Perspective

The way we look at the world influences how we understand reality. Using different points of reference two people can interpret the same facts to mean totally different things.

Since I was a kid I have been interested in philosophy. I’ve read all kinds of books for it, mostly fiction. Perhaps one of the most influential was Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn. That book changed me. I have written hundreds of pages working on 3 different books since then, but they have always been about the same core idea, the idea Ishmael taught me to see: Sustainability.

My passion for sustainability has lead me to study all kinds of things. I discovered E.O. Wilson, a Harvard biologist who came up with the idea of bio-diversity. I learned of the largely human-driven mass extinction of species the world faces today, a clear and immediate threat to sustainability from my point of view.

I studied journalism and got very invested in politics, where again I saw issues of sustainability: The fabric of our country degrading beneath the weight of corporate corruption, where non-logic is frequently used to “justify” decisions that hurt the many for the benefit of the few.

I learned about Economic Democracy from one of its founding thinkers, Dr. David Schweickart.

Even recently I have been faced with a hard personal choice regarding school; to continue at my “dream school” directly pursuing a degree where it would be my job to write about sustainability issues, or to change schools and majors to study IT and computers. Ironically I leaning toward leaving my path pursuing a career of writing about sustainability – because it just did not seem economically sustainable – its job prospects and potential to make sufficient money seemed dim.

Have I let fear push me down this new path? I don’t know. As many hours and as much work as I have invested in that passion, the need for money grows ever more intense as I get older. I am worried even if I really tried my hardest, that it wouldn’t be enough, but even doing that – trying my very hardest – has never come easily to me because I’ve always been able to succeed without trying, success in school always came easily to me. Brilliant but lazy, others have said. Honestly grades have never been important to me, education has always been more about gaining knowledge and skills for me – as long as the grades pass and get me into the next classes, that was good enough for me despite the ability to do better.

As much as I have enjoyed the last 7 years of my life driven by that passionate interest in sustainability, I have also been held prisoner by that perspective. Everything I read that interests me seems to connect to that issue, seems to self-fulfill that prophecy. I have seen so much evidence that indicates to me the present course of human society – both American and globally – is not sustainable and needs major and immediate reforms.

This is a bit dark, though I can’t help but consider it a realist perspective. And I certainly share the common weakness for imagining utopia – that if everyone saw as I saw many of our problems could disappear overnight. But because I value diversity I have intentionally sought people who disagree with me to debate with. Time and again, for every five people disagreeing with me for stupid reasons, I have found at least one person who saw things differently than I but had the logic and evidence to support their position. Those people have taught me how arrogant and immature I can be, and for that I am very grateful to them.

I was so sure of my ideas, maybe some of them were accurate or even insightful, but now I am steeped in doubt about their validity. I have been seeing what I want to see – the same as the dogmatically religious do, yet I presumed to imagine my ideas were all objective. Passion is a worthless asset if it’s pointed in a false direction.

Once a strong idea takes root in a person nothing but their own reflection can free them from its grasp, and this is both powerful and dangerous because ideas determine actions and behaviors. I suppose my goal is to make sure that because of this I surround myself with good ideas. But the only way to tell for sure the quality of and idea is for it to be applied, so that we may find out its results and measure them. Show, don’t tell basically.

We must be allowed to experiment, to try different ideas out to find the victors. Competition sharpens and betters things, as it does in nature and business. But how to experiment in one’s own life? How to know if what we seem so sure of – is truly real, or worth risking everything for? Is it wise to risk everything on idealism? Admirable to do so on the often flawed fervor of youth? Or is that foolishness?

I do not know the answers, but damn these questions are interesting me lately.

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