Monday, July 26, 2010

Notes from the underground

Whatever you choose for yourself, make sure it is something that can be sustained. If it can't be sustained through one approach, you have to try something else. The important thing is to keep at it -- otherwise you will never know what you might have become.

This is important not just for yourself, but because others will inevitably look to you for support. You can offer them much more if you've developed something of your own from the start. Otherwise you will repeat what they have heard a hundred times -- the very thing that got us into this mess in the first place.

Don't be someone who repeats what everyone else has heard a hundred times! And never surrender all of your obligations to the outside world.


Quin said...

"And never surrender all of your obligations to the outside world."

Could you please clarify a little bit? Do you mean, "Don't end up with so many obligations that you have nothing left for yourself", or something else?

JRB said...

Hey Quin!

Yes, that is what I mean. But I don't just mean, "Try not to spread yourself too thin": I'm assuming a principle of captive obligation; in other words, that we are bound up in obligations that we don't consent to, because we don't control the relationships.

That's inevitable for most of us, as individuals in this world, at least until we can figure out how to cooperate with each other: Obligation will be routed away from ourselves, by default.

If this is going to happen automatically, then we can't make chilling out in front of the TV our life's vocation, and still expect to have anything to offer the people we love. We have to struggle through our own development, which implies a certain amount of pain, but pain which benefits us, not interests external to our own.

We endure so much on behalf of others that there is always the temptation to avoid that which we must endure for ourselves! This is one of ways consumerism erodes all human potential.

Anonymous said...

I dig it, JRB.

Ben There said...

I may be off topic here but the thought that this brought up to me is this paradox: for a nation/society that places such emphasis on individuality, we seem to be the most conformist, herd-like group of people on the planet.

I appreciate your thoughts here, and i agree. For me, trying to do my own thing and act more from impulses that come from within versus all the external pressures, is a day to day challenge. It's especially challenging when you're married and those external pressures are exerted on your spouse as well as yourself.

Hattie said...

This seems to be a huge problem for most people I know right now. We are living in unsustainable ways but can't figure out how to change.

Quin said...

Thank you. As usual, you're helping me see things in a new light.

drip said...

I am too lazy to spread myself too thin, maybe that's why I thought you meant not to allow others (governments, churches, TV, social workers, e.g.) to take care of my obligations. Your response to Quin makes me think I am missing something.

And I never see things I've heard a hundred times repeated here!

Quin said...

I might be misunderstanding still, so JRB please correct me if I'm wrong, but by "obligations" I think he means simply all those things that we, ourselves, feel enough pressure about that we actually act on them. You might feel like a "lazy" person, but unless you're so completely cared for that your existence resembles that of a coma patient, you still have a job, or school, or errands that you actually get off your butt and do most days, and you do it because it's expected of you.

I think part of his point is that, once you've cleared away all of the obligations which feel necessary, consumer society then tries its hardest to fill in the spaces in your life with yet more, fairly useless, obligations to things rather than to people. If you look forward to watching a great TV show every week, hey, it might be well written, and you care about the characters-- but you've actually formed an attachment to something which is fairly vapid, and you really haven't gained anything which really helps you or the people you care about. At least not nearly so much as the benefit you might have gained through the process of actually doing something instead.

le sans-culottes said...


start growing your own food. don't do it alone. get your neighbours together and take over a plot of local unused land and start planting stuff.

The radical potential of this type of action is unlimited.