01 February 2012

Wednesday's Words - Week 1

Welcome to the first installment of my hopefully weekly Wednesdays Words. The basic aim here is to spur me on in my blogging with a weekly commitment, based around my thoughts of one of the weeks daily quotes supplied dutifully by my trusty desk calendar.
So then, here goes......
“When the time is right, the answers will come” – P.K. Shaw
I chose this inaugural quote out of the seven available to me this week not because I agree with it, but because of the rant which it inspired.
I am not a fan of this quote, as I don’t like mysterious agents being invoked that ensure everything will be ‘just fine’. To say that answers will come at some mystically appointed right time doesn’t gel with me as I don’t believe there is any all powerful being at work putting our lives together. To believe such a thing raises some seriously disturbing questions regarding people whose lives were lived in less than desirable circumstances.
Destiny either isn't real, or its indifferent
But I do see the benefits in getting people to be positive about the future, particularly when it comes to the uneasy fact that it is full of unknowns. However rather than invoking some predestined path set out for you in an uncertain future, I prefer to look at the possibilities inherent in this seemingly random future.
The late founder of Apple, Steve Jobs, once gave a commencement speech to a group of students beginning their tenure at university which I previously blogged on here. In it he goes over a similar concept to that which I have been discussing (unknown paths leading into the future), that I think really hits the nail on the head.
First a little background.
After officially dropping out of his university course, the young Steve Jobs decided to hang around campus for a bit and take part in things that he was previously unable to, due to course commitments. Reed College apparently had the best calligraphy instruction available in the United States at the time, and the beautifully scripted labels and posters around the college grounds piqued Jobs’ interest. He enrolled in the class and developed an appreciation for the importance of typography in graphical representation. His early exposure to things like font families, serif versus sans-serif and proportional spacing was something that Jobs would later draw upon when developing the early Apple computers, which were among the first personal computers to display text in anything other than a monospaced, generic font.
Yes that's right, its an apple.....
Jobs mentioned this in his address to those students’ years ago to help highlight the uncertainty of our future, but also the importance of what we are doing, and of not disregarding where we are just because we don’t know where it will take us. He summed up the crux of his argument in the closing statement of this portion of his speech.
“Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college, but it was very, very clear looking backwards 10 years later. Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards, so you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something--your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever--because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well-worn path, and that will make all the difference.”
You need to trust in something, not because there is something out there working for you (as in karma, destiny, gods, or whatever), but because in trusting that there is something out there for you, you are implicitly trusting in yourself. Jobs mentioned it himself when he says that such trust in the future gives you confidence, regardless of what you ground it in. I would go a step further and say it is better to place your trust in yourself, and your own faculties, rather than in some possibly existent third party.
Don’t just trust in the future because you believe it has been laid out before you; trust in yourself because you are the one who will actually do it!
If the future were fixed, if there was some destiny out there with Mathew James Morton written on it, I am not so sure I would want it. If there was something out there withholding the answers from me until the right time came along, I don’t think I would cheerfully take them when said time did arrive.
The enlightenment taught us that human agency was where we should place our bets, not on some higher power, whatever form it may take. Trusting in foreordained events and personal destinies was so widely believed in the past that in the event of a shipwreck, people would clamber over whomever stood between them and safety, believing that God had already decided who lived and who died.
Accepting human agency as the driving force in our lives means we don’t sit around waiting for answers; we go out and find them. We don’t wait to see where our path in life takes us; we walk boldly ahead in the unknown knowing that though our path isn’t part of some divine plan, it is nevertheless our path to make, and our privilege to forge it.
I am going to close this post with a quote which I may have already recently mentioned (though I can’t remember), but which all the same seems to fit well with the topic.
“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” – Soren Kierkegaard
I hope that you enjoyed this first installment of Wednesdays Words. I think it went quite well, but I have the niggling thought at the back of my mind that this is a somewhat lame attempt at regularity.
Please let me know what you think in the comments; I crave your approval!

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