Getting around things

How often in life are we simply trying to find ways around things? Looking for how to achieve our aims or overcome what stands in our way. The human mind forever reading its surroundings and seeking its most rewarding path forward. Is that how we meet the world? Seeing it all from our perspective and identifying ways “we” might manifest our desires.

Maybe the mind simply “reads” any system or situation – as a board game – to find its best options: weighing the benefit of any given strategy and the likelihood of getting caught. That, as thinking beings, we naturally apply ourselves to understanding our position, what we can do and how it might help. Flowing like water against any attempt to restrict us; finding the points where our interests might somehow prevail.

Isn’t it destined to bring us into conflict wherever those interests converge? All those moments where we take, say or do something that impacts others or limits their opportunities. This sense of life as this perpetual dance of give and take as our needs and capacities “meet” in the complex interactions of society – all sharing space, resources, and whatever hand we were dealt.

In its way, isn’t society all about the systems, conventions, laws and obligations tying us together? This attempt to put guidelines in place that let us freely interact within the limits of a common agreement. The restriction which needs to be there if we’re not to live lives of perpetual conflict, violence and aggression. Isn’t that the point of it all? To help delineate the circumstances within which we might harmoniously coexist.

What happens, then, if we approach “society” as something to get around? Straining against its wisdom; testing the limits of others’ patience; creating all this tension, anger or stress as individuals pull against what’s aiming to unite us. Almost this picture of community as a cage or leash we’re hoping to be free of – resenting the fact our existence is tethered to others.

Is it the best way to think of society? As a personal trap we seek to escape; a series of obstacles we must find ways around to secure whatever we want. That, restrictions only existing to thwart us and benefit others, we “should” simply pursue our own interests. Maybe, though, society’s counting on self-interest as our drive for social engagement.

Not to say societies necessarily embody perfect wisdom – that there’s not an indispensable, ongoing conversation to be had – but as a basic gesture, why is it we tend to approach limits as something to overcome? What does it “do” to society if that’s how we relate ourselves to its restrictions? If, our own plans and desires looming that much larger than anyone else’s, we rail against anything curbing “our” personal freedom.

Is it that, once written, rules effectively change the game as we play against them? Or, that alongside it all we need some form of compelling vision that’s inspiring us to limit ourselves for the sake of something greater.

Notes and References:

Belonging & believing
What’s at the heart of society?
Can there be joy in contracts?
What inspires collective endeavours
Mutual awareness and accommodation?
Picking up after one another
What holds it all together
Smart to play the system?
Created a system we seek to escape?
People, rules & social cohesion

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All we’re trying to uphold

Thinking of all life is and how it comes together, what is it that our actions serve to uphold? This idea that, in countless small ways, everything we do feeds into various systems that, together, weave this picture of all our lives “are” and the meaning we feel we’re creating through it all. As if, somehow, we’re always creating something by way of our understanding and our action.

Ideally, I’d imagine “life” were structured and communicated in such a way that we each understood perfectly what all our choices were playing into. This sense of our ideas and decisions weaving in harmony with our surroundings to create exactly what we all need. That, at any place where competing desires converge on a single point, we’d know how to make that judgement for the best outcomes. (Notes One)

Yet, it also seems that understanding goes in waves: that, at times, we might forget the reasoning, the causality, the consequences that brought any given piece of tradition, advice or convention into existence and decide we’ll go our own way. If we’re not seeing the results of our actions – the impacts on ourselves, others or the systems we all form part of – how are we to limit ourselves for their sake?

If we’re not seeing, at least in thought, what everything we do “means” for our surroundings, isn’t it natural we focus on our own concerns? With consequences hidden behind inscrutable screens, the idea of understanding what we’re doing seems to become a little strange: as if, from our perspective, actions might seem totally normal while simultaneously contributing to looming problems out beyond our awareness. (Notes Two)

At the core, it must come down to this idea of grasping what our lives are – our place within reality – then acting consistently from that understanding and from whatever values we have underpinning it. As if life, in its way, is philosophical: based on insight, belief and the will to carry those ideals through into our actions. (Notes Three)

Because, even if we’re not seeing things that way, don’t our actions uphold it all anyway? Everything – perhaps quite unconsciously – plugged into all those systems everyone’s lives are embedded within as all our social, cultural, interpersonal, economic, emotional and natural impacts ripple out around us each day. Aren’t we all these incredibly independent starting points for everything that is being set in motion?

