Define "a Life"...

... still searching for a clear definition of that thing people keep telling me I need to get...

Location: Springfield, PA

Sunday, July 24, 2005

From the Sublime to...

From one extreme to another. I got another fortune cookie yesterday (Saturday) and, as if to make up for the absence of a fortune in the last cookie I got, this cookie contained not one, not two, but three smug little slips of paper. Not only do I get a replacement fortune for last time, but I also get a bonus fortune to compensate for the inconvenience. Thus (in no particular order):

You take a optimistic view of life. [sic]

Get your mind set --- confidence will lead you on.

You are generous to an extreme and always think of the other fellow.

Well... okay. Nice try. None of them seems quite so apt or felicitous as the missing fortune, and at least one is wildly inaccurate (not to mention ungrammatical).

"You take a optimistic view of life." Not these days, cookie. Sorry. Pick your reason -- my personal life, national or international politics, society in general. These days I'm pondering the question of which is worse, the disappointment of the optimist at being proven wrong or the disappointment of the pessimist at being proven correct. I'm almost to the point where I no longer bother correcting grammar. Almost.

"Get your mind set --- confidence will lead you on." Oh yeah. Confidence will lead you on, alright. Throw you a few compliments, nurture a high opinion of yourself by pointing out the relative stupidity of practically everybody else, support the idea of your own superiority with a few insignificant successes and assure you you're unappreciated because most people can't grasp your greatness and those who can are jealous. Yeah, Confidence will lead you on. Will it ever. Next thing you know Confidence has borrowed your favorite CDs, snagged the emergency cash from the back of your sock drawer, failed to meet you for coffee and stopped returning phone calls.

"You are generous to an extreme and always think of the other fellow." Putting aside for the moment the sexual connotation which is somehow inevitably evoked by the simply use of the term "fellow," this is a pretty good estimation of a fatal flaw in my character. (Actually, restore the sexual connotation and it's still a fairly accurate summary of my romantic failures.) Now, don't get me wrong here. I'm not advocating greed, selfishness and general disregard for others. It's just that ethics, selflessness and consideration haven't been evidencing much in the way of long term success for me. And keep in mind that my definition of "success" here is pretty easily fulfilled. It's a lot like the basic beginning precept of the hypocratic oath: first, do no harm. In order for those things to be a success in my view they simply need to have caused no harm. No reward needed. That's not how "success" is measured here. The whole "its own reward" routine actually does work -- until the damage passes disproportionate and approaches ridiculous. When you're not concerned with measuring gain it's very easy for diminishing returns to slip into actual losses without your noticing.

Any why is it that when the well goes dry people blame the bucket?


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