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The Purist

Can Anyone Relate?

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This is a quote from a movie:

 

"I know we're all pretty small in the big scheme of things, and I suppose the most you can hope for is to make some kind of difference, but what kind of difference have I made? What in the world is better because of me?"

 

"I am weak and I am a failure.  There is no getting around it.  Someday, I will die, maybe in 20 years, maybe tomorrow, it doesn't matter. Once I am dead and everyone who knew me dies too, it will be as though I never existed. What difference has my life made to anyone?  None that I can think of. None at all."

 

Whenever I hear it, I ball my eyes out because it sounds like my life.

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When I was twenty or so, I marveled at people like:

 

Plato

Socrates

Aristotle

St. Thomas Aquinas

Kierkegaard

Hume

Nietzsche

Einstein

Kepler

Newton

 

Because their thoughts alone ensured that they'd be remembered for centuries.

 

How many people achieve that level of fame, though?  And what circumstances allowed them the time and room to achieve?  How many more people weren't able, for whatever reason, to become noteworthy in the annals of thought and history because they had to work fourteen hours a day to provide for their families?  Or lived in impoverished areas that didn't allow for their musings to see the light of day?

 

And how many other people simply lived righteous lives, redressing wrongs, voting their conscience, volunteering at soup kitchens or Habitat for Humanity?

 

And how many other people do the best they can - living orderly lives, paying thir taxes, and saying thank you to the cashier when they hand them their change?

 

What difference has your life made  to anyone?  I have utterly no idea.  But tomorrow is another chance.  And so is the day after that.  And the day after that.  And so on, until the actually do lay you to rest.

 

Haven't cured cancer?  Haven't landed and put your footprints on Mars?  How many of us have?  But smile at that cashier - she may think her job sucks and you can change that for a day.  Teach someone to read.  Donate some clothing.  Send a check to the Red Cross or whoever you think is worthy.

 

You see, we are all a part of this giant web of interactions.  Maybe instead of flipping that guy off on the highway when he absent-mindedly cut you off, you let it slide.  And made his day better.  And he didn't see fit to go home and abuse his family.  And maybe his kids looked up to him a little bit more.  And maybe one of them didn't commit suicide because his dad was an OK guy instead of a crappy role model.

 

You don't know.  You never will.  So just do the best you can.  Try to make people smile - and count the smiles you are able to raise in people's faces every day.  Many days that might be zero.  But some days it might be a decent number.  And look at the tally sheet every year.  That's how most of us can matter.  Ease suffering.  Be an example.  And maybe encourage the next Aristotle.

 

Take care, friend - all my best.

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In my experience it's a useless exercise to compare yourself to all of humanity. Your life is your narrative, your reality, you are at the center. If you create a bond with another person they will not forget you, within their reality you can have just as much significance as any of those you named.

 

After all do these philosophers have any significance to a small village in the Amazon? Or even your average American? 

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I definitely can relate.  Through high school, I was a bright, very hard-working student.  When I started to re-evaluate life not long ago, I kept putting myself down b/c I've turned out just average, living an ordinary middle-class life.  It took me a while to realize that that's just fine.  My goals now are to find (and do) what makes me happy and to leave my little corner of the universe in slightly better shape than it is today.  For me, that will be doing volunteer work once I eventually get my energy back.  For others, that could be raising children well, or hundreds of other things.  You could say I'm in Erickson's stage 7 -- it's the "generativity", the need to useful, that should be attended to and it doesn't have to result in something that changes the whole world.  That last part took me a while to realize.

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There are those who see their impact on the world and then there are those who never got widespread fame or success in their lifetime and only after they died their genius was appreciated. Edgar Allen Poe (poet), Franz Schubert (classical composer), Vincent Van Gogh (painter), Évariste Galois (mathematician). There are also those who didn't succeed until late in life like Colonel Sanders. Sometimes the difference we are making isn't seen right away.

 

I'm not saying someone who sits around doing nothing all their life then decides one day decides to make a difference to has a good chance to make a lasting contribution to the world right away. I think all great endeavours take time, devotion, and a lot of financially uncompensated work (i.e. personal sacrifice) to get off the ground.

 

I struggled with the fear of failure too and this is the conclusion I reached to calm the alarming thought. It doesn't matter how much of your life was spent not being successful, it doesn't matter how long it takes you to do something important, or whether it is early in life or late. As long as you are alive and doing your life's work, you are making a contribution to creating a difference. In the end it's the difference that counts, so keep your eyes on the prize.

