Living An Idea
One of the greatest frustrations in my life is my ability, or inability, to live an idea without faltering. This may seem a little strange given the fact that for all but two years of my life I have been disabled — and one would assume that not being able to do the things that able-bodied people can would be my greatest frustration. If you think that then you do not really understand what disabled can mean or not mean.
For most people, I should qualify able-bodied people, the assumption is probably commonly held that if you have some form of disability, especially a physical one, that your biggest problem in life — your biggest frustration — your wish of wishes would be to be without that disability. Not so. I think that it is very common for people who have had a disability for a long time to come to terms with it and even, if you may, find its positive side. Let me illustrate. I contracted Polio at age two and spent ten or eleven months in hospital. A lot of that time was in isolation or isolated wards that were, in the late 1940’s really isolated. Throughout my childhood I dealt with and learned to live with my disability, not without some great frustration, until as a young adult I came to the realization that the disability had shaped who I had become. In fact, I believed and do still believe that if it were not for my disability I might be a quite different individual — in fact, I might even be someone that I would not like if I meet them today. This idea came to me slowly over time and has developed into a real belief. I have come to understand who I am and really appreciate and like me, so the thought of having a choice at some point in my early life to not be disabled does not bring the automatic response “YES” that one might expect for with that also come changes in who I am and would have become that might be fundamental enough for me to not like that person. So, if given the opportunity to re-live my life without contracting Polio and the associated disabilities it creates, would generate a polite “No Thanks”, I’m happy with who I am – type statement.
Even now as I sit and write the words that I have thought about and considered for many years, off and on, sitting in a wheelchair having lost enough mobility that if I had to work without it – I could not. Even under these circumstances I am happy with who I am and truly believe that what I have had to do to live with my disability has enabled me to become a person a bit different and, in my mind, much more likely to be who I had hoped to become in the beginning.
So what does this have to do with living with an idea? It reminds me of just how hard it is to live a certain way. The disability created by Polio forced the situation. It was either cope or succumb. Win or loose. The idea of which I am talking about here is more of a philosophy or style of living. Living in a way that one has come to believe is right or at least better is in itself a challenge. I believe I know a lot of people who really have little or no idea of why they live the way they do. They seem so involved in living that the reasons for it and their fundamental actions escape them, or at least or so subliminal that they never or rarely enter the conscious plane. Then there are people like me, and actually my son and daughter, who think deeply about the process of living and how one approaches that process at a personal level. What we do, the way we react to situations and individuals, the methods we employ to solve problems or move forward through situations are based on our fundamental philosophy of life and living. If we have given little or no thought to just why we live and what our living means then we are functioning form a position that is best described as instinctive or animalistic. This is, from a position where what we do is governed more by the time and the situation than from a set of well thought out beliefs and axioms. It is for this reason that people often react or should I say over react to situations that are at the boundary of their existence. When this happens people instinctively react and proceed based on there fundamental beliefs, which if not thought out fully, are unable to provide a reasonable plan of action or reaction. When this situation is reached the reaction or action becomes motivated and steered by the situation instead of the persons beliefs.
I believe we can see this type of living played out in the news when people, seemingly “normal” and in a position that is accepted as part of the society reacting in irrational or unexpected ways. It is also the type of action that we find in situations of stress where groups of young people are involved. It is at that time we find persons most likely to act in a way that they did not rally intend. Act in a way that is contrary to what they have learned or believe. In both of these cases we find people becoming part of the process instead of acting on their own.
In terms of my frustration it is my inability to continually maintain a lifestyle that mirrors my philosophical beliefs. I find that no matter how hard I try I seem always to fall away from the path that I know to be right. I suppose this is human nature and is probably the most important thing that separates man from God. For I believe that every human finds the need to live to an ideal that by its nature is unattainable. For the ideal develops from that set of beliefs and maxims that flow from a spiritual sense and act in a concrete way throughout our lives. These set of spiritual values and beliefs may come in the form of an organized religion or they may flow from self introspection, or from both. I believe that it is the nature of humans to develop and strive toward this type of value system. Living an idea occurs when we practice what we believe in everything we do.
I believe that the contradiction between what we believe and wish to do and what we actually do is inherently part of being a human. Humans are built upon contradictions not the least of which is our moral/spiritual self. What we believe is a compilation of what we were taught and learned on our own from a wide variety of sources including the world in which we live. In addition, we are both materialistic and spiritual by nature and these two components of our self are in stark contradiction. the materialistic side is what has motivated us as both individuals and as a species to move into a position of world remake — a far cry from our early beginnings as nomadic hunter gatherers. Our materialistic side forces us to compete, problem solve, acquire and remake our selves and everything that comes in contact with us. This is not necessarily bad. To be able to control elements of the environment can be a positive because it allows a species with both intelligence and an ability to vision into the future to consider what is around them and then make decisions that will affect generations of all kinds yet unborn. In this way people can create a world that, for some span of time, functions upon the rules and vision of men more than those maximums imposed by natural and physical laws. We can, for instance, choose to be part of the food web or apart from it. By choosing to be part we place ourselves in a position where we consider not only the implications of our own actions but also those actions of other organisms. We counter for unforeseen circumstances such as a flood or fire and modify to either prevent or reduce the chances of an occurrence or we intervene after the fact and repair a situation that might take eons to replace and repair if left to natural and physical laws or would remain un-repaired completely. In this way we are intervening in the flow of nature but we are doing it from a position of loving caretaker.
On the other hand, being materialistic puts us in a position to profit form the earth and the organisms and things on and in it in a way that destroys what was in favor of some new thing that would have never happened without our intervention. Consider global changes caused by the actions of humans such as water and air pollution, the denuding of the planet thorough irrigation (which in semi-arid areas eventually leads to desertification), and the wholesale slaughter of countless species of flora and fauna. True that if left to their own design they may have ultimately disappeared on their own and our intervention or actions has only hastened the inevitable — but, there is no real way of measuring the destructive potential of removing a species or a natural land form purposefully in terms of its future ramifications.
The spiritual nature of humans is a value that no individual can fully live up to. It is utterly impossible to live a completely spiritual existence, adhering to a set of divinely inspired laws and beliefs, because the human mind will not allow itself to be confined, and, by definition, spiritual values no matter what the name, are condoning. The best a person can hope to do is to continually battle to maintain a spiritual existence as the foremost motivating factor of ones daily thoughts and actions, realizing that there will never be a time when those actions and beliefs will be completely without contradiction from the materialistic side of the individual. In like manner it is impossible for a group of individuals, weather as a nation, a sect, a nationality, a gender or a community — to function as a whole on a completely spiritual plane. The mere fact that a group of people are working together creates a situation where the materialistic aberrations of envy, greed, self-denial, and distrust are always present. In any group, no matter how harmoniously formed, the group teeters on a precipice of dissolving into individuals. For that reason it is common in groups of all kinds to designate, in what ever manner acceptable to the group, some type of leadership. This true function of the leadership is to legislate in favor of the group by imposing limitations and conditions on the individuals.
Living an idea then becomes an internal struggle that is played out moment by moment as an individual or group of individuals try to live by and believe in some commonly held body of information. The living becomes a process of self renewal contrasted with self dissolution. The dissolution part of the cycle is built upon our inability to truly adhere to the body of information and the self-renewal occurs as we try to rationalize our lapses and plan anew to try again.