Willow leaves curving against blue sky

How fast can it all unravel?

If we’ve not fully understood things – what they mean, why they matter, how to carry them forward – how quickly can they fall away? Is it a year, a decade, a lifetime, a generation or two? Even if we’re partly understanding, partly conveying, it seems likely things would drift after only a fairly short time: significance becoming lost, effects varying to the point where we’re living in a distorted echo of what once was.

Isn’t life, in its way, the passing on of meaning? That events, artefacts, practices, customs are handed down alongside a sense of what they mean so subsequent generations can know where they stand, how to live, and why it all helps. This picture of knowledge being conveyed through the beliefs, conventions, values, attitudes and thoughts with which life is accompanied. (Notes One)

Doesn’t it all underpin any “way of life”? The thinking beneath every little thing we do and how it all comes together within the life we all share – each action touching on others, one way or another, to convey a common sense of meaning or value to those we’re living alongside. Isn’t it a lot about relationship? How we should act out of consideration for others based on some overarching philosophy of “life”.

But what if we haven’t quite grasped the principles, the starting points, beneath what we’re doing? The reasons, rights or values behind it that – in an ideal world – would shine through all we do, immediately communicating to all those around us our clear appreciation of life’s meaning and the worth we’re assigning each part of the whole. A comprehensive grasp of life glinting out from each word, choice or gesture. (Notes Two)

If, for whatever reason, we’ve not taken hold of the real meaning behind any given thing, how can we carry it out or pass it on correctly? Life perhaps then becoming a confusing sense of people talking at crossed purposes: the ideas we have in mind not quite marrying up with the way we’re acting or consequences we’re setting in motion. This surreal picture of people not quite knowing what they’re doing.

Doing the right thing and not knowing why is one thing; doing things wrong and thinking they’re right seems risky. If whatever we’re doing isn’t accompanied by a clear understanding of “why” and “what we hope to achieve” where do we stand, as humans? As if we’re out on a tightrope, walking blindly, without the safety net of reason to catch us. (Notes Three)

On the personal level, it seems disconcerting and potentially erratic. Socially, it must be troublesome given how often our lives intersect and stress, frustration or anger can accumulate. Looking on “life” as some delicate balance of personal freedom and collective wellbeing, missing the logic behind things seems a strange test of social cohesion: placing “self” before “others”, what happens to community? (Notes Four)

That said, if things aren’t quite right maybe it’s better they unravel? Provided we know enough to piece them back together.

Notes and References:

Note 1: Passing on what’s important
Note 1: Everything culture used to be
Note 1: The thought surrounding us
Note 2: Understanding what we’re all part of
Note 2: Mutual awareness and accommodation?
Note 2: What we create by our presence
Note 3: How quickly things can change
Note 3: All we’re expected to understand
Note 3: Is there any end to the power of thought?
Note 3: Does technology oversimplify things?
Note 4: Diplomacy and knowing where we stand
Note 4: Do we live in different worlds?
Note 4: Integrity and integration

Somewhere out alongside this, there’s the question of Where’s the reset button & can we press it?

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