Things that won’t get a blog post, five years later

I wrote this post five years and one month ago. A post about things on my mind that I wanted to acknowledge but didn’t want all out there, in the inter webs. Although five years have gone by, some of those same worries remain.

There is at least one difference. My mindset has shifted, and I’m beginning to acknowledge my biblical upbringing that reminded me to let worries go to a higher power. I’m not saying I actually do that, even successfully, but my awareness towards letting go is increased.

Here’s a little then and now…

  1. Financial (school) debt
  2. Concern over how (financial minister) counselor will help us
  3. Familial miscarriage, sadness and hope
  4. Anxiety over new job and daycare
  5. Food club changes that will happen with new job
  6. Missed birthdays, gifts, and calls
  7. Familial impending marriages, reasons for and against with limited knowledge
  1. Financial debt still there
  2. The counselor helped us get on the same page, we’re still working on it
  3. Familial struggles abound, differently, though with hope and joy
  4. Questions still abound over logistics and cash flow with tuition and schedules
  5. Things changed, ever still, in the food world
  6. Still working on sending out cards, now it’s in the schedule
  7. We all suffer and struggle, how can we be free?
I saw this double rainbow a few months ago on my way home from an evening event. Few things describe hope better than a rainbow.
I saw this double rainbow a few months ago on my way home from an evening event. Few things describe hope better than a rainbow.

In the last five years, I’ve been introduced to two ways of thinking about events. In my oil business, we talk a lot about personal growth and development. I can see clearly how a shift in thinking is needed and how it affects my growth in this (or any) business. Although I’m not always sure what to do in a minute-by-minute assessment, I am paying attention and attuning my attention to these different ways of thinking.

One new way of thinking is Byron Katie’s “The Work.” In her work, she invites us to just ask, “Is it true?” Any thought that comes to mind, “Is it true?” Through the work of inquiry, she guides, you can relieve yourself of unnecessary suffering. Suffering that we have ultimately brought on ourselves.

In this oil business, a lot of people come to the table with varied perceptions on money. The ones to overcome are usually it is negative. I’ve observed people judging what other people can spend, making decisions for other people. I’ve watched people  feeling jealous over what other people have, and simultaneously criticizing other people when they spend what we feel is too much. (Back to Byron Katie and assessing whose business is it! Answer: not ours!)

One way to free our thinking, specifically over money, is to consider money as energy. Money is simply a transfer of energy. So, how are we feeling towards that energy, at its base. Marianne Williamson’s The Divine Law of Compensation is oft references to help guide one to new thinking about money. In the intro, she proclaims she is a student of, for more than 35 years, A Course in Miracles.

A Course in Miracles is the second thing that’s come my way in the last five years. The words that emirate from this text ring true to me. It’s like veils have been revealed from the Catholic/Christian teachings I was given all throughout. It feels as if things I’ve known in my heart are being stated in another way, validating questions I’ve had.

The message I want to impart today though is the reinforcement of not worrying. The reminder that the only true thing we can know is love, and nothing else is real. The reminder that when fear creeps up, it is the ego getting in the way. So, let fear go, let the ego go, do not worry. Do your work, trust in God, and be on your way. It will work out.

The calls to have faith that I never understood from 3rd grade on now (kind of) make sense to me. I’m still working on all this letting go and to have faith, but it’s as if I can feel the reasoning now. Something I couldn’t have said five years ago when all those worries crossed my mind.

From an enneagram 9: I matter

It usually starts like this: I decide I want to do something. Maybe it’s writing. Maybe it’s reading. Maybe it’s honoring the time I gave to work. Maybe it’s showing up at a meeting and holding back my opinion until I think it’s absolutely relevant. I am waiting, watching the energy in the room, inspiring myself to get the courage to be vulnerable or say what’s on my mind.

I identify as an Enneagram 9. One thing we 9s have a hard time with is owning our feelings and recognizing that we have an opinion that is worth hearing. If, for example, I appear to be lost in thought, as soon as someone asks me what’s on my mind or what my opinion of a thing is that might be happening at that moment, all those thoughts and conclusions I was drawing disappear with the interruption. It takes me, sometimes, a very long time to identify what I was feeling in a moment as I test out feelings, measure against experience, and see if that is right.

