The core of life: Hope, Love, Respect

I had a moment today when things made sense and that’s a sign that I should sit down and start typing.  Sometimes my internal mind-scape is overly complicated, there are complexities and subtleties in every interaction of any  given objects.  The desire to understand them is powerful and maddening.  The desire to understand things itself is worth looking at.  On some level desire is either goal-oriented or primal.  Maybe that’s not so clear, by goal-oriented I mean secondary, your desire to move is inspired by the carrot on the stick; I want to understand in order to feel something or prove my worth or feel peace.  In my moment of understanding I saw through the desire to the heart of what I want.

Three words passed through my mind:  Hope, Love, and Respect.  I felt like exploring each of them as primal emotions or objects or desires or whatever you might describe them as.  So I will.

Hope is one of the secrets to life.  In Bob Dylan’s poem Last thoughts on Woody Guthrie hope is given as the cure for that feeling of being lost, beaten up, confused, overwhelmed by pressures of modern life…. and he’s right.  In times of pessimism the door is open for doubt, defeat, despair, etc… and when you find some rationale for optimism the dark feelings seem less empowered, peace, happiness, contentment is free to return.  Nothing has to change, you can be sitting in one spot and have your perspective change in one moment and the world can go from bleak to bright.  Hope is a powerful thing.

In between that last sentence and here I had several days and several flights, this might make for some sort of discontinuity, we’ll see.  Regardless I’m also inclined to suspect that my sense of hope or hopelessness is a function of my internal narrative.  When I see a pattern in life that worries me the solution is often a story that explains it within the context of my worldview/map of reality.    For the scientist this is essentially the same as having a reliable model, it might not be the eventual truth, but it explains the observable for the moment and so long as this working explanation/model doesn’t contradict some long held truth then peaceful sleep returns.

The next core emotion that came into mind was love followed quickly by respect.  I wanted to break these apart into two things and look at them, but I’ve changed my mind.  One of the issues in life that is hard for me to understand (a pattern which doesn’t yet fit my map of reality) is the hierarchal structure of society.  Even in America, the country which strove to do away with aristocracy, its easy to see class structure.  To borrow a word we’ve replaced aristocracy with what we think is meritocracy, the power goes to those who’ve earned it.  This does seem like a decent system compared with monarchies being passed down bloodlines, but the part I’m so uncomfortable with is the fact that power exists and is sought after.  As soon as there are positions of power then there are positions of powerlessness, in fact for every one powerful person there must me a multitude of people under them.  It’s a social pyramid.  According to Ronald Wright’s ‘A short history of progress’ civilization is a pyramid scheme, and this is no modern phenomenon.  He claims that civilizations have a tendency to unravel because of two basic problems: 1) populations expand to the level of the food supply and 2) civilizations tend towards social hierarchies.  I see love and respect as the key to undoing this second problem.  I suspect on some level that most of what motivates us in life is the desire to be loved and that typically means being respected too: having people care about what goes on in your world, people to listen to you, people to perhaps comfort you, support you, and so on.  One of the little lessons in life that comes out of a good Kurt Vonnegut novel is that everyone has a story, every little character has a perspective, complexities, issues, strengths, desires.  Being heard and respected is something those with high status get for free, but the janitors often get glossed over, even if their thoughts are no less subtle or powerful.  With that in mind I feel like a strategy for mental health is to try and surround yourself with people who will love you and listen to you without pretension.  While on the other hand you should be the change you want to see in the world, so try your best to love and listen to and empathize with the people around you.  It’s hard to hate someone who’s perspective you see.  I see the act of embracing people around you as loving them, and I saw respect as the thing that we strive for… I won’t distinguish them like that anymore, just that giving love/respect will go a long way in warming people around you and easing social tendencies which don’t create psychological benefit, while finding people who can love/respect is likely what motivates a massive amount of our decisions.  Maybe this can lead to a way of hacking life, achieving the emotional goals without having to get a statue of us made somewhere.

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