Knowing the value of what you have

How much do we value what we have in life? Sometimes it seems a lot more time is spent drawing up lists of wishes or things we’d like to change than is spent appreciating all we actually have. It’s probably where gratitude practices have slipped in – techniques people are using to pull focus out of the past or the future and place it more firmly into the present moment. Because, isn’t it important that we do?

If we’re not valuing things rightly, how will we know to preserve them? Understanding the importance, significance or worth of something seems an essential step toward insuring we protect and carry forward everything that truly matters (Notes One). If we’re forgetting – or, never being told – what matters and why, don’t we risk leaving behind things we and others may wish we hadn’t?

At various times here I’ve mused over all the past places in our hands: the heritage of history with all its artefacts and forms of wisdom; the systems we’re living within; the responsibility of maintaining and, hopefully, enriching it all (Notes Two). This sense in which the passing of time forever hands the treasures of the past and possibility of refining them into the care of subsequent generations.

It seems such an important task to convey the meaning of all that’s gone before; the vision people had in mind; the work still in hand. This momentous passing down of “all it is to be human” alongside an appreciative grasp of all the everyday activities and attitudes that help keep everything running smoothly (Notes Three). Don’t we need both the bigger picture and the practical details in order to carry on that work?

When it comes to Western society, then, how much do we value what it offers? What was this strange intellectual activity that set about arguing for and enshrining in law the principles of universal human freedom? This attempt to delineate every aspect of our lives then create a framework of mutually beneficial boundaries within which individuals can live as they please. (Notes Four)

Perhaps it’s simply this notion of us all being free to pursue our interests, chart our course, and clamber to the top of whatever mountains we’ve been inspired to climb. This sense of everyone making their own way – making the most of what nature gave them – in the economic and cultural environment of any given society. Of taking the ideal of freedom and working it into the fabric of society.

It seems such an admirable step within the history of humanity – to have applied our minds to working out the conditions for us all to exercise our freedom without stepping on one another’s toes. The very idea of creating a system able to contain and carry all people forward toward a better, more harmonious, less problematic future seems a beautiful thing for the past to have thrown its energy behind.

As those on the receiving end, isn’t this a weighty treasure to have placed in our hands?

Notes and References:

Note 1: Seeing, knowing and loving
Note 1: Value and meaning in our lives
Note 1: Appreciating other ways of being
Note 2: Cutting corners
Note 2: Trust in technology?
Note 2: How ideas find their place in the world
Note 2: Life’s never been simpler…
Note 2: On whose terms?
Note 3: Passing on what’s important
Note 3: Understanding what we’re all part of
Note 3: If society’s straining apart, what do we do?
Note 3: Society as an imposition?
Note 4: Mutual awareness and accommodation?
Note 4: “Quest for a Moral Compass”
Note 4: Plato & “The Republic”

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Where’s the reset button & can we press it?

If the world were a system we could somehow reset, which point would we choose to return to? Beyond that, could we actually be confident we’d do much better at things than we have done? While it might be tempting to imagine things having taken a different course – this collective process of “what if” – it’s perhaps hard to see exactly where, why or how things drifted off in all these questionable directions.

Then there’s the fact that with any “what if” – be it individual or collective – we clearly risk losing the good with the bad: those being the paths that brought us to exactly this moment with these thoughts, experiences, connections and relationships, would we ever truly choose to “delete” those gains in the hope of some hypothetical, idealised alternative? Maybe there’s a truth to our paths; a wisdom gained through walking them.

The “what if” seems a natural process of thought, though: this re-running to pinpoint exactly where something went wrong and how we might’ve acted differently for another outcome. The mind as a sort of memory-detective seeking insight through analysing, deconstructing and re-imagining things. At its most extreme, perhaps we’d end up trapped in our own past, paralysed by our mistakes.

Of course, there may be value to be gained in understanding and learning from events – seeing our agency in them and how our mistaken beliefs or interpretations might’ve influenced things in ways we now know to avoid. The past, in many ways, being the teacher of all we didn’t yet know or fully appreciate the significance of (Notes One).