Some call Enneagram 9s the Peacemaker. At first, when I read that we 9s like harmony, it didn’t sit well. I resisted that thought. But, as it sat, as I rolled it around in my mind, I acknowledged that it does ring true. I don’t like to make waves. I want to be valued. I want everyone to be valued. And, I want conflict handled elegantly without too many raised emotions. Loud outbursts of anger, for example, make me withdraw. Unless it’s my own!

So, it starts with the formation of an opinion. And it often tracks where maybe I get interrupted. I raise my hand to speak, and someone speaks over me. I set up to write, and someone walks in the room and just starts talking. I voice an opinion in a group and someone contradicts it, in effect telling me that my opinion wasn’t just invalid, but not true.

And, I remain conflicted. I desire harmony. So this other, whomever it might be – a family member, a colleague, a friend, should be valued more than me. “I don’t matter” is the story I have told myself since I was small in the midst of large family gatherings where talking over one another was the norm, and I sat quietly at the table trying to make sense of it all wondering why no one would listen to me.

As an adult, one thing I struggle with is rewriting the story. It’s just a script, I am reminded by coaches and self-help gurus. And, the thing with a script is: it’s just words. You can change the words. Our human world is complex. We are messy. We all have an important point we bring to the table, coupled with a valuable fear that shapes our human existence.

I am writing this, harkening back to a comment a friend made how my blogs are very-diary like. Though that’s not my intent, I can see how it reads that way. Especially with a post like this. I am reluctant to post it. It feels too vulnerable. I can hear people chiding me for feeling this way. I can hear voices saying things like, “suck it up, life ain’t fair,” or similar. But, those voices reinforce the old script, that I don’t matter.

Here’s to a new script. Your voice matters, even if it’s expressing loudly and angrily. Your voice matters if it takes all the courage to speak up and you are still as quiet as a church mouse. MY voice matters because I am the only one that shares this perspective with my experience. I have something to add to the conversation, and some days, my patience wears thin waiting for my turn to speak.

Sometimes what you're most afraid of doing is the very thing that will set you free.
Sometimes what you’re most afraid of doing is the very thing that will set you free.

The Reading List

What have you been reading the last two weeks? On my list are some things like:

What sticks out in your mind as news of the last bit?

The Reading List

And, for the next installment of “the reading list.” The last few weeks has found me contemplating things like…

Are we looking at the wrong factors when considering health care? (“Hospital toilets offer clue about what’s wrong with US health care.“)

According to Renner, we are. In his piece, he gives a surface glance at a solution of preventable care. So, imagine my surprise when I skim over to The Atlantic, to find what I had been reading in hard copy, and I come across Andy Hinds article describing the necessary ridiculousness of exercise (“Your Workout Looks Ridiculous“). Do you exercise? What is your favorite version? For my part, I always hope to do better at (as in restart the routines even) swimming, walking, and biking.

These are all well and good – surface discussions into how we can create a more sustainable society by encouraging fitness on every level. But, I was really reading about labels. I was reading about the DSMMD downgraded Asperger’s – no longer making it a certifiable thing (“Letting Go of Asperger’s“).

On the book side, I am finishing (or working on) The Defining Decade, The 12 Tribes of Hattie, Confessions of a Shopaholic, The Enneagram: Understanding yourself and others in your life, What Type of Leader Are You? Using the Enneagram System to Identify and Grow your Leadership Strengths and Achieve Maximum Success, and Your Seven-year-old: Life in A Minor Key. Recently, I finished K Is for Killer: A Kinsey Millhone Mystery. On the shelf, waiting to be read include The Story of My Assassins and Bad Religion: How We Became A Nation of Heretics.

Sometimes I think I’m addicted to books. I have to have a steady stream coming in from the library and from Amazon. I need to smell them, touch them, feel them. I need to absorb their words and ideas within. So, the above mentioned ideas are on the continued quest for understanding myself and the world in which I live – compared to and along with those around me. Coupled with the fiction to take me away from this world and understand a time or a place not generally known to me. The never ending expansion of ideas that make our world interesting, rich with content, and enable us to grow.

Creativity

A glimpse at where I can be creative: my accessories. I haven't purchased a new ring since my resized wedding band ($8, thank you). This is the second most expensive ring I've purchased ($26, the other being $23). A great find from Button, a local consignment shop.
A glimpse at where I can be creative: my accessories. I haven’t purchased a new ring since my resized wedding band ($8, thank you). This is the second most expensive ring I’ve purchased ($26, the other being $23). A great find from Button, a local consignment shop.

