Today we’re on Part 4, and it’s almost done! What will you do when there’s no more? I know what I’ll do: find another topic to rile folks up about.
Continuing on from last week . . .
So there are no intrinsic values, and there is no “bigger picture” as it relates to a person’s goals. What I am advocating for here is personal responsibility, and this is something that folks shy away from much harder than they know. It can be very difficult to face your own decisions and accept that every little thing about them is yours to deal with. You may even find valid evidence that you arrived at your decisions due to outside influence and not your own reasoning. There is, after all, plenty of that. But again, the responsibility of that decision is yours. Just as the bear who ate the poison berries will suffer the consequence regardless of how they smelled and looked and tasted, you must do the same for what you do.
Ever notice that when you point out that someone made a poor choice, they immediately point to a factor outside themselves and blame it on that? Skirting guilt, instead of realizing the nature of a mistake. This is how social structure, a primary mover in human psychology, drives us away from reason.
Back to topic. You are dead. You have been dead for a couple weeks, and your body has been disposed of in a funeral or a scattering of ashes, or maybe you were eaten by a shark or something (bitchin’ death, eh?). Anyway, the world has moved on. There are some grievers, but your things are shifting along a short path to new ownership. Your favorite waitress will soon realize you haven’t come in to eat in a while. The seat of your recliner is cold and will be until it is incinerated in a couple weeks. Your cat is getting used to a new home, and starting to feel comfortable with its new owners. It is already sleeping in their laps.
1. You crashed your car two years before. Every time someone asked, “What happened?” Your response was, “The other guy flew around the corner, I couldn’t have avoided it!”
—Does it really matter now? Did it then? Could you not have said, “Yeah, sucks. Hope I don’t get stuck with the insurance bill.” Why did you have to throw off the responsibility?
2. During your career you spearheaded an initiative to get a retirement bonus moved to pre-tax automatic withdrawal from the company’s employees’ paychecks. Though others worked on it, this was kind of your baby and in the end, it was pushed through and became a reality. You made a lot of other people’s day with that one, and now that you’re gone the policy will continue for present and future staff.
—Yes, this still matters to someone. But not you. It does not matter to you at all. You are dead. As it pertains to your goal, it doesn’t matter in the slightest anymore. It did matter while you were alive. It mattered a good deal to you, and you were able to enjoy the credit for doing something good for yourself and others. But now, the life cycle of that goal is over. Others will take its stewardship forward, or not, according to their own goals. During your life, could you not have recognized this? Could you not have understood that your objective is entirely contained within the span of your existence (and comprehension)?
3. You were writing a screenplay. It is unfinished. There is some real gold in there though, had a lot of potential. After your death it was packed into a box labeled ‘personal files’ and incinerated. No one ever read it except your aunt who said it was wonderful, though she’d never read a screenplay before, and your ex who offered encouragement but no real praise or criticism.
—You don’t care anymore. No one else does either. They never even knew about the screenplay, or cared if they did. Does it really matter anymore? Nope. Does it matter that you didn’t finish it? Nope. It’s not tragic because no one is able to recognize the tragedy. When did it matter? I’ll tell you when. When you were alive. It mattered to you.
Can you see where I’m going with this? I’m trying to take all the things we are, all the things we do, care about, create, hang hopes on, love, destroy, disparage, or feel nothing but indifference to, and expose the hinge that attaches them to us. Not the collective us, but the individual us. You. All the things that you do are about you, including everything you ever do for anyone else. Every positive feeling you have for anything you do, is yours. It was your goal. Raised a strong, successful, intelligent child, who’s gonna proudly live a full life long after you’re gone? Congrats and good job. You accomplished your goal. Thanks to you, they can go out and do the same for themselves.
And here’s the kicker: it’s OK to see it that way. It is in fact better. More powerful, more meaningful. Don’t let social pressure to de-value the self cause you to dodge the idea. Don’t let self-hate force you to attribute the things you do to outside influence so you don’t have to face who you are. You alone are responsible for your choices, your actions, and the consequences of them, whether any of these be positive, negative, or neutral. That responsibility confers upon you the ultimate privilege in your life, to take for yours everything you can grasp. To “make your mark” as you alone see fit and to watch your influence resonate outward from you and inward within you and thereby witness yourself more completely. Witness your existence.
That’s it for this week. Lots to think about here. Next week I will post the final segment of Grok Death to Grasp Life, and make a final claim for you to scrutinize.
In the meantime, what ideas came up when you read this? Did your critical thinking alarms go off? I bet you know someone who would vehemently disagree with this stuff. Maybe share it with them and channel their spitfire into a comment?
In any case, I’ll be back next week to put a cap on this bottle and set it aside. I’ll give you my take on the practical implications of this claim I’ve made, that all values are subjective and all responsibility belongs to the individual.
See you then!