Seeing the significance of every area of our lives is daunting, though, especially when things so often seem to “need” our conscious engagement in maintaining or improving them. Almost as if we’re in battle with our natural inclinations toward self-interest and ease, forever needing to place ourselves in others’ positions or extend our understanding to see what’s happening behind the scenes in the world around us. (Notes Four)

Within the increasingly global relationships making up our lives, how are we to truly grasp the nature of what we’re involved in and make sure we’re actually upholding all that we genuinely believe to be valuable?

Notes and References:

Note 1: Life as adjustments in meaning
Note 1: Holding back, for the sake of others
Note 1: Learning all we need to know
Note 2: Wisdom the world no longer gives?
Note 2: How much everything is connected
Note 2: Any choice but to take a stand?
Note 3: Pieces of the puzzle
Note 3: Being conscious of our constructions
Note 3: Belonging & believing
Note 4: Conversations we agree to have
Note 4: Somewhere between ideals & realities
Note 4: Threads, becoming a united whole

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Progress, at what cost & to whom?

How is it that we really “see” life? This strange conglomeration of humanity that’s living such different lives in different places yet still all forming part of this one, increasingly global society. What “is” the bigger picture of the lives we all lead, the activities we’re engaged in, the meanings we weave about it, and ways it feels, as a human, to live on earth alongside so many others of our kind?

Often, it’s seeming quite a depressing sense of seeing one another as competitors rather than allies – pushing people down to step ahead and ensure “our own” advantage. As if, inherently seeing life as division, we’re mainly concerned with not losing out. It must be that the ideas with which we “approach” reality make quite a significant difference to how we see and respond to it?

It just seems we’re pulling in two directions: wanting to rush ahead and achieve all that is possible while struggling to allow for others to truly catch up. That fundamental desire for progress, perhaps? To draw on the skills, insights and capacities that exist within the human community to make the most of this current period of opportunity – this one, rolling lifetime we’re all living through.

Isn’t there the risk of a two-speed society? The pace of progress having created all of these expectations that perhaps only the truly wealthy can afford; the rest struggling to tread water and feel worthwhile within that strange picture of escalating perfection. Aren’t our notions of individual worth closely tied into keeping up with it all? With all the experiences, belongings and appearances money can buy.

Almost as if “progress” is this weight added to the mass of humanity as the entry-level costs of social participation forever rise. How can this world sustain our ongoing consumption and waste? All the things we feel we need. How long can the human mind juggle all the demands being made on our time and engagement? All living in this strange world, mediated by the machinations of technology and the minds of its makers.

Sometimes it seems we’re just chasing the coat tails of progress while living through the whirlwind of its repercussions. Striving to attain the unattainable – destinations that will forever be shifting just beyond most people’s reach. As if “progress” is this myth we’re inspired to pursue, despite the fact it’s built around unsustainable notions of constant differences setting us apart.

Although, it does seem those “in charge” have their visions for how this world will look and the roles we’ll have to play in things; as if “all this” is simply some grand experiment being conducted at the level of “humanity”. Where – so much being determined by birth, while only a few can rise to lead others towards their version of progress – the bulk of society is perhaps just being carried into a future that’s little improved.

Of all the lifetimes humanity has lived through, this one sometimes seems strangely divisive in the ways it’s carving us up.

Notes and References:

How much everything is connected
Seeing what things mean
Responsibility for the bigger picture
Bringing things into awareness
Do markets create strange social forces?
Gaining clarity on the choices before us
Lacking the human side of community?
What should be leading us?
Charting our own course
Somewhere between ideals & realities

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Somewhere between ideals & realities

Is it that we’re always living somewhere between ideals and reality? All things existing at some point on this scale from the beautiful, rarefied world of philosophical concepts all the way down to their often-flawed implementations, within which we tend to find ourselves tangled in the real world. As if we’re all living in some imperfect version of the dream – the imagined and hoped-for manifestation of perfect wisdom.