There seems a certain tangled wisdom to the fact that, looking back, we’re always judging with the eyes experience has honed for us: having been through things, we now know to see them differently. As if life itself is revealing our shortcomings to us by highlighting all those things we didn’t quite understand as we should.

If the systems of the West are struggling, then, is it because we didn’t quite understand how to create a society that actually “worked”? This sense in which the past’s finest, most influential thinkers put together this “thing” we now live within: this interlocking, mutually reinforcing set of ideas, assumptions, principles, theories and practices that, over time, have evolved and developed into all we now find around us (Notes Two).

Imagining that, in all likelihood, one or many of those ideas could’ve been flawed, mightn’t we now find ourselves within rather a large, complex “machine” weighed down by the cumbersome inertia of tradition but carried along by its own momentum? How are we to manoeuvre within such a system to correct any mistakes and redress all the many problems they’ve caused? (Notes Three)

Maybe this is “always” the case with any kind of history? That, having learnt from the paths it placed us on, we can see the need for change. Being sure we know enough to avoid creating further problems ourselves, though, seems an equally important thing to be grappling with.

Notes and References:

Note 1: The philosopher stance
Note 1: Problems & the thought that created them
Note 1: On whose terms?
Note 1: Imperfection as perfection?
Note 2: One thing leads to another
Note 2: Humans, tangled in these systems
Note 2: Shaping the buildings that shape us
Note 2: “Quest for a Moral Compass”
Note 2: The self within society
Note 3: Pace of change & getting nowhere fast
Note 3: Knowledge, capacity & understanding
Note 3: Having confidence in complex systems
Note 3: What if solutions aren’t solutions?
Note 3: “The Obstacle is the Way”

Imagining where we are headed and how we might get there was also the focus of Navigation, steering & direction.

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Understanding what we’re all part of

If we’re looking to understand life, where do we start? Maybe we look at things from the top down and bottom up; considering everything in the light of that fundamental division. Perhaps we look from the inside out and outside in – at what life means from those perspectives. It could be no “one way” of looking is entirely complete, but don’t we have to understand this reality somehow?

There are perhaps countless ways we could attempt to make sense of modern life: many lenses to look through, viewpoints to take, theories to spin around where we stand and what our priorities should be. Maybe there are as many perspectives as there are people? Each looking at life based on their experience, understanding and expectations of it and forming their own, personal judgements (Notes One).

How can we ever be sure, then, of being on the same page? This idea of everyone singing from the same hymn sheet as we strive towards the same vision of the life we’re hoping to create. Sometimes it seems we might all be standing on slightly different fracture lines within the same, one reality – each having experienced life differently, becoming aware of slightly different aspects of “how things are”.

Can any one theory or solution encompass all that our lives have exposed us to? Won’t each view of reality always be unique, significant, and personally lived? Each thread of humanity bearing within it an individually-experienced reflection of the world we all share. Each person perhaps hoping their existence matters to the others of their kind, as we’re all making choices that affect one another.

Thinking of life from the inside out, we might focus on what life’s like from each person’s perspective: the messages they receive, expectations placed upon them, labels they’re asked to live with, opportunities offered, and so forth. This sense of how “life” presents itself to each person and the meaning embedded in every aspect of that reality – the face the world turns towards them. (Notes Two)

Equally, we might look at our lives from the outside in, in terms of the messages we send through how we’re living. Don’t all our choices ripple out to create a discernible picture for those on the periphery? Our values and priorities effectively on display there through the way we’re acting with regard to those in different times, places or stations of life. (Notes Three)

If all that we do carries meaning and serves to either build up or take down structures within our lives, isn’t it important to understand what that picture is? What our actions “say” and “mean” from every side seems a fundamental part of reality. While it’s far from easy to figure out exactly what’s happening now and how it’s fitting together on the global level, isn’t it part of our responsibility to try? (Notes Four)

Understanding how we got here, what we were hoping to achieve, and how well that’s working out seems such an essential part of being human.