Self-discovery, a life long process, trying to assess our strengths, our weaknesses, what sets us off, what sets us on fire… all to assess our place in this world, to figure out where we belong, what we should be doing, our best strategies in working with our families, our colleagues, our friends. In 2010-2011, I recall writing more about my observations of others’ reactions towards things. The last two or three years, I’ve been more inward, considering my reactions to things, events – past and present.

So, from past to present – throughout my life, I’ve been prey to quizzes. Starting with the ones that appeared in  Seventeen magazine that later morphed into MySpace and Facebook. Now, the self discovery quizzes I take are in the form of reading about the Meyers Briggs (Please Understand Me I and II or learning all about the Enneagram) or they are found under the pretense or assumption of scientific research with downloadable apps, found exclusively on the App Store (or in the Android Market). And, I am victim to their guile in self understanding.

When confronted with the question, “What are you thinking/feeling right now?” I often freeze. My mind could be on a train of thought venturing deep into… and the question is posed and *POOF* the train evaporates as I struggle to come back to the real world. What was I thinking? What am I feeling? It’s as if a hollowness comes over me and I cannot identify what it was. I need to step back, assess, retrace my steps. It’s in those assessments, away from the question that I am often able to get more clarity.

Back to quiz taking. One was created from Steven R Covey’s book Great Work, Great Carer, written in tandem with co-author Jennifer Colosimo. I found it after delving into (still unfinished) 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I started reading it during a moment of calm between all the varied things I have been involved in – church, social justice volunteering, food club, and work. This was just before the feeling of staleness and a new rut came over me. This was post Strengthsfinder 2.0 and Strengths-Based Leadership. This was on the continued discovery of self. This discovery of self to lead me to what Po Bronson thinks we should all be doing, finding out What Should I Do with My Life?

I took this Great Career quiz sometime ago, and tonight, for kicks have retaken it. The quiz simply takes you through a variety of tasks that would be found in a variety of careers. Asking things like, “Do you want to be a forest manager?” to “Do you want to organize complex filing systems?” Then, you rate it on a five point scale – tapping in one direction for very much so and the other for not really at all.

Topping the list, consistently, has been the path of “creative”. Prior to this veil of thinking, I have forgotten how important creativity in work is to me. So far out of the every day is my drawing and painting and sketching, that I only focus on the task lists, the organizing, the leading. How could I have forgotten that I love to draw? How could I have forgotten that I love to get dressed up and put make up on, not to showcase some feminine ideal, but because of the creativity involved. I call it “painting my face”. Some of the most enjoyable moments in a work day involve brainstorming or designing. Yet, a decision I made when I was a freshman in college (the first time at MSU) made me focus on the reading/writing side of a career. This cognizant choice to make a perceived safe decision away from the heartbreak if someone didn’t like my design… Is that why I am in any perceived ruts now? Am I in a career stalemate because I failed to acknowledge when I was 20 the need for creativity that I have?

Diverted

2-3 cups of guacamole on top of 9 cups of salsa (all homemade).
2-3 cups of guacamole on top of 9 cups of salsa (all homemade).

The salsa was made. 9 cups. The guacamole was created. Maybe 2 cups. It was packed. It was ready. Now all we had to do was get the rest of our stuff: swimsuits, towels, water bottles. We’d have to stop on the way to get ice. But, then, we could play, munch, and build community with my fellow staffers.

“Levi,” I called, “It’s time to go.”

It was only a mere 20 minutes since my husband had left for work. Clifford, via PBS Kids, was humming along on Levi’s computer.

“Come on Levi,” I attempted, again, “We have to get ready.”

Nothing. No noise at all. Was I so engrossed in salsa and guacamole that I didn’t hear… well, something?

I walk to the living room. The computer is humming along with no audience.

I walk around the couch, a foot into the hall, and I turn left.

“Odd”, I thought, “his door is closed.”

The silly boy put himself to bed, for a nap!
The silly boy put himself to bed, for a nap!

So, I open the door. The newly created “fort-bed” was closed. There was silence. I walked over to the fort-bed, and I lifted the cover. There was the boy. He had put himself to bed. He had put himself down for a nap. It was 2:17. We needed to leave now to beat anymore rush hour traffic and visit with staffers for about two hours. This boy was out cold. We were not going to make it.

My colleagues were without salsa and guar, but I will bring it in the office tomorrow. We’ll have a reprise of our “staff fun day.”