And, as humans, we can surely understand both: we can grasp how things “should be” and see all the ways reality’s falling short in so many aspects of our lives. The mind both thinks and observes; seeing the ideas and noticing the realities. Don’t we feel it? All the painful imperfection of inspiringly beautiful concepts somehow being distorted, broken or discarded at various moments within everyday life.

Maybe that’s simply where a lot of mental discomfort steps in? This build-up of all the times we’re seeing notions of kindness, fairness, respect, consideration, patience, interest, tolerance, reciprocity, honesty or concern fall away in the face of their opposite. As if reality’s almost this seeking of balance between opposing extremes: each day filled with moments where ideals should, perhaps, step in to guide our actions.

How “are” we to live in such a world? A place where what we know, feel or believe to be right is up against all these examples of completely different kinds of thinking. This sense in which the childlike desire for fairness and love is almost inevitably crumpled along the individual’s path to maturity. As if our ideals “have” to somehow be broken in order for us to live within society and accept its parameters.

Is it true? That there’s no place for idealism. No way in which we could string all of humanity’s finest concepts into some kind of workable configuration. No possibility of our lives unfolding in perfect harmony alongside countless others. As if we simply have to accept imperfection; our own minds perhaps forever taunting us over the niggling ideals we hoped would find their place in our lives.

It seems the kind of dissonance that could break the human spirit, wearing us down to the point of dejected fatalism. That the mind would be capable of seeing and appreciating such concepts yet destined to exist within their flawed manifestation. It seems likely to prompt either anger or resignation: the emotions sparked by this frustration striking out in fiery indignation or folding in to become bitter apathy.

Between those, hopefully there would always be points of engagement? Places we could discuss things and understand exactly how or why the realisation of our finest ideals presents such a challenge. Somewhere to insist on bringing those values to life and create awareness around all the fine lines crisscrossing every moment of every aspect of everything we do – and, all the problems that come by ignoring them.

Finding those places – countless as they may be – might be far from easy, but where are we likely to end up otherwise?

Notes and References:

Wisdom the world no longer gives?
Conversations we agree to have
Pieces of the puzzle
What’s at the heart of society?
Does money crowd out other values?
Seeing what things mean
Living through the changes

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What’s at the heart of society?

Looking to the heart of society, isn’t it simply individuals? Countless people, all unique in their own way, tangled up in all this activity that, together, makes up the details of all our lives. Society perhaps then being all those grooves of thought and activity that’ve been carved and maintained over the years – blending and evolving as each generation makes its own choices and charts collectively different paths.

All these ways people have attempted to pass on meaning or understanding through how we’ve been taught, told or shown to behave. Vast, diverse ideas of “all it is to be human” emerging from whatever particular communities deem valuable, worthwhile or acceptable. The voices of culture, education, government, media, industry, religion and family all merging into this complex sense of what life is and how we should live it.

Isn’t it the idea of us all needing to understand the whole? Its history, paths, thoughts and all the twists and turns those things have taken through time. Where exactly that leaves us, as the individuals currently trying to make sense of it all and steer things in directions that are good for everyone. Each person somehow coming to an awareness of all that’s flowing through them and how that stands within the bigger picture.

Almost as if life itself – and, society in particular – is a strange blending together of individuals and the ideas of community. Each unique person having their own nature, their own story filled with experiences, hopes, words, struggles, beliefs, memories and concerns. All of us walking our own path; trying to find how to balance what’s within us with the world that’s around us.

As if we’re all simply trying to find ways to be, to belong, to contribute and feel that contribution to be valued. The thoughts of the individual potentially jutting up quite painfully against the ideas of whatever community they happen to have been embedded within. What if the thoughts of modern society can’t contain us? Not leaving room for each person to be who they are and be seen as such.

Sometimes it seems there’s very little space in the middle of it all for communication: for self-expression and the interest it takes to genuinely listen to another, put yourselves in their shoes and see life through their eyes. As if – in this increasingly global community – we’re all talking at once, with nowhere for the conversation we’re wanting to actually happen.

