Sunday, August 2, 2020

There Has to be Something Bigger than One's Self

© 2020, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

My last blog post was on June 4, 2016.  It has been a complex 4 years. Shortly before that date, my good friend, mentor, and Founding Member of the Institute for Applied Common Sense, Willy Hopkins (a/k/a The Laughingman), left, as he would characterize it, “…this mortal coil.”  My father, who I consider to have been a great man (and not just because he was my father), passed a couple of weeks short of his 97th birthday. He had that indomitable spirit and positive influence on me to the end. Finally, one of the most in-depth thinkers and a calming influence in my life, Darryl Jackson (a/k/a The Optimizer of the Institute), passed far too early in life when he had so much more value to bestow on the young people who he taught.

So here I stand, the only surviving member of the Institute for Applied Common Sense (2 weeks shy of the tender age of 69 and before I start the 2nd half of my life), trying to figure out what to say in 750 words or less, which pays tribute to these men in life, and yet encapsulates all my thoughts for the past 4 years.  In September of last year, while observing the Senate hearings on Brett Kavanaugh, I decided on the title of this piece, but did not get around to writing it until today, when the memorial service for civil rights icon, John Lewis, took place.  I listened to all of the speakers at his service, and there appeared to be a common theme, and thus the title of this piece.

Recently, I have been concerned about the extent to which many people think that, “it’s all about them, and what they want.”   My dad was a caring, humble, relatively quiet man, who did wonders for his community.  He won several community service awards from the NAACP and never mentioned them to me while I was living in California.  But then again, he never had to be concerned about being re-elected.

I first started gathering my thoughts about this life principle when Bill Clinton was facing impeachment.  It just seemed to me that the office and institution of the presidency, and the goals which he sought to accomplish, were more important than Bill Clinton, the individual, remaining in that position. He was not the only individual who could advance those goals.  Additionally, his credibility and effectiveness were severely affected by his indiscretions.  My position is that he should have immediately resigned, and allowed his vice – president, Al Gore, to carry on the mission (which Clinton did not personally own).  

I felt the same way during the hearings with respect to prospective Supreme Court Associate Justice, Brett Cavanaugh.  Even if he felt that the allegations of sexual misconduct had no validity whatsoever, I felt that he should have removed his name from consideration and fought the allegations outside of the context of the hearings.  Once again, it seemed to me that the seat and institution of the Supreme Court justice, and the goals which his party and supporters sought to accomplish, were more important than Brett Cavanagh, the individual, putting up a fight to acquire that position. He was not the only individual who could advance those goals. 

Additionally, his credibility and effectiveness, and respect for the Court would be, arguably, negatively impacted by his getting the seat.  Why would someone want that to satisfy one’s personal desires?  Interestingly, right after Mr. Kavanagh was successful in fending off the challenges, and confirmed by the Senate, President Trump congratulated Mr. Kavanagh for putting up the vigorous fight, and alluded to former Senator Al Franken, as having “folded like a wet rag.”

So, what is my message to college students, who are my target audience?  It seems to me that personal responsibility includes thinking beyond one’s self and one’s personal goals.  Though the Laughingman and the Optimizer are gone, I still reach out to others to expand my thinking about the concepts and issues about which I write.  The Laughingman introduced me to someone who often provides kernels of thought.  During an exchange with him earlier this year, he suggested that I pose two questions to the readers of this piece.

The first was, “What would your grandfather or grandmother have done confronted with your current situation?”

The second was, “While you may presently be strapped for money because of being ‘sheltered in place’, you now have a lot of free time.  What can you do with this free time to make a difference in the quality of someone else’s life?”  He suggests that thinking about improving someone else’s life can help you improve your own....

21 comments:

  1. Glad to see you back! A hellish period of loss for you but you have made it through. Condolences and wishes for a new level of success.

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    1. Thank you, Dan. I have often told people that I learned more about the world through blogging and hearing the views of others than through any other experience in my life. I'm looking forward to learning even more during this turbulent period in our world.

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  2. Love what you have written. Life has always been larger than we are but we have to continue on our journey in life to realize this but some never do. Why they do not is because they have to be taught by those who realize this. To those that are given much much is required to help others. We all have something special we have been given in life to help others before we leave this life and we will continue to need help in discovering our purpose. One of the things I was thinking yesterday is how I have probably all of my life not liked competition. I feel and have learned that you have to be yourself even on an elementary level to discover your purpose in life that will contribute to others lives. You can only be yourself. If you think you can be someone other than yourself you have deceived yourself and with that you will never be able to be your best self or contribute your best to others.

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  3. Thank you for visiting my forum. I found it so interesting that you wrote, "I have probably all of my life not liked competition." I feel pretty much the same way. In fact, I often said that even during competitive activities, I was competing against myself, not others.

    Additionally, I often think about the Seven Deadly Sins, and their applicability to our daily lives. Initially I thought that the sin of envy would be most applicable to the notion of competition; however, upon reviewing them, I realized that several of them may be subsumed under the dangers posed by competition.

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  4. A follower of my forum sent this to me directly, via e-mail:

    I feel like the fears of the 60s, the fears vocalized by what was then the right wing, have been realized. Many Americans are, in fact, morally weak, think only of themselves, and have, indeed, no sense of higher purpose. This demographic is easily led by a truculent, but overwhelming, need to indulge the worst of themselves and to feed their own perception of personal superiority .... a perception so far from reality it would be laughable if it were not so tragic.

    But it was not the left who brought that about by granola, yoga, long hair, tie dye apparel, or even permissive parenting.

    It was the right, religious and political, who did this, who created these morally bankrupt people who claim to be Real Americans. Americans! Who have no thought of sacrifice, no compassion, no understanding of equality, no call to protect the freedoms of others, and, needless to say, no desire to stand up for the underdog. Qualities that were once the hall mark of the ideal American.

    The brainwashing medium, that destroyed a shared national ethic, was television or the even more modern equivalent.... ironically, exactly as was feared by the then conspiracy theorist equivalents, in the 50s, when television first became ubiquitous, and the new hearth around which the household gathered.

    And how is this for a conspiracy theory? I believe the hidden leaders of so called right wing did this deliberately, in a cynical but highly effective bid to consolidate wealth and power in a very few, very white, hands, and to finally defeat democracy, for which they always had great disdain.

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  5. Thank you, my friend, for weighing in.

    I have always been wary of people with an agenda. If I tolerate or support their agenda, I use the same standard to measure it as I suggest college students to whom I target my messages: "Does it advance the long - term positive interests of society?" However, in reading this, it occurred to me that "positive," is in the eyes of the beholder.

    In thinking about it further, I imagine that the consolidation of wealth and power in the hands of a few might be viewed as "positive," in the eyes of some people. Interesting way to view the conceptual divide. Thanks for your insight.

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  6. I love your words and your voice...your voice here in this blog and your actual voice when you speak. It was a pleasure to meet you, brief as it was, today. Thank you for sharing your website with me so I could find your words here. Take care, friend.

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  7. It was nice to meet you today. Thank you for sharing your words. Be well and take care.

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