Sunday, July 26, 2015

Advice on Life

Just another one of those passing thoughts at the height of summer as I try to get the garage painted and the woods cleared. I recently found out about from I recommend both. I found this bit from a young Hunter S. Thompson, who is asked for advice on life and starts out pointing out how impossible that is and how arrogant it would be to try, then he pulls it off.

He does it by not offering any advice, but talks to his friend about setting himself on a path of self discovery. He doesn't give any actual advice, like "be a fireman" or "do what you love" or "follow your bliss" or "plastics!". Instead he says the answer lies in the questioner. The questioner has already taken the first step by asking the question. The answer is to keep asking.

Self reflection is a daily task, although not one to get obsessed with. Re-examining the landscape of everything out there is equally important, especially in this rapidly changing world we now find ourselves in.

Well, time to let Maria Popova walk you through this essay. Enjoy.

But, before you go, let me tell you where this sent my thoughts. I argue about politics, against libertarians, about God, against fundamentalists, about science, against anti-vaxxers, anti-GMOers, anti-global warmingers. And where these arguments often lead is to a point where my opponent finds completely unacceptable of the entire scientific method, including the integrity of our universities, the validity of peer review, the trustworthiness of government reports, the ability of experts to interpret data and the ability of anyone to verify that the data is accurate. It leaves me with nothing to build on since the only thing left is each of our opinions.

This attitude toward the modern world of delegation of authority and knowledge begins early. At some point you begin listening to the people that say a college degree has no value and that high schools are designed by capitalists who want to create subservient workers. There is some truth in there, that is, there are some horrible teachers and there are corporations that don't value human life, but it is not a vast conspiracy led by a secret cabal. That you can discuss the idea that it might be is evidence that it isn't.

To figure out if all or any of these systems are working, one merely needs to attempt to work within them, to create some change. Short of that, looking into the history of where these system came from will tell you a lot. If you can't find that documentary on your list of 80 stations, just think about basic high school history. At one point there were kings who cut your head off, now we have nations. At one point owning another human being was commonplace, now it's not. The Pope once had power over all of Europe, now he doesn't. Even if you weren't paying attention to exactly how we got from there to here, you have to accept that here is better and there must be a reason for that.

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