I’d love to say that the existentialists were spot-on. I love the existentialists. I like their ideals and most of them were poets or playwrights or filmmakers or constructed these grand metaphors that read like the bible. I mean, they were ambitious artists as well as philosophers.
But the unfortunate truth is that they were only half right.
We are indeed free beings, autonomous in so many ways. In reference to my last blog--My Personal Endeavor--I am free to want a wedding in France for example.
But let’s face it, in so many ways; I am at the mercy of other people.
The concept of other people can take many forms. It can be those who are instrumental to whatever endeavor you happen to be embarking on. It can be the police or even your entire society. It can be the people in the groups you travel in.
Essentially, in psychosocial reality, we’re autonomous on the “psycho” side of things and constrained on the “social” side of things.
This doesn’t mean you can never achieve your goals or pursue an endeavor, it just means you’re operating within some limits.
We are free to choose what we want, but constrained in how we go about it or if it is even possible to go about it.
The trick is to be adaptable. At some point, the constraints on you and your endeavor may force adaptation that turns the endeavor into something different, something that is no longer your goal, at which point it is completely natural and fine to move on. However, flexibility, a willingness to adapt, commitment, and diligence can often carry you to something similar enough to your original goal.
Examples of this are almost too commonplace to mention, but I’ll throw one out anyway:
You like news. You can write. You’ve dreamed of writing for a big newspaper like The New York Times. Why? It’s prestigious, it’s a steady, decent income, and you get to pal around with like-minded characters who share your passion for foreign policy and a well-written obituary.
You’ve followed your dream and gotten a degree in journalism and you’re all ready to start embedding yourself in foreign rebel army regiments. But you take a look at your life. All of your loved ones live 2,000 miles away from New York and your spouse certainly doesn’t want you interviewing Islamic insurgents in the mountains of Afghanistan--there are some “other people” you probably don’t want to associate with! Not to mention, newspapers all over the world are struggling to stay afloat and they only hire reporters when one of the three left on their staff dies or finally writes that book on the inexplicable rise of kittens getting stuck in trees.
So what do you do? You can go off to New York and probably fail because, well, that part of your endeavor just didn’t fit into your current social conditions. Or you can use what you’ve learned and still be passionate about news writing and reporting. Start a blog or freelancing. It’s not The New York Times, but you might find you really love what you do.
These are some of the realities of being human. It’s the endless push and pull of an individual and his social conditions. There’s always the constant intervention of other people.
Having a purpose, a goal, must be balanced with the surrounding conditions in which the goal must fit.
It’s quite an obvious reality in nature. A palm tree cannot survive in the Russian steppes. A polar bear would quickly die in the Sahara.
But for man, our strength is adaptability, for we thrive in all of these conditions and we have thrived in every social condition. This is in part because they were our own making, but because, on a smaller scale--an individual scale--we must work with what we have.
- Tom Kershaw
- Hi! I'm Tom and I am a full-time writer, musician, and father to a firecracker of a four year-old. My wife and I lease our house and cars from her in hopes that her considerable talents of mess-making, princess-impersonation, and stuffed animal-whispering will pay off and fund our eventual retirement in the south of France.
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