In that light, is the heart of society currently confusion? Everyone pulling in their own direction, caught up in their own thoughts, struggling to be heard or find the time to hear others. As if, everything tangled in this strange free-for-all of “choice”, we’re struggling to articulate exactly how everyone’s decisions are unavoidably knocking onto everybody else and creating increasingly unmanageable situations.

Doesn’t it all matter? All the accumulating damage being done within this reality we’re all sharing. The roles we play within it all. The individuals being crumpled and scarred instead of healed.

Notes and References:

Understanding what we’re all part of
Thought, knowledge & coherent vision
Value and meaning in our lives
All that we carry around with us
Responsibility for the bigger picture
Voices within cultural life
Can our thinking match realities?

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Gaining clarity on the choices before us

With all that’s going on in life, how are we to truly see what matters or what our choices actually are? Seeing life as a sequence of decisions we make, paths we walk, consequences we set in motion, how clear is it what every step represents and how well they’re relating to all the others we might’ve taken? As if life is a tangle of separate but interrelated choices all leaning up on one another.

Life just seems to have rapidly gotten very complicated as new threads are added, new balls to juggle or plates to spin, until it’s not seeming entirely clear what we were doing in the first place and how “this” relates to what went before. As if our lives now are strangely distorted echoes of what life had always been – old practices taking on new forms and merging into something quite different.

And it almost seems inevitable: this is how life is. We either jump on board, embrace it all, or get left behind as we question the methods suggested or direction things seem to be headed. As if there’s no conversation to be had, no choice in the matter, no alternative to this broad sweeping path we’re often forced into. (Notes One)

Yet, if our lives and all the choices they entail effectively “become” the realities set in motion around us – affecting countless others across the globe, dismantling infrastructure, altering environments – isn’t it important we step back to see what it is that we’re doing? It might be a wave, a tide, with its own agenda and momentum, but is it right to be simply swept along for the ride?

In a strange way, this year seems to have really shone a light on all our lives are: the interconnectedness, the freedom, the complexity of our activities and precariousness of some aspects, the grasp we have of it all. As if our lives were all woven into this global reality few really understand – a convoluted series of transactions loosely based on our adherence to certain traditions or patterns of behaviour. (Notes Two)

As if the underlying structures – all the distinct choices, the meaning behind them and substance within them – were brought to our attention and called into question. Which things are truly essential? Things to preserve and defend at any cost as principles vital to the very essence of human existence. Which of the many things we’ve become used to could quite honestly be snipped away without any true loss?

This sense in which we’ve been asked to re-evaluate our lives and, often, constrain ourselves for the protection of people we never see. A strange test of our commitment to the invisible notion of community: how well do we understand all our lives comprise of, all the lives connected with and affected by all we do? Are we capable of limiting our own freedom for the sake of such values? (Notes Three)

Crisis or not, are we aware of all we’re actively engaged in creating?

Notes and References:

Note 1: Bringing things into awareness
Note 1: Situations which ask us to trust
Note 1: Pace of change & getting nowhere fast
Note 1: Systems, their power, whose hands?
Note 2: Integrity and integration
Note 2: All we concern ourselves with & encourage
Note 2: All we’re expected to understand
Note 2: Responsibility for the bigger picture
Note 3: Mutual awareness and accommodation?
Note 3: Appealing to human nature or the human spirit
Note 3: Lacking the human side of community?
Note 3: The incredible responsibility of freedom

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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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Times of revelation

How much, in life, is simply revealed by the course of time? Situations or truths that are there, resting somewhere beneath the surface, until such a time as they’re uncovered and exposed to the light of day.

Isn’t it generally true of health and age? That imbalances, weaknesses or problematic lifestyle factors are often there, resting until they begin to outweigh the forces of life or youth that kept them at bay. Problems waiting to happen as areas of ignorance lie unattended beneath the veneer of well-being. As if we might get away with things for so long but they’ll generally catch up with us in time.

Equally with understanding – we might skirt through life unaware of many things, happily ignorant of dynamics or insights we’d be better off knowing, but doesn’t that usually come unstuck? Cumulative errors wearing down our confidence or piling up problems we’ll eventually have to deal with. As if, in the end, we’ll come to see what we didn’t know before.