It’s these kind of conflicts, though, that boggle my mind. How are we supposed to navigate all of this? All of these responsibilities and ideas of where we should be. Staying focused on multiple goals (multitasking life!) in order to serve all the masters we serve.

I made a choice. Experience has taught me that rested children are happy children. I want to build our home for success, and that means ensuring one’s basic needs are met. Sure, I went without bonding with staff, but my son is more important. I may not be at my job next year, but I do plan on having my son.

Levi toured his revised fort-bed that now is bolstered by all the dining room chairs.
Levi toured his revised fort-bed that now is bolstered by all the dining room chairs.

Later in the evening, I was validated with my choice. Levi woke up two hours after I caught him napping. After we had a simple dinner, he confided, “I’m in a much better mood.”

“Oh? Were you in a bad mood before?”

He shrugged his shoulders but offered that the nap certainly helped. And, all day he was polite! Pleases and thank yous for nearly everything! He was cuddly and fun to be around. The monetary pay is crap, for being a mother. But, when I can get a Levi hug – life is better.

For more recent reading on the crazy imbalances we subject ourselves to – choosing work over family life, and the strange dichotomy between men and woman, read the following.

Tuesday, May 22nd

2,011
Birthday Cupcake Ideology (Photo credit: alexis22578)

I have moved the computer to the kitchen. One light bulb is out, and the orange glow in our soon to be outlawed incandescent lights is disturbing my visual field. The dishes need to be put in the dishwasher. The floor still needs to be mopped. We have grocery bags that don’t have a great home, scattered among the chairs. Levi is in bed, whining for his squeezy bottle.

Tonight was one of those interesting parental evenings, where the child needs some semblance of attention and is manifesting that want in ways that are not comprehensible to the parent (me).

I picked the child up from school tonight, thankful for a low traffic night in this resurgence of rain and 60 degree weather. He was waiting, coat on, backpack on. As soon as I got to the door he was there with his teacher. A far cry from the night before where I could not find them. They ran an errand just as I arrived. Mind you, I was pushing the 6:00 clock pick up with my 5:58pm arrival. (I’ve been sick; I was trying to nap.) So, tonight, arriving twenty minutes earlier, they were ready for me in more ways than one.

The child was fairly pleasant. He removed his backpack immediately upon my arrival, claiming he now needed to get his snack. (I usually let him get it out after we get settled in the truck.) This was an amusing feat, regardless, for myself and his two teachers. I signed him out, and we resettled his backpack.

All was chipper.

We were low on a few grocery items that I don’t procure from my buying club (cheddar cheese, sour cream, yogurt, pasteurized milk, deli meats), so we ventured en route to the nearest grocery store.

The child continued with his chipper, playful, obedient mood. All this, to the pleasure of his mother (me).

We have an uneventful trip at the crowded grocery store, collect our items, and a new toy, and head out. The grocery store trip was accompanied by the 5-year-old being able to ride on the cart (in ways store staff don’t always approve) most of the trip. I was comfortable with this mode of transport as it 1) let me know where the 5-year-old is always and 2) kept him occupied in a pleasant way. All tactics aid to keeping the 5-year-old chipper, avoiding meltdowns, and allowing said child to remain obedient. All these things make mother pleased.

Once we are loaded into our car, backed out of the parking light, where full-trendy-grocery store parking dances commence (the car next to us pulls out, another pulls in, we pull out, another pulls in behind us, while dancing around drivers who quickly turned to pedestrians whilst navigating said parking lot and dance), and on the road — I tell the 5-year-old what’s for dinner. It goes something like this:

“So, when we get home, we’ll have grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner. Okay?”

“Ooh, and I can have gold-fish crackers too!” replies the now excited 5-year-old.

“Yes! You can have gold-fish crackers with your grilled cheese sandwich.” I assure the 5-year-old, relieved that tonight, we can forego the nightly dinner argument.

Fast forward to being home, having groceries put away, the 5-year-old watching a Barney-Thomas the Train-Bob the Builder DVD on loan from the library, me grilling the sandwiches away. (Mine is more gourmet adorned with the deli meat and swiss cheese).

Note: Our microwave broke several weeks ago, beyond repair. We are down to a puny heel of bread. I brought two, very frozen loaves up from the deep freeze. They are now (3 hours later) thawed to a usable stage.

