Friday, August 21, 2009

The Three Things worth Doing in Life

by Ben Atlas on 08/08/2009
Hugh MacLeod tweeted yesterday: “Three things worth doing in life: Breeding, loving and learning. Everything else is filler…” I will take this aphorism for a spin.

1. Breeding – Offspring and fertility. A woman’s life long obsession with being attractive, the confidence of being able to arouse a man. A man’s sense of self worth depending on his ability to meet the challenge.
2. Loving – the intoxication and the yearning. The “loving” is never complete if unrequited. “Speed” Levitch said it must be reciprocal. Love is about being loved, about validation of what you are. Loving includes being respected, the accolades and appreciation. If you love a man or a god and they don’t love you back, you can’t put a check mark here.
3. Learning – Trying to understand your place in the universe, an opportunity to satisfy the natural thirst, an opening to quench the curiosity. The desire to travel and see the world. By no means is this a textual manipulation.

I have never met a person who had all three in the bag. If you imagine the world as a puzzle and the goal of the game to line up all three, the jackpot is theoretical. The vast majority of people manage only one of the three life essentials. There are a small number of the lucky bastards who lined up two of those. But the fascinating human condition is that even if a single goal is at bay out of the three, humans are in a state of constant agony, like a chronic plain, the realization that a defining component of life is missing. They constantly think about it and if you are a friend you have the privilege of always hearing about it. Perhaps the wisdom is the recognition of the bargain, and if you managed to score two of the three, acceptance of your luck. Just like at the end of his remarkable speech Alain de Botton says that “every vision of success has to admit what it is loosing out on”.

When people say “money is not important” they mean it isn’t amongst the three essential goals of life but no one ever argued that money indeed can facilitate all three. Or on a more nuanced level the traditional “bazaar” is treated in the Middle Eastern cultures as an elaborate ruse to cover up the transactions in the intangibles, the ritual of pretending to trade in physical objects. Pay respect to haggling, a breeding dance with love and knowledge.

P.S. I was thinking where creativity fits into the scheme. I have to say that creativity is a part of learning. People dance, paint, write code, do scientific research, play ball, all in order to think. These are the rosary beads of learning. As McLuhan said an artist confronts “present as his material because it is the area of challenge to the whole sensory life.” This is the process of learning and occasionally there is a byproduct, a breakthrough of discovery.

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