Thursday, September 24, 2015

This I Believe

I believe in a better world. Almost everything I do is aimed at achieving that better world. Even my leisure time is a part of this, because I believe that happy people are a critical ingredient in that better world, and a good balance of leisure contributes to happy people. Happiness is often a good barometer for that better world. The more people who have and can appreciate happiness, the further along the Better scale the world is probably moving. I have a few ideas of my own for how to push that scale, but I think we can all agree that it is a cooperative effort. If we’re achieving happiness for some at the cost of unhappiness for others, we may not be achieving a net positive result.

It’s a crowded world, and there will be some conflicting ideas on what constitutes happiness or a better world. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I do believe we should all be able to speak. We each know our own lives better than anyone else, and we each know what defines our own happiness. We can’t all speak at once, if we are all free to speak then we can more easily identify both common ground and areas of concern. Since the alternative to communication and cooperation is conflict and conquest, it seems pretty clear that the more we recognize each other as free people living free lives - and behave accordingly - the more we move that needle toward a better world. We won’t always agree, but if we consistently treat each other as free people, in all that entails, even our disagreements can be positive, and that has to be an improvement over most of human history.

We are a world of individuals, free to live and free to choose, but if we choose to live in conflict then what have we really gained? I can’t do this whole living thing by myself, and I’ve never met anyone who could. We need each other and, the more we cooperate, the better a world we can create, and the better that is for everyone. As the saying goes, a rising tide lifts all boats. If I spend my time focusing on building myself up while trying to kick the world out from under my neighbor, my neighbor will almost certainly be doing the same. We will divide our efforts and achieve less than if we had, instead, cooperated and helped each other to rise. If we were to all help each other to rise, even the sky would not be the limit. Working together, we could redefine the word “miracle”.

Cooperation is, by definition, voluntary, and cannot be accomplished through threat of force. Any initiation of force inhibits the freedom of the individual and diminishes the potential of the whole. If there is a valid or justifiable reason for that, I have never seen it, and I’ve looked. Initiating force is essentially claiming that I am better equipped to run your life than you are, which is an irrational statement, at best. I don’t know your life better than you, and can’t run your life better than you. Attempting to do so not only interferes with your ability to run your own life but also removes needed energy from me running mine. It’s the same scenario as me trying to kick the world out from under my neighbor, but with even less justification. Force is the antithesis of cooperation so, if cooperation can win us that better world, force can only slow us down.

It may be necessary, however, to slow down occasionally. If the alternative to slowing is stopping, slowing seems preferable. While I can see no justifiable reason for initiating force, I can see one such reason for force, in general, and that is to stop an initiation of force. I have no right to run your life, but I have every right to run mine, and that must include a right to stop you from trying to run mine, or vice versa, as the case may be. That is a delicate balancing act which requires careful consideration. When is a response necessary? If force is going to happen, that which reduces force may be necessary. An appropriate response may stop or diminish an ongoing issue. What is the appropriate response, as opposed to too much or too little response? I can’t answer that for you, but I think I know a pretty good hint: The appropriate response stops an initiation of force with minimal damage to the active parties (that would be you and the initiating party), and as close to no collateral damage as possible. You don’t need to swat a fly with heavy artillery, but you don’t need to be swatting that same fly over and over and over again either. In an ideal world, we would have no need for force at all. In the world we have, though, we strive for as close to none as we can get, while keeping all else in balanced perspective and proper proportion.

We do have to operate in the world we have, even when it is not ideal. Perhaps especially when it is not ideal. There are many ways in which this world often leaves something to be desired, but it has one outstanding feature than cannot be denied. It is real. The things we do in relation to the real world matter, and we can do things that matter because the world is real. It has rules. Cause and effect. 2+2=4. If we take the time to understand those rules, we can use those rules to make things happen. If we don’t take the time to understand those rules, or attempt to ignore the rules, things will still happen, but they will generally be less satisfying things. No amount of wishful thinking will change the real world, but placing the right level in the right place will accomplish wonders.

So we look for the right levers and the right places, and play matchmaker, bringing these two together to accomplish wonders. If we’re on the same page and working toward the same goal, the wonder in question may be our better world. One person can’t do everything, but everyone can do something. When you start adding those somethings together, you can end up with a mighty big lever. One person can make a difference. Sometimes it is only a small difference, but sometimes a small difference is exactly the difference we need. For other times, those small differences add up - remember, even when you’re working alone, you’re not the only one working - and the whole is almost always greater than the sum of its parts. Synergy is an amazing thing when people are working together.

I believe in the power of hope, but hope is not the same thing as wishful thinking. Hope is knowing what can be done and believing in the ability to do it. Hope is choosing to believe that there is a positive side, looking for that positive side, and focusing on the positive side, even in the face of adversity. I have lived a life loaded with obstacles, and I have always managed to put one foot in front of the other because I believed that there was a reason to do so. All these years and I’m still going forward, because I haven’t been wrong about that yet. Hope and despair can both be self-fulfilling prophesies. I know which one I would rather encourage.

Hope leads to a better world, and we have come full circle. Because I believe in a better world, I have hope, and because I have hope, I can create a better world. That’s how it works. What we believe enough, we say. What we say enough, we do. What we do enough, we are. It all begins with a belief, and, if you believe enough, you can’t help but make the world better. Not some hypothetical future world after all is said and done, either. This world, right now, can be made better and better, little by little, day by day, with just the right application of belief.

I believe in a better world where free people choose to live in cooperation toward a common good. I believe that there is never a valid justification for initiating force against free people, but free people may sometimes require force to defend against such an initiation. I believe the real world makes sense and, if we make sense along with it, we can change the world. I believe in a better world, so I have hope, and, because I have hope, I can create a better world.

I could write forever about things I believe, and I do so daily in a less concentrated form. Trying to distill that into a single statement is an interesting challenge, and one you might find useful on your road to better understanding yourself and being a better you. What you believe makes a difference, but why you believe tells a story. If you understand the story, you can better tell the story. It is your story. It’s in your best interest to make it a good one.

I believe. Sometimes that’s all that matters. I believe.

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