Tuesday, September 21, 2010

It's not up to you

The last really great album Bjork ever made was Vespertine but that's neither here nor there where this post is concerned. The title to that song has stuck with me because I think that as we get older and we see our options limited by our decisions and the effects of our decisions we also begin to see that many things in our lives are constrained by the consequences and decisions of actions taken by others. As Bjork sang it, "It's not up to you (oh, it never really was)."

A friend of mine would very much love to no longer be single. He'd love to be married, at least he thinks he'd love to be married. He might worry that he'd end up with a wife who nags him about stuff and, in truth (as best I perceive it) he does NEED someone to remind him that he bought this or that food item and hasn't remembered to cook it or that he doesn't need to buy something because he's got another unopened one of the very same thing at home. What I told him about marriage and dating is what I have observed about my job hunt. We can do our best and get feedback but what can be discouraging is that despite our best efforts and best interests the decision that changes our path ultimately resides in the "yes" or "no" of someone else. It's not up to you.

Even among Christians it would appear that a lot of teaching is hinged upon the premise that it is up to you. In fact it is so up to you that if for some reason you don't pull things off then something must be wrong with you. I can (and plan to!) revise my resume and approach to cover letters. I can wear my best clothes. I can go for jobs that are outside my comfort zone and experience. I can network as best I know how. You could change your hairstyle, change your dress code, change your conversational style, go to different parties but it still doesn't change the fact that if you are gunning for a significant other the emphasis is going to be on the other making the decision and that can't be forced. In the same way, the best that I can do and keep trying to do just means that perhaps, God willing, at some point, someone will gamble that I'm worth hiring for something. That may be a bit too gloomy and fatalistic but it is often on my mind and has been over the last year.

I have never been persuaded that personal optimism translates into significant benefits in material events. You can have a positive disposition toward dealing with junk that might inconvenience you. When I had a macular detachment I realized that since I was already more interested in music than in visual art that I might as well officially drop any interest in working with visual media in favor of working on music. That could be considered taking a positive and constructive approach to a medical disaster. I hasten to add that the disposition did not change the nature of the disaster. I still needed a scleral buckle post-haste! But the disposition allowed me to adapt to the circumstances. The contentment was not with the damage to my eye that works so much as contentment realizing that this, too, could be something that could in time be adapted to. In the grand scheme of things I got about two thirds of my visual acuity back. The bummer is more that I don't qualify for any disability but am disabled enough to not be able to drive. In the last year of job-hunting THAT has been the tougher thing to deal with for me.

And any year now it might be possible that the other eye could experience a catastrophic macular detachment. It just comes with my demographic, I'm afraid. Knowing that my friends who have premature babies will never have to deal with what happened to me is profoundly reassuring. When I see the children of my friends and family I am relieved that what happened to me doesn't have to happen to them. So in a way I've been dealing my whole life with the consequences of medical screw-ups that are irreversible. My brother never had the same problems and he and I were born very close together so I know what I've dealt with is not some inherently genetic limitation. Either way it wasn't up to me.

Sometimes I wish I had more of a "can do" attitude, which often to me seems delusional. Per Mockingbird's entry, though more scientists and philosophers believe free will is illusory it is considered imperative for people to have the illusion of it so as to be more ethical people. Atheists may wonder at the persistence of religious thought and perhaps from a purely sociological perspective one could propose that one of the key values of a religious mindset is that it is often the point of entry for belief in free will that people find useful for encouraging moral behavior. But that is a snide side comment and not the point of this post.

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