Notes and References:

Note 1: Absolute or relative value
Note 1: Making things up as we go along
Note 1: All that we add to neutrality
Note 2: Humans, tangled in these systems
Note 2: Imperfection as perfection?
Note 2: Society that doesn’t deal with the soul
Note 3: Being trusted to use our discernment…
Note 3: The picture data paints of us
Note 3: Values, and what’s in evidence
Note 4: Will things change if we don’t make them?
Note 4: Too much responsibility?
Note 4: Navigation, steering & direction

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Mutual awareness and accommodation?

Society, in a number of ways, seems like a dance: the spaces around us, the interactions, the give and take, the moments we meet and then move apart. All these ways our lives intersect and something’s exchanged between us, be it goods or greetings or whatever else we have to offer one another in life. Community, in its own way, being this dance of individuals working together for the overall effect it produces.

If we conceive of society as a gathering of people for a common purpose, it must be that we all have our parts to play as well as points where we benefit from all others are doing. The coordination of it all seems quite staggering, really; especially in the West, where so much essentially rests on personal freedoms and market forces (Notes One).

Doesn’t it all depend on a degree of awareness? That we understand the value of what we’re engaged in and the responsibilities we have within it all. That we grasp these invisible lines and interactions between us, knowing how to operate so the whole “thing” runs smoothly, harmoniously, even beautifully. If we don’t see that picture – or, believe in it – what will that mean?

Taking it down to the everyday, even how we move together in space seems significant. Especially now, with the added requirements of social distancing for the preservation of our communities, but also more generally: how aware are we of others within the spaces we share? If daily life’s a dance of sorts – everyone skirting round one another to access communal resources – how smoothly does the whole thing go?

Some seem very skilled at it: seeing others coming, reading intentions, anticipating the pinch points of proximity, and accommodating one another with almost effortless grace, respect and recognition. At other times, there’s this sense that “others” are seen as obstacles to be ignored, walked through, or treated as if they shouldn’t be there. As with many things, swinging between the extremes doesn’t seem that uncommon.

It may be a small thing, but isn’t it indicative of our social awareness more generally? If the “concept” of society is one of individuals living together in mutual respect and freedom, how we make room for one another seems the bedrock of that understanding – this basic gesture of granting one another the space we need to live without feeling our presence is a cumbersome irritant to others.

Isn’t society underpinned by this idea of how we’ll live alongside each other? All its conventions or regulations guiding us to interact in ways that embody this philosophy of mutual recognition – expectations of how we will act within our shared physical, social or virtual spaces (Notes Two).

Almost as if society’s an outworking of the premise of individual equality and freedom: the lines between us, in various ways, being where those principles come into play and “demand” we accommodate one another. Maybe the success of this “dance” is the picture of our appreciation of what it’s aiming to achieve?

Notes and References:

Note 1: What does community mean?
Note 1: Having confidence in complex systems
Note 1: Authenticity & writing our own story
Note 1: “Quest for a Moral Compass”
Note 1: The self within society
Note 2: Losing the sense of meaning
Note 2: Social starting points for modern ways
Note 2: Picking up after one another
Note 2: Common sense as a rare & essential quality
Note 2: The power of convention

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Having confidence in complex systems

How are we supposed to trust in the kinds of complex systems that need us to do so? Like driving, or society itself. How are we to place our lives in the hands of these collective realities and operate on the basis that it’s safe?

It really seems that such systems can only be run on trust, on the idea that everyone appreciates the responsibility they have and the belief that others are placing in them (Notes One). Almost as if trust is taken as a given – a prerequisite for taking part in anything of this nature. Doesn’t society need us to act confidently? To believe in it and uphold our end of this invisible bargain.

Which, in a way, seems strange: this idea that we would trust complete strangers to understand the significance of what we’re engaged in, the risks we’re running, and faith we’re demonstrating in the net of safety such participation effectively casts around us all. Aren’t we placing a great deal of trust in one another? Assuming that everyone’s acting from the same level of awareness, skill and care.

Because, if we’re not, don’t things become rather dangerous? Driving heavy machinery at high speeds seems a momentous responsibility, given how much other lives are at risk if we’re not approaching things with the appropriate amount of seriousness. Expecting anyone to participate in shared systems must depend upon the solemn duty of us all fully realising the importance of our roles and our actions.

