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The Recurring Theme: What Does It Matter?
by Jeremy Browning
Jul. 02, 2007 01:05

It's the existential dilemma of living in a complex world, existing as a complex being, beholding tragedy and old age, death and pain and despair.

There comes a tug of war in one's mind that pits the optimistic, inquisitive child within us all against the realist viewing the world's mud and blood and shit and wondering why to take another sip of tea or lift a finger when just below the surface of the moments of our waking lives there is that sneering whisper, "What does it matter?"

Well, I say it does matter. A core belief at is that pessimism is poison. I acknowledge that there is tragedy and sadness -- lately it seems several of my closest friends and family won't let me forget it. But see, I'm not trying to forget it. I know I'll be a hobbling old man, longing for my youth. And there no doubt will be hospital stays and friends' funerals and **gasp** even my own. My life is filled with precious things and precious people. So how do I stay above the fray and continue to smile and sip my tea while it may seem all that tragedy is out there waiting for me?

It's this: I'm a competitor at my core and I won't give in. I won't give away these moments (like this moment of perfectly proficient typing in my early thirties) to the contemplation of those others. I say we live our lives in our minds. And we are experiencing what we are choosing to focus on. And so while I know there are things to make me shudder, I'll leave the shuddering for then and do the tea-sipping now.

I admire the creators among us and I always strive to be one of them. Creation is an act of optimism and an expectation of a better tomorrow. And I believe that our days are immeasurably better thanks to the optimists before us who didn't waste their days bumming about getting old.

Ayn Rand once wrote about the creators and their unintended gifts to mankind:
the creators were not selfless. It is the whole secret of their power -- that it was self-sufficient, self-motivated, self-generated. A first cause, a fount of energy, a life force, a Prime Mover. The creator served nothing and no one. He lived for himself.

And only by living for himself was he able to achieve the things which are the glory of mankind. Such is the nature of achievement.

I've always seen myself as a man of achievement. And though it may not be heart surgery or a symphony, I intend to live my life in the tradition of those who refused to focus on the badness and instead set a course to create.

If it weren't for them and their optimism and the way they would laugh at the question "What does it matter?", many of us would already be dead, all of us would live shorter, less pleasurable lives.

But perhaps that would be the solution: If it weren't for the creators, the greatest optimists, we'd be eking out such miserable livings by the sweat of our brows in hand-to-mouth fashion, that none of us would have the time or even the context to indulge these existential dilemmas. Our pain and our hunger would be much to immediate to allow such excess.

Edited Jul. 03, 2007 02:39


log (lôg) n. a record of details of a voyage made by a ship's captain or crew