I let his small, grilled cheese sandwich cool, cut in half, on a plate while mine finishes. I mention to the 5-year-old that his grilled cheese sandwich is nearly done. I will even let him eat in the living room. (I don’t want arguments. I want easy dinner time which should transfer to easy bedtime.)

I hear no reply and mistake (yes, mistake) that for continued acceptance of before mentioned and vetted dinner menu. The gold-fish crackers have already been consumed.

The 5-year-old walks to the kitchen. The 5-year-old notes that these are indeed grilled cheese sandwiches.

“But, I want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich! Grilled cheese is too dirty!”

Get it? Grilled cheese is toasted, crumbly bread, after it is grilled appropriately. It makes more crumbs than a fresh loaf of bread (one that is not available due to our no-microwave-fresh-from-the-freezer-state of bread).

I insisted that this indeed for dinner. After a 10-20 minute whine-fest in his room, the 5-year-old comes out. (The rule is that the living room and kitchen are more or less “happy zones”, any other inconsolable fit must be had in his room. He is allowed to return when he is in a better mood. We have found this to be a good tactic toward self-soothing.)

He says, “I can eat the grilled cheese sandwich in the living room, right?”

Ah, the life of a parent. It’s never-ending, unpredictable roller-coaster ride of developing minds.

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To Have Hope

Temperature predictions from some climate mode...
Image via Wikipedia

Climate change is happening. We can attempt to deny it. We can go along with the conflict among politicians and in the newspapers. We can close our eyes to it. We can say “weather is weather” when we look at a balmy January day when it should be 20 below. Climate change — global warming — is happening. No matter what we say to console ourselves doesn’t change the trend that 98% of the scientific community accepts as fact. Our world is warming and places are already being affected. Recently, the Oregonian published a map put out by the USDA. The USDA is redrawing their garden zoning maps to more accurately reflect current temperatures. The caption lightly explains warming, but also attributes the change to better mapping software! So, I put a flippant comment on my Facebook page that got its own attention from my friends. One didn’t realize I was being sarcastic. Another responded with his own, appropriately, flippant remark. Finally, a family member expressed her own frustration with how we glaze over this very serious problem. As a follow-up, I posted a link to a three-year old Scientific American article that showcased ten places that in 2008 that were clearly affected by climate change. Some of the listed places include:

Darfur

Until the rains failed in Darfur, the region’s pastoralists lived amicably with the settled farmers. The nomadic herders grazed their camels on the rocky hillsides between the fertile plots and fed their animals on the leavings from the harvest….[More]

The Gulf Coast

Climate scientists may still be debating to what extent climate change is going to translate into stronger and more frequent hurricanes, but insurance companies aren’t waiting for the final answer….[More]

Northern Europe

The warming of the globe has so far generally been good for the world’s wine. It has allowed the fruit to come off the vine richer and riper. A study led by Gregory Jones, a climatologist at Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Ore., and the son of a winegrower, tracked the impact of rising temperatures between 1950 and 1999, using as a measure of quality the values by the auction house Sotheby’s, which rates wines on a 100-point scale….[More]

Great Barrier Reef

Not all the carbon dioxide we emit contributes to atmospheric warming. More than a third of what we have produced since the industrial revolution has been absorbed by the oceans, where it reacts with seawater to form carbonic acid….[More]

In recent years, no less than four Alaskan communities have been forced to relocate (Shishmaref, Kivalina, Shaktoolik and Newtok) due to climate change. Waters are rising. Temperatures are rising. Plants and animals are migrating, and now people are migrating too. These communities are the canaries in the coal mine. They are the ones screaming to the rest of the world, “LISTEN! Climate change is happening! It’s happening to us! Now!”

But now we’re not listening. Collectively. We are stuck in group think, not embracing our group wisdom. Collectively, what can we do? That was the question that was posed to me. So, here’s a short list.

  1. Don’t lose hope. But realize that people will only change when they want to. So, while not losing hope, stay the steady course.
  2. Lead by example. Reduce, reuse, and recycle. Then do it all over again, and better.
  3. Be mindful of your own consumption and aware of how this culture of things is perpetuating the problem.
  4. Realize hope in that 60% or so of Americans do recognize that there is a problem, so while the media isn’t up on what Americans really are thinking, there is a paradigm shift around us.
  5. Educate yourself, and then, educate others. Do it with compassion, and when they stop listening do it with your actions. Show people how the local organic food you create with is better than the tasteless, flavorless, nutritionless food found in the average grocer.

