirely by blogging, even for someone who, like me, loves to write.)

That line of inquiry has, philosophically, proved very fruitful, and not just in the sense that it helped me avoid (or correct much earlier) a fundamental and disastrous error. For instance, I have found first hand that keeping one's values in mind greatly aids the processes of integration and induction both by keeping one motivated and by providing a natural framework for organizing one's thoughts.

But overall, this shift in focus has helped me realize that not only do I not want to "live that way," I can not "live that way" and I am right to refuse to allow myself to slip into anything like it. (Well, partially right. Read on.) Wars may well happen in life, but life is not, fundamentally, a war, no matter how greatly the war affects one.

On a more positive note, my focus has shifted away from how I don't want to live my life to how I do want to live it. That is far less trivial or easy than it might sound. In fact, this -- and not polemics or changing the world -- is the whole point of the philosophy I advocate. As an Objectivist, let me be the first to say that one philosophizes to live. One does not live to philosophize.

So that's a glimpse at the big picture of where I have gone with my thinking. Today, I'll apply what I've learned in a small way...

It's bitter cold today. Yes. Let's check the weather every morning and overcome it on the physical level. But why waste any more time on that than one has to? I live up here for a reason (She's first on the list below.), and there are many other things that are making my stay up here well worth what is, in the grand scheme of things, really just a minor fuss.

With that, I present the following top ten list, which started out seeming like it would be a tall order, but ended up seeming too short.

  1. My wife lives here because of her job.
  2. Employment also drew to this area half a dozen very good old friends, some from way back.
  3. Also, parts of Mrs. Van Horn's family live up here.
  4. I'm making lots of new friends here.
  5. It's gorgeous here, often even in the dead of winter.
  6. As a fan of trains, I enjoy using them to get around all the time.
  7. Oh, and there's lots of model railroading going on up here. (I'd forgotten to blog on that!)
  8. The area abounds in cultural opportunities we haven't even touched yet.
  9. And we live in the middle of it all -- but not in a drafty brownstone!
  10. It's easy to visit, since Southwest flies straight into Logan Airport. (Mom, I'm talking to you!)
Take that, snow miser!

-- CAV


Steve D said...

"exact impetus of my weekly practice of exploring things I value is unimportant, but suffice it to say that after a series of very unpleasant confrontations,"

Are you saying that these confrontations occurred in the comments for blog posts about things you enjoy rather than the philosophical/political blogs? Sounds like some of these commenters were rather mean spirited.

“On a more positive note, my focus has shifted away from how I don't want to live my life to how I do want to live it. That is far less trivial or easy than it might sound.”

More difficult in theory and practice but definitely wise. Focusing on the forward and the positive not only because it is more important but also because it works!

“one philosophizes to live. One does not live to philosophize.”

Although philosophizing is part of the fun your overall point stands. At least at the present we retain enough freedom that for the most part we can still design our own lives. In the day to day barrage of bad news it is still helpful to compare our situation with all of the other cultures and civilizations from prehistoric times to the present. We come off rather well, I think.

Gus Van Horn said...

Regarding the confrontations, some resulted from comments, others email. All were in response to things I said here, or the other parties imagined I said.

None were regarding posts about things I enjoy, which is a project I undertook as a means of grasping an issue I saw in common among them.

Regarding the practicality of my course, you're spot on. In many respects (and forgetting what got me started on this path), circumstances have made my time here very experimental in many ways. Why not make the best of it?