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Singh on Unsplash
106 How to blend self with other
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
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.
Role of others
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
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.
Validation or meaning
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
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.
Identity through value
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.
Being For Others Blog copyright © 2020 Kent Busse
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