Isn’t it amazing that we’re all taking part in things that assume this basic transactional unit of “trust” in every other person? That each of us must understand and appreciate the value of what we’re involved in – how essential it is for community and the very idea of people being able to live alongside one another without constant checks and renegotiations.

Don’t we need to know that everyone around us sees common activities in similar ways? That seems a large part of how education, the media and culture serve to sustain society with collective awareness: this sense of us all being on the same page, taking part in this important conversation, and responding to it along similar lines (Notes Two).

Knowing that we’re right to trust in complex systems seems fundamental to them being a success; doubting seems like it could be almost as dangerous as the thought of them not being trustworthy. Distrusting, don’t we start acting defensively or aggressively? Protecting ourselves from the risks we know are there if these collective agreements fall apart (Notes Three).

There’s not really a point to these musings, just a slight amazement at the idea of engaging with systems based upon trust. It’s such a tenuous thing and, usually, something we’re wise to hand out cautiously and review regularly to ensure we’re not putting ourselves at risk.

That many of the systems surrounding us, on which communal existence depends, assume we can place it in everyone around us seems beautiful – in a strangely risky way.

Notes and References:

Note 1: Trust within modern society
Note 1: Contracts, social or commercial
Note 1: Society as an imposition?
Note 2: Passing on what’s important
Note 2: Powerful responsibility of a media voice
Note 2: Culture as information
Note 3: Picking up after one another
Note 3: Authenticity & writing our own story
Note 3: People, rules & social cohesion

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Values, and what’s in evidence

In all that surrounds us, what’s seeming most important? Isn’t our world, in many ways, painting a picture of what we’re generally considering important? Our actions within it showing which elements we are treasuring most? Life, then, could be a place where our values are always quite clear for everyone to see.

It’s interesting to think we live within such a world. Society around us, in all these big and little ways, forever showing and reminding us what matters within our community. Not only through the legacies we’ve received from the past – the infrastructure, architecture, history, social forms, and traditions – but also through how well we’re treating it all now. Don’t our attitudes towards things speak volumes?

Doesn’t everything we do communicate our values? All our words, the ways we interact with others, and how we’re acting within shared spaces or structures all effectively speaking of what matters to us, what we see as essential, and what our priorities are. The ideas we hold of life rippling out of us through all the choices we’re making in everyday life.

And, it seems we tend to know what we’re “supposed” to say – which values we’ve been told to uphold by those around us. Things like equality, fairness, honesty, kindness, courage, self-control, generosity. Knowing something doesn’t necessarily mean it’s happening, though. That whole “do as I say, not as I do” inconsistency. While we may know what’s “right”, that’s not to say we aren’t often looking for ways around it.

Perhaps that’s just human nature? Society being an imposed construct, we perhaps needed to be taught how best to live within it: the kinds of attitudes, beliefs and ideals that would help strengthen – and, not weaken – the valuable collective endeavour (Notes One). It certainly seems our natural self-interest would need containing for social life to function harmoniously.

Looking around though, isn’t a lot of what’s going on more greatly influenced by “market” values? The thinking and attitudes of that space often seeming to spill out and filter into our lives more generally – all those judgements, desires, and feelings about personal worth. It’s interesting to think that our values, once perhaps coming from the rarefied world of philosophy, poetry or thought, might now come out of industry.

Whether it’s a problem might be the important question. While the kinds of social values listed above seem quite altruistic – encouraging people to act for the benefit of others – aren’t our economic attitudes generally more self-serving? It seems an area of life where we’re told to look out for ourselves and ensure we stand apart from others. Markets, almost by definition, being places of competition, exclusivity and advantage.

Musing over what picture our lives are painting, it’s interesting to consider we might be moving in directions that enhance our antisocial tendencies with very little left to offset the “drift”. What will it mean for society if our choices are being made more out of limited personal interest than concern for what it means for everyone else?

