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Futility and compensation - But here in my heart, I give you the best of my love.

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March 31st, 2008

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03:17 pm - Futility and compensation
Let me begin by stating that I don't believe in quid pro quo in matters of the universe. I know there's no balance sheet. No promise that, overall, life is okay: there are ups and downs, but everything balances out. I don't know if I ever believed it, or when I stopped believing it, but I don't believe it.

That said, I find myself thinking in terms of compensation and reward. I feel like if I could just do this one thing right, it would have reverberations that would make other things, unrelated, right. It's a chaos theory boxed up in the trappings of karma. I was told that I was doing something useful (with a suggestion for how to make it even more useful....go figure), and I thought, is this the thing that puts me over the edge? The thing that tips the balance?

Do actions drive you towards goals. Sometimes I feel like I'm buying a TV stand and hoping I'll win the TV to put on it. Like if I make everything ready for the TV, it will magically appear. But what if I can never have the TV? Am I wasting all this time, cleaning space for it, buying the stand, and the all the component parts? But I've got this feeling that if the nest is ready, the TV will appear. And with every component I notch into place, I think, maybe this will be the action that completes the background work, the final element that will cause the TV to descend amidst fanfare.

I admit this is an imperfect analogy, because a TV has a clear path to achieving it: saving and research. Other things don't come with clear paths and orderly progressions. I keep reminding myself that if the TV appears I won't feel stupid for wasting all this time preparing for it. And if it doesn't, no one will ever know how much time and energy I've invested in a TV that will never show up. At least, no one but me. And at the same time, I recognize that there's no correlation between setting up a TV stand and getting a TV. These things are no dependant factors. But thinking these thoughts are my way of asserting control in an area where I don't have a lot of control or choice. Like providing small goals to lure me closer to a larger goal, even if the path is illusory. Just another way to keep hope alive, to feel like I'm experiencing forward momentum.

Is this making any sense?
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
Current Music: Colin Raye "That's My Story"

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[User Picture]
Date:April 1st, 2008 02:48 pm (UTC)
In the last few years I've been thinking a lot about balances and conservation laws. It seems like everyone really wants to believe that there's a cosmic balance and good things have to be balanced by bad things. Lots of religions teach that. I think it's an awfully convenient excuse, though. If you have some blessings in life it means you have a reason to stop asking for others because you already got your share. Maybe we shouldn't accept that. Is there really any evidence that life is fair that way? I think there's a lot of evidence that it isn't fair that way, and in that case, we should never stop asking.

Making ready for what you want to happen as a way of causing it to happen is the very basis of a whole lot of religious and magical practice, new and old. It's a big part of New Thought, the religious tradition I inherited from my parents. It's also a basic principle of almost any practical-magic system. It's most of The Secret - and as a witch I know once said, "The Secret seems to be pretty much what you'd get if someone read a couple chapters from the middle of one of our books and then went off without reading the rest." If you build it, they will come. That's also the defining feature of the cargo cult.

Now, here's a thing. If you clear out a landing strip in the jungle and build a tower and sit at the top with coconuts over your ears talking to the spirits in the sky, does that really mean John Frum will show up in a plane with your ancestors and make everything right? They've been doing that kind of thing in the South Pacific for many decades and John has only come back a couple of times. It sure doesn't seem to work very well. So maybe it's not a good idea. But here's another thing: if you don't have a place for him to land, then he's definitely not going to appear. That much is 100% certain.

Everybody agrees that you'd better bring your umbrella to the rain dance, for the rain to actually fall. Then it's just a small step to saying that maybe that's really all you have to do. Maybe faith and whoever it is you have faith in will take it from there. If you really do it right, that is. Maybe it's a test of faith.

If it's a test of faith then I think I fail. I bought the TV stand too. It's a good TV stand. Other people who don't have one nearly as good still get TVs to put on theirs. Other people who don't have TV stands at all still get TVs that they have to scramble to figure out what to do with. And other people (for instance, you) do all the right things, like me, and don't get their TVs either, so it's not just something special about me that I should be the cursed one.

I did all the things I was supposed to do and I was told were enough, and they weren't. I can no longer believe that anything I do all by myself can really be enough because if there were any amount of effort or faith on my part that could be enough, then what I have already put in would be it. There has to be something other than my own effort involved.

But you know what? I still buy perishable things that I can't use alone, without knowing who I'll use them with. And what's more, I buy the bigger boxes, because that way they're cheaper per unit - even though that would be a worse deal if there were any significant probability they'd expire and be thrown out. And so far, they've all in fact expired and been thrown out and I've kept buying them. What is it that causes me to do this?
[User Picture]
Date:April 1st, 2008 06:41 pm (UTC)
That is a big idea in Judaism as well, that you can't fill a vessel with blessings until you have a vessel to recieve them. I hadn't thought of it quite in those terms.

But yes, the flip side of the coin is that some elements of this are out of our control, and it's all well and good to control the elements we can control, but at some point, there has to be a recognition that what's happening is beyond my control. That's something I'm not very good at.

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