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there should be a reasonable symmetry between inner and outer lives



personal • 09.09.03  

One reason I write these short pieces is to get some kind of overview of the matters that interest me. I want to tidy up my messy thinking and sort out my thoughts. I want to know what I stand for, to see if I can hone anything that resembles a personal philosophy. Another reason is to do with identifying contradictions and maybe even resolving some of them. It is hard to achieve but I suspect necessary in the interests of having a healthy mind intellectually and emotionally.

When starting to gather thoughts and articulate them in an organised way my impression is of having to wade through a confused clutter of notions and half ideas. I speculate that perhaps part of that confusion comes from being caught between two worlds, two different ways of thinking. One would be the classical world of fixed absolutes where knowledge is informed by supposedly transcendent truths. This would be the old God-centred universe. The other is the so called post-modern world characterised by relativism and self reference. Of course, like everyone else, I exist in both. Bits of me lean to the old, others to the new. I can be enthusiastic about elements of either, but just as equally condemning. This is one of these areas of contradiction that would benefit from some resolution.

One manifest example of contradiction is the ideas I used to have around collectivity and community. They turned out to be unfashionable and they failed miserably. They were essentially old world ideas, to do with social responsibility, commitment, about having a duty to put something back into society etc. They contrasted starkly with the prevailing climate which was increasingly (1980s) about looking after yourself and your own. Matters of shared endeavour were going down with the old lefty political ideology. My reality was steeped in the present day (individualistic), but my philosophy was informed by outdated thinking (collectivist).

But when I look back I was probably much more selfishly motivated than I realised. Sure I wanted the group dynamic but mainly because the dynamic of the particular group I was in worked for me. It didn’t necessarily work as well for anyone else. I was the one who wanted it most and was quite dogged. It’s just that I wasn’t quite honest enough to display naked self-interest openly. I think it would have been better if I had. On reflection I should have been less contradictory by pursuing goals with overt self-determination (probably how I was perceived anyway). Trying to shoehorn my ambition and initiative into the old value system probably just diminished the energies invested.

So if there’s a useful conclusion from this it might be that to have as unified a philosophy as possible is the thing; that there should be a reasonable symmetry between inner and outer lives. With balance comes the ability to act with more certainty, to be clearer and be less susceptible to the debilitating effects of doubt. It also makes it easier for others to understand where you’re coming from.