Happy where he is

I just had a conversation with a friend who’s happy where he is. There’s nothing wrong with that–and yet, the attitude he expressed got me to thinking.

Those of you who I keep up with know that I’ve been on something of an interesting streak this year. 2013 has been a year of more and better, a year of getting things done and of flying forwards. One of my objectives has been to find like-minded people–those who’re also looking to do more and better–and to engage them to consider how much more each of us could do with the involvement of others who care.

In the various conversations I’ve had with people over the last few months, some have expressed more and some less interest in terms of wanting to achieve more, or in setting goals or trying a different way of approaching things. And I’ve been fine with that, because this has been one cause where I don’t want to enlist the unwilling. In this year’s grand effort to better understand my friends, I see myself as enabling them to follow a different path if they already had the inclination, instead of doing any more heavy-handed influencing. I do of course think that my direction–forward–is better than the alternative (and no, there’s no such thing as staying in place in life), but I’m not yet engaged in trying to change people’s minds. To paraphrase the saying, you can only lead people to water.

Let me return to the story with which this post began. So I just met an old friend to catch up and, as with all other catch-ups this year, also to see what his near and long-term plans were. In response to a question of mine asking about if he had any goals on his bucket list, he commented that he was very happy with his life right now. Here’s where I should mention that he had just begun a relationship, and his significant other was also present at this catch-up.

His response is what struck me as interesting, despite how he didn’t actually answer my question. He was very happy with his life right now–and by implication, he wasn’t looking for any more. He had all he (thought he) wanted, at least at present. His is a state that contrasts with mine in interesting ways. We’re both happy with life right now, yet I’m still looking for better. We’re both happy with life right now, but happiness as an emotion isn’t the goal in my life, and nor do I think it’s really the goal of his. The curious idea I was considering was that of people’s motivations–specifically, I was thinking about the idea that people only want one of three things: money, love, or to change the world. Is that the case here, that my friend has just been searching for love at this stage of his life, and that “explains” why he’s content where he is? I’m not sure the answer is that simple.

Lest I be misunderstood, I should note again that I take no issue with my friend’s current state of contentment and lack of interest in doing anything differently. I’m glad that he’s found happiness in the present and glad that his companion seems to be in some ways a potential inspiration to him. My remaining concern for him is because of the nature of happiness–that it’s an ephemeral state that’s powerful precisely because of its fleeting nature. When the intoxicating rush of early infatuation wears off and the need to craft a new dynamic sets in (that statement being based off the current science of love rather than opinion), I’m concerned that he’ll find himself right where he started; or in other words, if one has never learned how to be happy with oneself, and happiness then comes from without, what happens when the source of that happiness changes or disappears? It’s situations like these that remind me of the vital importance of learning how to be at peace with yourself and not having to use anything or anyone as a crutch. This has been one of my greatest concerns within my own relationship as well.

In the remaining time spent conversing this night, there was more bantering than true discussion, which I’ve found unfortunate about our conversations. I like banter, but not just for banter’s sake. Actual catching up was minimal, unfortunately, as I rather expected. But our connection was at least temporarily renewed, and I left the couple with my mind churning away with the ideas that inspired this post.

I imagine the other reason I found my friend’s situation interesting is because I see a potential analog to where I am. I’ve been in a steady relationship for the last three years, which is past the early infatuation period in the relationship. And so when I consider where my friend will be if and when the blissful haze of attraction lifts, I can’t help but to consider where I am along the relationship continuum. Was I and have I been ready to put in the effort to continue building with my partner? How much building ought be done? Are we both growing, such that even if our relationship changes we’ll both emerge better for it? Those and other questions have been floating around in my mind, and I suspect that this year–a year of difficult questions asked and answered–will be the year where I will make great progress along the relationship front, so long as I continue to care about the outcome and so long as I regularly remind myself that the greatest and most worthwhile outcomes come hand-in-hand with the toughest obstacles and greatest trials.


Knowing-doing gap

I’ve often wondered, why is it often so hard to follow what I know to be the better option or do the more effective thing?

Closing my own knowing-doing gap would be a great achievement! Adding this to the 2013 plan.

Government funding for the arts? (outline)

This is the first in what is intended to become a series of weekly posts, each about a specific topic, each being written for the overall purpose of practicing my writing and analytical thinking. Several friends are also part of this endeavor, each of us writing about the same topic on our own blogs.

Before completing the planning for this first post I can already sense that the process will be tweaked so as to best allow me to practice what I’m looking to practice. Currently I’m limiting myself to an hour’s worth of writing so that I don’t spend an “undue” amount of time on this–yet the issue I already have in mind is that time does have to be invested in the pursuit of improvement. How much time, though, that’s one of the important questions.

My lord, I’m almost boring myself and I’ve barely begun to write. I also haven’t quite decided what kind of “tone” I ought to write with for these subjects. This first topic, for instance, is from a list of GRE-type prompts. Not having taken the GREs, nor having had any conversations with people knowledgeable about the preferred writing “style”, I don’t know if I ought to write in a more serious tone as opposed to writing my preferred light-hearted bantering tone. Thinking about writing tone and style now, I can already see this branching off into a separate post haha–sometimes my writing is dry when I read it, and other times vibrant! You might be able to tell that I prefer the vibrant; I like things zesty 🙂

Let’s see what happens; and more than that, let’s observe and then improve!

My latest idea, now that it’s already late Sunday night, is to post what I do have–an outline of the post to be written–so that my thought process is partly revealed.

Prompt (Topic 7 from this list):
Some people believe that government funding of the arts is necessary to ensure that the arts can flourish and be available to all people. Others believe that government funding of the arts threatens the integrity of the arts. Write a response in which you discuss which view more closely aligns with your own position and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should address both of the views presented.

I was presented with a question about whether government funding of the arts is necessary to ensure that the arts can flourish and be available to all people. 

– before there was formal government, people made and spread art: visible art, auditory art, sensory art. 
– government funding gives “the arts” a greater sense of legitimacy, normalizes it
– gov’t funding wouldn’t necessarily ensure that arts would be available to all people–the availability of something doesn’t necessarily ensure that it is accessible to all people

I believe that the integrity of the arts is only threatened by government funding if that funding is exclusive as opposed to being inclusive.

– Hook, conflict?
– Agreement, context
– Thesis: Government funding of the arts is beneficial but not necessary for the flourishing and widespread availability of the arts and can be provided without diluting artistic integrity.

Body 1
– Arts of all sorts proliferated before the earliest governments.

Body 2
– Government funding of the arts would not unerringly lead to the arts becoming available to all people. 
– The art that people value survives, and the art that is not valued can possibly be lost.

Body 3
– Addressing a counterargument
– One common argument against government funding for the arts is that this funding threatens and can co-opt the integrity of the arts. I agree that integrity breaches are a legitimate concern, but that they exist in any and arguably all people-related endeavors! Organizations and ideas ultimately can’t have or lack integrity–it is people who have or lack integrity, and whose works subsequently are affected. The fear of lost integrity for the arts, then, actually translates to artists who lose their integrity, who in doing so co-opt their art. In order to address the problem of integrity-lacking people, an objective system (itself fairly developed) may work best to bypass the subjective opinions of people. An objective system that gives all artists a fair chance at obtaining government funding would be an optimal way to guard against the government interjecting its own agenda through selective funding.

– Wrap-up
Arts of all sorts proliferated before the earliest governments.
The arts existed and proliferated before the question of government involvement became relevant. In that vein, government funding of the arts can’t be said to be necessary to ensure that the arts flourish–but the additional funding combined with the effect of legitimacy certain helps.