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Happy Days

Permanent Linkby wisconsin_cur on Wed Jun 17, 2009 5:31 am

From Monday's NYTimes Blog

My mother’s illusion came to an end when, one day, her labor camp cat stopped coming. She never learned exactly what happened to it. Unfortunately, that became a template for nameless outcomes by which her sister, her father, and most of her friends disappeared. Of her many illusions of youth that the Nazis snuffed out, the feeling that she could control her destiny was one of the most difficult to accept. But for my mother, and for all those who lived through similar experiences, surviving meant not only possessing a special toughness of body, but also of mind. She found a way to face the world without the illusion of control, of dealing with life as it comes, day to day, without expectation.

This is, in my mind, the key to mental preparation: to be completely clear on what one can and cannot control, to be fully and completely responsible for what can be controled and at peace with what is outside of it. Among the challenges we face, however, is that what is within or outside of one's control is a moving target. Five years ago I had no control over the transportation network that brought food from the place that it is produced to my table. Today my control is far from complete (I will wait until this year's harvest before trying to quantify my level of control) but I am not as fully dependent as I once was.

Consequently we should consider not only those things that we can control (whether or not to buy an energy efficient vehicle, a gas hog or use a bicycle) and those things we will never control (oil field decline rates, how others will respond to energy scarcity) but also those things that we can control if we take the initiative. Among these will be skills (gardening or blacksmithing) and capital (implements or vital supplies) but also the local of joy and meaning.

If joy is found in vacations to Mexico, climbing the corporate ladder, 120 digital channels or pizza from a box than an uncertain future is likely to be a time of profound disappointment, disillusionment and depression. I am fairly confident that most of the people I interact with on a daily basis will react this way. The existential disorientation that is bound to follow will lead to any number of poorly thought out judgments and actions and this is as great a threat to them as the potential for a sudden collapse of the "Just in Time" delivery model.

But if prior to scarcity one has already learned to find joy and meaning in the simple things which are less directly threatened one might avoid the disorientation which leads to so many poor choices. If joy is in the hug of a child, being useful to one's community, the sound of crickets in the night or the poetry of the night sky one can navigate an uncertain future less incumbered by one's own sense of loss. Such a person should be better able to navigate difficult choices and find they still have the strength to perserve after others have needlessly surrendered to fate. Strength arises from a sense of meaning and rest is found in joy and, in the long run, both are as important as calories for survival in adverse circumstances.

It is easy to make a long list of the things that I cannot control and only slightly more difficult to think of the things that I need to assume control over in the days and months to come. What I might, but must not, overlook is the need to seize control over who and what I decide to value, where I find meaning and how I expereince joy.

I think I will say "no thank you" if I am offered another double shift today. T-ball is tonight. Then I think I will read a story to the kids and tuck them in tight, have a beer and, weather permiting, sit on the deck with the bride and watch the bats on their nightly hunt. In doing so I will do something to prepare for an uncertain future that can not be purchased with money, something we should all undertake. We must orient ourselves to a sense of place and joy that money can not buy and poverty cannot erase if we seek to be truly prepared for whatever awaits.

“It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.” J.R.R. Tolkien

Sevareid's Law: "The leading cause of problems is solutions."
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Re: Happy Days

Permanent Linkby General Doom on Wed Jun 17, 2009 7:59 pm

Awesome post, thanks.
"Every junkie's like a setting sun..." - Neil Young
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Re: Happy Days

Permanent Linkby TWilliam on Sun Nov 08, 2009 4:06 pm

"God (whatever personal flavor), grant me the serenity to accept that which I cannot change, the courage to change that which I might, and the wisdom to know the difference... "

Nice post Cur, thanks... :)
We all feed on tragedy; it's like blood to a vampire. Vicariously, I live, while the whole world dies. Much better you than I. ~ Tool, Vicarious
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