 

When we appreciate people who made important contributions, do we fault them for what age they made a difference? Hey you were 50 years old when you published On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin, what took you so long? Samuel Jackson, you were 46 when you did Pulp Fiction, we don't want to hire you to do any more movies then? No. When I meet people, what matters to me is who is the person standing in front of me at the moment. Not the person 15 years ago who made mistakes, or the person who was successful in high school. It's the character of the person to this day, what he's learned and he's capable of that earns my respect. It all starts somewhere.

 

We are all capable of making little differences in our daily lives. Nobody will gives us a medal for it, and in the push and shove of everyday activity most of it gets lost among other good and bad things that happen. Just being a good person, treating others fairly, having empathy, generosity, doing one's share of the work, employing one's skills and improving on them, teaching others, offering assistance without expecting reward, practicing moral character. Those all make a difference to people around us. It may get preyed upon as weak by self-interested individuals who vulture good behavior, or it may be ignored, or it may really make someone in need of help have a good day ... make one day of their life better.

 

But in many things we do, the rate of success is low and we must be prepared to witness failure more times than we have success. We must not think of ourselves as failures, but separate the outcome of our efforts with the character of our hearts. <3 :) LOL. That line was so sappy. I ought to sell it to Hallmark.

 

Edit: Here I remember another motivational poster: Everybody fails; it's the winners who get back up! LOL.

Edited by 4amRedLight

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When I was twenty or so, I marveled at people like:

 

Plato

Socrates

Aristotle

St. Thomas Aquinas

Kierkegaard

Hume

Nietzsche

Einstein

Kepler

Newton

 

Because their thoughts alone ensured that they'd be remembered for centuries.

 

How many people achieve that level of fame, though?  And what circumstances allowed them the time and room to achieve?  How many more people weren't able, for whatever reason, to become noteworthy in the annals of thought and history because they had to work fourteen hours a day to provide for their families?  Or lived in impoverished areas that didn't allow for their musings to see the light of day?

 

And how many other people simply lived righteous lives, redressing wrongs, voting their conscience, volunteering at soup kitchens or Habitat for Humanity?

 

And how many other people do the best they can - living orderly lives, paying thir taxes, and saying thank you to the cashier when they hand them their change?

 

What difference has your life made  to anyone?  I have utterly no idea.  But tomorrow is another chance.  And so is the day after that.  And the day after that.  And so on, until the actually do lay you to rest.

 

Haven't cured cancer?  Haven't landed and put your footprints on Mars?  How many of us have?  But smile at that cashier - she may think her job sucks and you can change that for a day.  Teach someone to read.  Donate some clothing.  Send a check to the Red Cross or whoever you think is worthy.

 

You see, we are all a part of this giant web of interactions.  Maybe instead of flipping that guy off on the highway when he absent-mindedly cut you off, you let it slide.  And made his day better.  And he didn't see fit to go home and abuse his family.  And maybe his kids looked up to him a little bit more.  And maybe one of them didn't commit suicide because his dad was an OK guy instead of a crappy role model.

 

You don't know.  You never will.  So just do the best you can.  Try to make people smile - and count the smiles you are able to raise in people's faces every day.  Many days that might be zero.  But some days it might be a decent number.  And look at the tally sheet every year.  That's how most of us can matter.  Ease suffering.  Be an example.  And maybe encourage the next Aristotle.

 

Take care, friend - all my best.

 

Wise words. Thank you for sharing this part of you with us.

 

:hugs:

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I think of this a lot. Especially when I think of how many people work jobs they hate just to put food on the table or pay the bills, but the job isn't fulfilling; which is a shame since you're spending all that time there. Even though I do enjoy my job, it's hard to find the motivation to care about it, because in the long run, of the lifetime of the universe, what does it matter if this business is successful or this one customer is happy?

 

But on the other hand, I have a part of me that cares a lot, maybe it's more selfish, and I care how I'm performing and what my coworkers or boss thinks of me. I'm very paranoid about how others perceive me. I'm my harshest critic and if I make the slightest mistake, I'm shattered and will go cry in the bathroom. I guess because I know everyone else think things matter and everything we do is weighted heavily so I don't want to disappoint and look like a failure to them.

 

Anyways, I don't know where I'm going with this. At the end of the day, when this cirles all around in my head, I wind up in the end just thinking that the point of it all is just to enjoy our small time here, whether you want to make a major impact on the world, or not at all, but for me personally, I just want to be happy, and I look forward to those moments once and a while that will make me smile.

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