Notes and References:

Note 1: Society as an imposition?
Note 1: Is this the ultimate test?
Note 1: “Quest for a Moral Compass”
Note 1: What’s not essential
Note 1: The value of a questioning attitude?
Note 1: Picking up after one another
Note 1: Too much responsibility?

Ways to share this:

Whether we make a difference

In all of life, doesn’t everything we do matter? Everything, eventually, touching upon others through the words, thoughts or actions we’re choosing. Isn’t it all rippling out in every direction to become part of everyone’s lives? We might believe or feel we’re of little consequence; but, in reality, it’s so far from true.

We always make a difference. So, bringing full attention to those choices might dramatically change the realities we’re all living with. If, instead of carelessness or self-interest, we acted on compassion or love, wouldn’t that ripple out into the world? Potentially, sweeping others along with it.

It’s fascinating to consider the nature of reality: ways things join together in chains of causality or complacency; ways attitudes or actions spread so contagiously; how that might shift things one way or another (Notes One). It seems undeniable we all play a part in it; whether or not we’re being deliberate.

All we do serves as an example, a validation, an encouragement, a challenge – creating impacts and setting standards within our increasingly wide social environment. These days, where little remains hidden and everything’s interconnected, isn’t it time we awoke to that potential?

It can’t be easy making a difference, though. Waking up within these complex, fast-moving systems and trying to find our way within them must be breaking new ground? Where can we find proven ideas for how to broach this? No human ever having lived within these conditions, any strategies can’t actually be tried and tested (Notes Two).

And there’s so much to care about in this world; so many issues we’d rightly feel inspired to fight for. In every area there are important battles to be fought around “what it means to be human”. Modernity wraps its tendrils throughout our lives; challenging us to uphold what matters and discard whatever’s working against it.

Within that, living alongside one another can seem almost indescribably hard. While we might not always agree – often, over issues that truly do matter – could there still be space on the edges of us to accept others as they are while holding to those higher values or perspectives that may be needed? What do we achieve when we don’t make that space?

Tolerance may never be easy: allowing something we disagree with to exist in our presence, unchallenged. And, with choices said to define us, it’s perhaps inevitable our lines of identity become points of conflict: if self is on the line, it’s almost natural we’d attack the opposing ideas that threaten us (Notes Three).

Giving people space to work out their thoughts without insisting on our own begins to seem a surprisingly generous attitude. Especially when there’s so little time for hearing others out or discussing things in all their fullness – when we’re squeezing meaningful communication into stolen, passing moments.

Can life happen that way, or only this distracted, half-finished echo of it? So, while everything matters, carving out time or space – physically or psychologically – to do it justice sometimes seems an impossible task.

Notes and References:

Note 1: One thing leads to another
Note 1: All we want to do passes through community
Note 1: Is this the ultimate test?
Note 1: Questions around choice
Note 1: This thing called love
Note 2: Would we be right to insist?
Note 2: Imperfection as perfection?
Note 2: Problems & the thought that created them
Note 2: Doing the right thing, we erase consequences
Note 2: What if solutions aren’t solutions?
Note 3: Letting people change
Note 3: Education as a breaking away?
Note 3: Thoughts of idealism and intolerance
Note 3: Authenticity & writing our own story
Note 3: Making things up as we go along

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Society that doesn’t deal with the soul

With everything that’s going on in life, it’s strange to think no one’s really so concerned with what’s going on inside – our inner lives or, for want of another word, the soul. If we were to see all that goes on within us as significant, valuable and important, why is it treated as if it’s of no relevance or interest to society?

Isn’t it what we’re all living with? Our own memories, experiences, hopes and dreams. All those paths we’ve walked, people we’ve met, ideas we’ve entertained, and moments we’ve lived to this point. The perspective we’ve gained on life and expectations we have in mind about it must be a huge reality for every single person. From the human viewpoint, it’s perhaps all there is.

