Posts Tagged Self-Help
I have spent many years working in technology on a team delivering software systems. I am not a coder but have developed a large amount of respect for them over the years. The focus and energy it takes to translate systematic requirements into binary statements that integrate into other chunks of binary statements and deliver an overall whole is impressive. Part of the reason is that even the smallest error or miss directed code jeopardizes the overall project. The devil is in the details so to speak. It does not have to be a critical fault or even an errantly written syntax; there are programs that check for those things. It just has to be something that veers off from the goal of the project to sink the whole thing. It is not even that the program wont function, it will just not be able to ever reach the potential that it was created for.
I cant help but see the similarity in the world today. We seem to be living a dream that says somehow we will be able to master our circumstances and achieve success. Confucius said “The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential… these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.” The Dalai Lama said “With realization of one’s own potential and self-confidence in one’s ability, one can build a better world.” Pope John XXIII said “Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.” These people are just icons of this overall thought process and have many counterparts. The problem is that their direction is as wrong as it is right. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that there is no value in their wisdom. I am saying we need to be careful not to think that this will fix the world. It won’t. It can’t.
The problem is in the code. In the deepest structures of our soul we have a binary device that gives us the ability to choose right or wrong. The choices are not predetermined, they are left up to us. That is the bad code as essentially we are able to rewrite the code daily and even wipe out all existing code, barring consequences, up to but not including that initial line that gives us the ability to choose wrong. No matter what we do, no matter how hard we try, we will never wipe out the ability to choose incorrectly. This is what prevents us from being able to reach our utmost potential. Without that, we will never truly solve problems or eradicate evil in this world. Simply put, we cant because we will always have the ability to choose it. This is pandemic at the largest scale. It is not a few bad seeds but basically bad code in all.
We need to re-adjust our thinking in order to address this and stop proliferating the hollow ideal that says we can rise above it. We are breeding a problem by preaching two sides of this coin. We either preach that you are bad and will be punished by a God who is out to get you or we preach a false sense of security in that if you try hard enough you will finally after great patience and struggle reach a state of set actualization that will afford you true peace and happiness. I realize there are many other philosophical views on life but they seem to either broach off of or are summed up in these archetypes. Both however are wrong.
If we keep reproducing the same ideas without addressing the root cause we will never reach our intended and true potential. We can choose to blame God for instilling the bad code if we wish. There is a flaw in that as well. It presupposes that the code is bad because of the programmer and not the choices of the program. In other words if we always answered by choosing right, we would be able to reach God on our own. Again, the devil is in the details. We would be able to reach our human potential, but that does not mean we would attain or reach godliness. We would simply be fully productive humans or in other words, machines. God is what makes the machine human. God is the one who brings value to the potential. God is the one who brings reality to the dream. God is the one who takes that bad code and corrects it by forgiving the wrong choices and rebooting the program. God is the one who takes what is wrong and makes it right. God is the one who brings relationship to existence. God is the one who makes true potential occur. God is the one who takes bad code and makes it a son.
Without understanding the true expectations of the program, we will never be able to correct the bad code to reach what the program was intended to do.
My first real job after college was on at a bank. I remember speaking to a man who had been denied credit that he felt he desperately needed. The reason he assumed he was denied was that his wife was Vietnamese. As I began to ensure the man that his wife’s country of origin had no bearing on the banks decision he interrupted me and wanted me to know we could reverse the decision because she was not really Vietnamese. She was actually from the Philippines. I wasn’t sure whether to be frustrated with the man’s acceptance of racism in the world or feel sorry because of the tragic damage he must have received to accept that this type of thing could occur. Either way, this man’s dream of happiness was greatly affected by his circumstances.
Urie Bronfenbrenner was a developmental psychologist who postulated the Bioecological Model. It describes how child development does not happen in a vacuum and is affected by the environmental influences around them. In those influences there are many layers of individual environments that each contains their own set of roles and rules that are followed. The concept is basically that our development process is multifaceted and can grow with whichever environmental structure has predominance at the time, not as a whole system but as a sum of the individual systems. I would say this process continues through our lives. The man I spoke with had obviously learned in some environment that racially motivated decision making was acceptable and could be done correctly if the right information were provided. That in no uncertain terms is horrific.
We use this process in all that we learn, even something as simple as being happy. Each person has an internal definition of what happiness is based on their environmental development and whether or not we can achieve those is based upon our individual circumstances. We respond by creating levels of happiness based on what we can achieve at any one given time. We then struggle to achieve that or more appropriately our approximation of that to find this allusive goal of happiness. This is an eternal quest and is greatly affected by the circumstances around us. People with greater resources are more likely to achieve goals centered around resources more quickly but they are not as a group happier for it. This echoes the problem at the core of the definition that can only be solved by understanding one thing.
Happiness as a whole defined by modern thought does not exist. It is an unattainable goal not because we are not able to reach our individual approximations, but because we are. The fact that we reach them and keep looking for more explains that the goal we reached was only a wrung on the ladder and not the destination. It was a step in the journey and not the end. It is similar to Zeno’s Dichotomy Paradox. If each goal attained creates another, the final destination is only arrived at when we stop. Our individual goals may be easier than some peoples and harder than others. Whether we reach them or do not reach them is based upon our actions but the attainment of those goals in and of themselves does not mean we are happy. A person who is unhappy is not suffering from poor goal setting and a lack of motivation. They feel the way they do because they realize the goals have not provided more than a momentary chemical rush of endorphins or electrical activity in our brain and fleeting euphoria, not lasting happiness.
Rather than recognizing that the problem is in the method, we continue to tweak the goals to try and achieve the end sooner. We substitute convenience for rationality and consider it progress. We lower our standards and call it higher thought. We will never achieve what we can not substantiate and we will never find peace without quelling the storm of our desire.
Happiness is a dream we cannot achieve. Joy and fulfillment are real possibilities. If we begin to recognize our method is faulty and remove the constraint of achievement from our thought processes, we can begin to understand that the circumstances affect our responses but not our outlook. This is not a semantic argument. Joy and fulfillment are not synonymous with happiness. They actually counter it. Regardless of circumstance, joy can be understood. It is not centered on what we achieve but what we hold true inside. It is based on value and not perception. It is built by character, not reward.
As a Christian, these attributes are impossible without God. Character is not built without a model to copy. Joy is the fundamental response to God for his promised redemption. Truly achieving these without God is impossible as well, but trying to substitute happiness for them is simply settling for second best and then not even being able to get that.