To have hope can be hard, but I think it’s imperative we stay the steady course. We can find solace in the Romanesque period in history where buildings became strong again when the world didn’t end in 1000 AD. We can find solace in realizing we have found lost technologies, like concrete, to make our world more solid. We can find solace in remembering that no matter how stubborn, we are one of the most adaptable creatures, and adapt we will. We can find solace in our relationships that we forge, foster, and create. Because, then, we know that we will have a network to turn to who supports our ideals of local, homegrown, homefunded communities.

To have hope, in my mind, is the only way to live. And, to have hope, is the only bottom line that will drive us when madness surrounds.

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Rousseau & the First Discourse

This was a paper written for Professor Curtis Stokes at Michigan State University for my MC 370 class (taken for the 2nd time).

Note: Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the First Discourse: on whether the restoration of the Sciences and Arts has contributed to the purification of morals.

In Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s First Discourse, the blame he puts on the Arts and Sciences for contributing to the lack of morals and virtues in his modern society is very relevant today. Just look in the morning paper to see the variety of morals that are diminishing. We have people killing other people to support hallucinatory habits. Corporate takeovers and monopolies controlling the market are commonplace. We constantly see the religious right and other morally right peoples try and persuade our government to correct our immorality. Wear your seat belt. Don’t do drugs. Don’t let this big mean company hurt my innocent little company. How did most of these things come about? They were by-products of the arts and sciences. All stems from education. We are taught that we must have a good education to succeed in the world. Perhaps it’s the education that is really the root of all of this evil and purging of our morals. After reading both Rousseau’s First Discourse and his Preface to “Narcissus” it becomes clear that Rousseau abuses the arts and sciences in the former and becomes a defender for them in the latter if they are taken in moderation and not idolized.

In Rousseau’s First Discourse, it is not “Science… [he] abuse(s) … it is Virtue [he] defend(s) before virtuous men (page 5).” He defends virtue in an era where education of arts and sciences is precedent to being good. Time and time again, Rousseau gives argument after argument how the sciences and arts have led to men preferring luxury over hard work and a moral living. He claims that Arts and Sciences rarely exist without luxury, and luxury cannot exist without them (16, 18). What is it that most of us want? Is that what education really teaches us? How to want expensive things? Why are we in college? We want the good life. We want the nice car, the great house on the beach, the apartment in the city. We want to do better than our parents, and our parents want us to do better than them. We want to support our children better than our parents supported us. We want to have more toys and gadgets to make our lives easier and more pleasurable. Our parents want to spoil our grandchildren, as good grandparents do. All of these things are luxurious. Do we really need the nice car, the house on the beach, the apartment in the city, and the fun toys and electronic gadgets to make life easier? Are they necessary to a healthy life? Rousseau would argue no. Rousseau is very admirable of the vulgar or rustic man, although they wouldn’t have the ability to comprehend his writings, he loves their simplicity. Their lives aren’t complex, and they innately understand what virtue is by acting on it and not explaining it. Rousseau claims that in the modern society, people do a lot of talking about virtue, a lot of analyzing it, but they fail to understand and act on it. Only the common rustic man can really live the virtuous life, for once corrupt you are doomed to always be corrupt. The educated man is corrupt once learned from the corrupt education institutions. Rousseau states that “until the Romans had been content to practice virtue; all was lost when they began to study it (13).” It isn’t difficult to find examples of Rousseau’s arguments in our world today. As humans are innately good, we recognize hints of immorality. Therefore we despise the learned wealthy cooperate financier for his ruthlessness. We despise the all-knowing politician for his corruptness. We despise the intelligent scientist who cloned Dolly the Sheep for corrupting our morals. We despise so many people who are learned because they degrade our morals in society today. What good has our education done but to make us want more of what we don’t really need? Do we really need the $300,000 dollar a year job to support our futuristic families and ourselves? Can’t we get by on $40,000 or maybe even $10,000? If there’s a will there’s a way, right? (Unless we don’t really want to be virtuous.) Do we really need any monetary compensation? Can’t we get along in the wilds of Canada picking berries and sleeping under trees? We’d have the barest of necessities, just enough to survive on. We wouldn’t care about the newest, fastest car that has come to the market. We would only care about our survival, and the survival of our friends and families. We wouldn’t need an institutional education because we’d be surviving on instinct to survive.