What do we have but our inner life? The ways society’s ideas affect us and make us feel about ourselves, others, and existence itself. The kinds of relationships we’ve tended to have, whether nurturing and life-affirming or something quite different. Isn’t everything we’ve encountered in life part of this inner landscape of lessons learnt, emotions felt, and habitual responses forged over time? (Notes One)

I’m not sure can we say that doesn’t matter, that we shouldn’t take things personally, when it’s conceivably all personal. Isn’t anything that deals with people “personal”? Any action, word or attitude that touches another can be seen as personal; much as we may claim it wasn’t intended that way. Everything that happens within society must – on one level – be personal in that it’s all happening to, for, by, or around people.

Yet aren’t we often being treated as mere physical objects? Interacted with on the abstract, hypothetical basis of ideas about “human nature” and how to “manage it” within modern communities. As if, in order to cope with this way of living, we reduce others to being simply concepts of humanity – not quite acknowledging them as real people so we can make it through the day.

Of course, there is a lot of overwhelm to modern life – this constant inundation of new information, hefty emotional content, and the difficulty of brushing up alongside relative “strangers” in both physical and virtual reality (Notes Two). Faced with that, it’s perhaps “natural” we prioritise managing our own lives and what matters most to us, rather than worrying unduly about everyone around us.

Which seems to mean no one’s really that bothered about soul, about the bigger human picture of how this is coming together. So, we’re treated fairly coldly; picked apart quite callously by industry calculations; pushed around almost carelessly by culture’s critical judgement. An “each to his own” mentality that seems, sometimes, to forget we’re all human with inner lives that matter (Notes Three).

While it seems impossible to actually deny the richness and beauty of the human soul, as captured within culture, philosophy or thought; it also seems we’re living in ways that aren’t fully taking into account the real value and significance of all our conscious experiences of existence.

Notes and References:

Note 1: Personal archaeology
Note 1: Complication of being human
Note 1: Problems & the thought that created them
Note 1: Going towards the unknown
Note 2: Overwhelm and resignation
Note 2: What’s the idea with culture?
Note 2: True relationship within modern society?
Note 2: Mastering life’s invisible realities
Note 2: Attacks on our humanity
Note 2: Is this the ultimate test?
Note 3: Absolute or relative value
Note 3: Treating people like sims?
Note 3: Where do ideas of evolution leave us?
Note 3: What it is to be human

Turning to those who are, in various ways, attempting to address the inner life, there is Literature that’s treating the soul.

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Picking up after one another

If we’re doing something but don’t quite do all that’s involved, what does that mean? Isn’t it that somebody – ourselves or someone else – ends up having to complete the task some other time? Anytime we’re not completely taking responsibility for what we’re involved in, someone along the line has to pick up those pieces.

At the level of society, that must create burdens: people carrying weight and those adding more. If we’re leaving rubbish behind in public spaces, someone will have to pick it up if these things aren’t to accumulate. It seems important to see life that way, to realise how anything we’re not fully seeing through becomes our community’s problem (Notes One).

More personally, it seems we can do something similar to ourselves: past, present and future self all perhaps stand in that relationship to one another. Procrastinating, planning insufficiently or letting things drift, aren’t we effectively just saving up problems for ourselves at another time? Understanding more, we’d perhaps avoid such a scenario (Notes Two).

If we saw the connections between our actions now and the consequences catching up with us later, might we do differently? Maybe changing our ways gets easier when we truly realise that we’re only doing it to ourselves. But, to think that way, we’d have to believe in and care about our future; if it looked like we might as well live for the moment, thoughts of acting responsibly towards our future might never arise.

Individually as much as collectively, maybe responsibility depends on believing something has value? That sacrificing our desires for the good of society was valued. That this path we’re asked to walk and all that’s expected of us along the way leads somewhere worthwhile. If our community doesn’t seem to value, appreciate or care for us then why would we be inspired to limit ourselves on its behalf?

I’m unsure where this train of thought has wandered – maybe to the point that if we’re to take full responsibility for anything then we may need to understand why and believe the reasons to be true? Maybe we need more inspiring reason than “because you must”, “everyone has to” or “this is how it is”. Beyond all the traditional threats, moralising and incentives is there any more comprehensive reasoning on offer? (Notes Three)

In many ways, I see this is pulling at the threads of society. It’s the sense of how to encourage and uphold the kinds of behaviour community life depends upon: responsible behaviour. Doesn’t society need us to act that way? To do what’s best for us and for others. To not go about creating problems. To find the right relationship to the present moment so we’re acting wisely with an eye to the future.

