The information industry teaches me that my only tangible asset as a writer is my email list. It measures the reach of my influence. Publishers take that as the foundation of my platform. That is the part of me that attracts book publishers—never mind the content of my book. Their concern is marketability.
In that marketing world, appeal is everything. I wanted real life to be different. It is not. My appeal (to others) affects everything in my life. After many months of telling you, my readers, to blend self with other and put other ahead of self, I am slowly appreciating the importance of that teaching.
Article 81 begins with my infantile approach to gratification: you exist to provide me what I want when I want it. The limiting factor was that I was not in control of the other. The best I could do was influence the other to my will. Results turned out well. All my needs have been met, and the other—my parents—survived into their nineties. Gradually I learned my participation in our achievements, and dependency mellowed into appreciation.
Now in adulthood I am helpless in a similar way. You control my survival in your decision to purchase what I sell. The similarity is that I gradually learn my participation in my well-being and what I do fulfills both parties, self and other. Mine has been a long road growing up. Once my idea was that I graduate law school and money will flow in. Upon graduation with high honors, I realized I hate doing what lawyers are paid to do, and I was back at the beginning regarding income. The familiar piano tuning served as my escape for thirty-five more years.
The two stories are not exactly paired. I am twisting them a little bit to make them serve a rhetorical purpose. That is, at birth and at graduation I was an individual thinking everything would flow to me. Over time I learned in both cases that there is a connection between my actions and the attention I receive from others. In this analogy, you, dear readers, are the “parents” who direct my efforts and lead me to sustainability. I feel much better now than I would have with paying legal clients. You readers push me in a direction where I want to go.
Somewhere in the above paragraph there lurks the question of validation. When you “direct my efforts” (put something into my rice bowl), that validates that I am doing something worthwhile. You are the market to which I must appeal. As an infant I was not so appealing, and my parents deserve great credit for staying by me. In the adult world I likewise need friends who stay by me, but more of the control lies in my power if I learn to appeal. Patron / customer / client approval is validation of my efforts, evidence that I have learned a thing or two.
Regular readers sense what is coming now. The article title is the give-away: survival is a relationship between self and other. No human is stand-alone self-sufficient for life. The quality of every life lies in its ties with the lives around it. Humans are hard-wired for collaboration; we are a mutual support, not a self-support, system. Article 50 was a touching call to awareness of others.
In religion, the prophet does not need validation because truth is self-validating. In science, truth is self-validating in the sense of being reproducible rather than dependent on one observer’s interpretation. In philosophy, my thought system is evaluated for consistency and usefulness, not for popularity. In these examples, value is intrinsic and not dependent upon appeal to an audience.
The above paragraph does not make me or any writer independent of audience. If I state my thought system in ways that remain useless to readers, the uselessness invalidates the meaning of my effort. A fact with no application has no practical meaning.
Now the role of the other has become important to the self. We collaborating humans pool our complementary adequacies. We replace stand-alone independence with acknowledgement of the contributions of others. Isolated burning coals die; a brisk fire is sustained by burning logs that are close to each other. Individuality, validation, and meaning are spiritless, sterile words if not applied within human relationships. In discussing what that means, article 46 reminded us that difference is essential to meaning, and article 55 pointed out where self stands in the way. Meaningful existence is right connection to others. For me to be significant and different, you must exist. For us to create the new world, we both must change in favor of it.
I start the new year on this positive note. Today’s article is not scolding anyone for anything. It is celebrating our mutual existence and thanking you for joining me here. Happiness grows from thinking positively. Indeed, I have stretched my creativity to bring us to a happier state without comparing it to being unhappy. Joining forces, being diverse while being one, we are taking a philosophical look at the oneness of the many.
Blending self and other is easier to understand than putting other ahead of self. “Others first” is a pleasant slogan for directing our attention if it celebrates our results without arousing differences. In practice, we don’t worry about stronger or weaker, first or last. Most importantly, we do not choose, between self and other, whose interests we are serving. I do not neglect or surrender my well-being to serve yours. Whatever we do constructively, we are doing for our joint interest. Progress is not for only one of us, you or me. We are blended; we progress together. So today, instead of critiquing the external world, we have examined (and improved) ourselves.