Things might be concealed – imbalance, ignorance, incomplete understanding – but aren’t they still there? Waiting until circumstances force them to the surface, where they can no longer be ignored. As if life is this path of unearthing truth from semblance; some version of the journey from ignorance to enlightenment as reality reveals what’s contained within. (Notes One)

Similarly, with society, aren’t there times when underlying beliefs or assumptions are revealed? When attitudes towards women or other groups come to light and must be addressed, for example. Isn’t it important we unearth the thinking beneath how we live and challenge it where that’s needed? If principles of equality, respect or fairness aren’t yet woven into society there must still be work to be done.

Isn’t it all, in a way, life focussing our attention on areas of imperfection? On situations where our understanding isn’t quite creating what needs to be created for the sake of society as much as individuals. Shining light on all the fracture lines we’ve been living with – divisions or flaws that might always have been there, storing up problems or resentments society’s now struggling to contain or justify. (Notes Two)

As if time, eventually, reveals any ignorance and demands we grow in wisdom to understand why something’s a problem and how to both fix it and ensure it’s no longer created, fostered or tolerated. It might be deeply confronting to uncover such imperfections and realise the parts we played in them, but isn’t that ultimately better than carrying on unaware? If problems exist, don’t they need to be resolved? (Notes Three)

Ideally, we’d all understand exactly how best to live: how to structure our lives, integrate ourselves within society, and act well for the overall benefit of those lives ours are connected with (Notes Four). In the absence of such clear and responsible insight, though, perhaps ours is more the path of having “all we don’t yet know” revealed to us? Having illusions pierced so we can glimpse whatever darkness persists underneath.

Notes and References:

Note 1: All that we carry around with us
Note 1: Everything’s interconnected
Note 1: Detaching ourselves from the past
Note 1: One thing leads to another
Note 2: Desire to retreat, need to engage
Note 2: Giving others space to be
Note 2: What should be leading us?
Note 3: Will things change if we don’t make them?
Note 3: Problems & the thought that created them
Note 3: Values, compromise & how things are
Note 3: World, heading for a breakdown?
Note 4: Integrity and integration
Note 4: Understanding & staying informed
Note 4: Green as an idea

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Why assume there’s only one set of values?

In terms of modern communication, why does it seem we assume there’s just one set of values? As if there’s only one “right” answer and, more often than not, it’s our brain that’s coming up with it. Maybe it’s an outcome of education? That we’re trained to believe such answers exist and feel our sense of worth or achievement as being attached to finding them. A sort of intellectual self-assurance.

Or, is it an outcome of Western thought? Building out from the security of knowledge that’s come from science and other forms of academia as they’ve dug down into the “truth” of physical reality to enable our various technical exploits. This strange assurance that comes from the certainty of that form of knowledge: facts, causality, logic, conclusions. As if there’s not more at work in life than that.

Who’s to say why we think the way we do? In part, it must be trained. Also, probably, absorbed somehow from the cultural environment we’re living in – that we pick up the tone, the combative moves we’re seeing evidenced around us. As if, even with our minds, we’re breathing in the surrounding atmosphere: ways of thinking seeping into how we ourselves start to see the world and interact with it.

Sometimes it seems “thought” itself has a sort of arrogance, that it somehow tends to become a personally-wielded weapon in our intellectual landscapes (Notes One). As if, in human hands, thinking becomes another source of conflict as we defend whatever ideas we have in mind. Our version of reality – with all the assumptions, colourings or emotions we’ve attached to it – becoming something we must personally defend.

More philosophically, there’s this sense of the West having sought to create or uncover universal values: this long and complex process of thought whereby those before us wrangled over the philosophical foundations for human existence and how, then, to organise our lives upon them (Notes Two). Those principles of freedom, equality, justice, and so forth having become the ground on which such societies are now built.