It’s the wisdom of thinking beyond the present moment – considering all the personal and systemic ripples going out from the choices we’re making and example we’re setting. Thinking that way mightn’t come naturally, but otherwise won’t we all be living with the consequences?

Notes and References:

Note 1: Market forces or social necessities
Note 1: Any escape from cause & consequence?
Note 1: The idea of think globally, act locally
Note 1: Ethics, money & social creativity
Note 2: Problems & the thought that created them
Note 2: Doing the right thing, we erase consequences
Note 3: Do we really need incentives?
Note 3: Common sense as a rare & essential quality
Note 3: If society’s straining apart, what do we do?
Note 3: What keeps us in check
Note 3: Tell me why I should

Sometimes it seems that the foundation of life perhaps rests in believing our own worth, as explored in Love of self.

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What keeps us in check

What holds us back in life? I’m thinking in the sense of restraint – what stops us from simply doing as “we” please? Is it external constraints like law and ostracization? Do we need rewards for doing the right thing? Or could an inward sense of understanding come to harmoniously regulate our actions?

There’s so much theory around what motivates people – how to inspire or compel them in different ways. The predictability or reliability of our behaviour seems a valuable asset. Society must be easier to run if we’re all acting in consistent, integrated and mutually beneficial ways. Industry must prefer having a captive or loyal basis for its products and services.

Perhaps we’re best guided by fear? Threats of suffering, abandonment or isolation seem pretty effective in controlling people. Incentives also work well – anything to sweeten the deal and make us feel we’ve made a wise or personally-advantageous decision. Maybe those are simply heightened versions of natural consequences? That, ideally, we’d do what’s best and not do what’s damaging or problematic.

Causality presumably serves to limit us? The fact that, down the line, our actions’ effects inevitably add up to something helpful or harmful to us, others, or our community more generally (Notes One). Maybe our “constructed” threats and promises are merely artificial signals of that reality? Although, it does seem they’re often used to direct us toward more questionable outcomes.

Then there’s conformity – how we’re social creatures, strongly influenced by the standards of any group we aspire to be part of. Something that’s leveraged so purposefully through education, modern media and marketing. In its natural form, communities generally seem to have had strong sets of values and ideals for members to uphold. These days, it’s all seeming quite conscious and calculating.

Is it just that we “know” all this now? Knowing social acceptance to be powerful in shaping individuals, maybe it’s only natural we employ that tool to create what we’re wanting. Once you know something, it’s probably almost impossible to go back to using it subconsciously – or, having it used on us – without feeling an element of coercion.

There’s also the question of whether ideals, in and of themselves, have power to hold society together. Can values shape and reinforce social realities simply through having inspired us all to freely uphold them? I suppose that’s also an aim within education, media and culture more broadly: instilling principles and patterns of behaviour that’ll help maintain healthy communities (Notes Two).

But, even then, there’s some sort of balance to be struck between inner and outer regulation – do we “need” to regulate ourselves in order for “this” to work? Living alongside others conceivably depends, in various ways, on discipline, duty and self-sacrifice; attitudes of ego and competitive advantage perhaps working against us. Maybe society needs our understanding and devotion?

Looking at all that sustains us – this harmonious coexistence with others and with nature (Notes Three) – it’s interesting to consider to what extent we’re chipping away at what’s holding it all together.

Notes and References:

Note 1: Need to suffer in order to change?
Note 1: Fear or coercion as motivators
Note 1: Do we really need incentives?
Note 1: Any escape from cause & consequence
Note 2: Tell me why I should
Note 2: Making adjustments
Note 2: Doing the right thing, we erase consequences
Note 2: If society’s straining apart, what do we do?
Note 3: Technology & the lack of constraint
Note 3: Smart to play the system?
Note 3: Intrinsic value of nature
Note 3: Trust in technology?

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