Another interesting similarity between Rousseau and our modern day society, is his claim of lack of citizenship. He argues that “we have Physicists, Geometricians, Chemists, Astronomers, Poets, Musicians, Painters; we no longer have citizens; or if we still have some left, dispersed in our abandoned rural areas (24)…” What do we have today but Scientists of all sorts, physicists, chemists, and astronomers. We have Mathematicians, and musicians; we have artists who specialize in painting and poetry. How many times do we hear how awful a country is? How often is it said that people are not proud to be from their birth country? We have a lot of inhabitants that choose different paths, but despise where they come from. As far as our abandoned rural areas, what job is disappearing very quickly? Recently a town next to my hometown of Greenville held its annual Applefest. Oddly, there were no apple orchard representatives. There was one scheduled, but it could not come for it went out of business a few months earlier. Our nation’s farms are being sold for expanding cities and corporate mergers. An honest man’s wage is getting harder to come by. Rousseau would be saddened that there has been no real improvement in our morals.

In the “Preface to Narcissus” Rousseau defends himself against his critics by claiming that it wasn’t all sciences he is against, just when one pours all of his energy into defending and expanding them without a thought for the common good. He feels that Science taken abstractedly is wonderful. However, one needs to be better rounded. Do not devote all of your energy into them. Take the good and move on (97). Rousseau’s argument in the First Discourse was very strong. He put a good case against the Arts & Sciences in his defense of virtue. His attempts to save face in “Preface” are weak at best. He raises many good points and he does clarify the overall argument, however, he seems to sidestep the replies and comments to the First Discourse like a well-staged politician. Despite his meager retreat to please the critics, Rousseau still had good points about Sciences and the Arts and modern Society.

“What a strange and ruinous constitution, where having wealth invariably makes it easier to get more, and it is impossible for the man who has nothing to acquire anything (101).” Isn’t that true of our modern day society? Single mothers dependent on welfare rarely get out of this cyclical system. If, and when they do, it is usually by marriage. Sometimes that is not even enough and both parents’ end up struggling together. How wrong is it that a rich man can get richer (Bill Gates before the anti-trust suits) and by bigger gadgets and things, while the poor man must beg for food so he can live to see another day? How awful is it where our children aren’t learning and are dying malnourished (third-world countries around the globe)? Isn’t it backward to live in a society that encourages learning but fails to teach people to care? A society that proclaims freedom and equality for all while we have people sleeping on park benches because they lost their house or were abandoned by their parents. We speak the learned languages and philosophies of the Ancients, yet fail to act virtuous.

“What have we gained from all this? Much chatter, rich men and argumentative ones, that is to say enemies of virtue and common sense. In return we have lost innocence and morals. The multitude grovels in poverty; all are the slaves of vice. Uncommitted crimes dwell deep inside men’s hearts, and all that keeps them from being carried out is the assurance of impunity.” (101)

In “Preface to Narcissus”, Rousseau makes a stronger argument against corrupt men who cannot distinguish between good and bad, while he is much more favorable towards the Arts and Sciences. It’s as if the Arts and Sciences are the unwitting accomplices in the corrupt man’s plight to torture the civil and virtuous man. Rousseau does offer a small solution while acquiescing to the problem.

“It is no longer a matter of getting people to do good, but only of distracting them from doing evil, they must be kept busy with trifles to divert them from evil deeds; they must be entertained rather than sermonized.” (104)

Here, Rousseau gives an example of what today would be called your local YMCA, United Way, or any other Keep Kids Off the Street Organization. Keep people entertained at ball games, charity events, working on their gardens, or enhancing their crafts. Keep them busy with things they enjoy, and they will cease to do evil. If this pattern continues for many generations, maybe a virtuous lot will be born again.

Rousseau’s First Discourse is very relevant, no matter how emphatically he claims it was feasibly argued in his Confessions. Of everything Rousseau has to say in his First Discourse, the most important thing we should get out of it is a warning. If we continue on our paths of seeking riches instead of a form of salvation, if we continue to use the arts and sciences for evil by enhancing laziness, our society will be doomed. We should do useful things with our arts. Create things to be used usefully such as better farm equipment and building things with our hands, not things that abuse the human body and soul such as television (because it leads to apathy). Once we find the perfect harmony between the Arts and Sciences and virtuous living, this will be our hope and a virtuous man will again be born.

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