How is it, though, that the heritage of all that thinking has become this strangely aggressive or intolerant conversation we’re now living with? How can principles of universal humanity lead to such conflict? As if, having been told “this is right”, we now go into fight all these intellectual battles on thought’s behalf – insistently defending ideals in ways that occasionally appear to undermine those very values themselves. (Notes Three)

Not to say there aren’t universal values, but how are we to go about establishing them? It doesn’t seem we can just superimpose “one way of thinking” over the entire planet. Isn’t change always a journey? Everyone emerging from whatever ways of thought led them to this point, isn’t the ideal of agreeing upon any common set of values going to involve adjustment, discussion and growth? (Notes Four)

Maybe there are no answers, though? Maybe it’s simply for us all to engage in this challenging process of dialogue and mutual understanding.

Notes and References:

Note 1: Joining the dots
Note 1: The sense of having a worldview
Note 1: Caught in these thoughts
Note 1: Is there any end to the power of thought?
Note 1: Strange arrogance of thought
Note 2: The incredible responsibility of freedom
Note 2: “Quest for a Moral Compass”
Note 2: Mutual awareness and accommodation?
Note 3: Things we give voice to
Note 3: Anger, and where we direct it
Note 3: Thoughts of idealism and intolerance
Note 3: Can others join you?
Note 4: Values, and what’s in evidence
Note 4: Knowing the value of what you have
Note 4: Can there be beauty in communication?
Note 4: Conversation as revelation
Note 4: The value & cost of our words

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Can there be joy in contracts?

We might look at contracts as cold and boring or tiresome things, but aren’t they also a powerful sense of mutual commitment? This sense in which two or more parties have agreed to uphold something with a specific end in mind. Isn’t there almost a joy to the notion that humans might freely commit to tie themselves into the terms and conditions necessary to bring something worthwhile to life?

Looking, in broad brush terms, at the development of Western society, it seems that contracts, character, bonds, obligations and trust were always quite central ideas: this sense in which society was conceived as an agreement, a contract between citizens and the machinery developed to govern their lives (Notes One). That the conflict of times past would be replaced by the relative peace of clear terms.

Isn’t it all woven into notions of trust? That the ideas behind “all this” were right, trustworthy, and would lead to a better world. That society was filled with people whose word could be trusted, who would uphold their commitments and do all they could to permeate society with the kinds of thinking and attitudes that would serve it well. That we were in this together, and our path paved with mutual concern. (Notes Two)

Don’t laws, idealistically, aim to delineate how this ambitious contract should work? Sketching out all the areas where we must rein ourselves in and bear the interests of others firmly in mind. This delicate web of mutual regulation whereby the existence of each individual is respected, protected and, hopefully, enhanced. The fine print for exactly how our lives can come together in a vision of perfect harmony, perhaps.

Of course, we’re perhaps not entirely conscious of that – this being an almost invisible, largely unspoken contract we’re essentially born into rather than something we’ve read through and decided to sign up for. A sort of inherited engagement we’re loosely aware of unless we choose to delve more thoroughly into its limitations.

Maybe that’s the thing? There “could” be joy in contracts, provided we feel they serve us well. If people are feeling this particular inheritance isn’t offering them much opportunity, maybe it’s only natural they’d rail against it and seek to redress the terms. If people, through no fault of their own, inherit an impossible hand in life, what are we to ask them to make of it? (Notes Three)

Getting back on track, though, aren’t contracts – in principle, at least – beautiful pictures of reciprocal commitment? Of individuals engaging to take part in a dance of give and take for the sake of everyone’s ultimate benefit. Although, perhaps only if terms are freely entered into and benefits are real and mutual.

If advantages are storing up on one side while obligations stack up on the other, can that be fair? If things are leading into a future that benefits some while coming at great cost to others, might it not be that the original spirit of this may have gone terribly awry?

Notes and References:

Note 1: “Quest for a Moral Compass”
Note 1: Contracts, social or commercial
Note 1: The self within society
Note 1: Obligations and contributions
Note 2: Situations which ask us to trust
Note 2: Codes of behaviour
Note 2: Mutual awareness and accommodation?
Note 3: Value and meaning in our lives
Note 3: Humans, tangled in these systems
Note 3: Advantage people don’t want to concede
Note 3: Desire to retreat, need to engage

Thinking of contracts as akin to the realities our lives all form part of, there’s also Systems, their power, whose hands?

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