Category Archives for "Philosophical"

Musings about the human condition, life and it’s mysteries. I’m intrigued by the passion of humans to hold onto beliefs, even when they seem apparently irrational. What makes us moral? How can we be better human beings.

August 14, 2015

The fragility of life

While travelling around North Queensland recently, camping, I had cause to reflect on the fragility of life.

Exploring the Undara lava tubes made me contemplate the insignificance of human life on the planet. We are at the mercy of the elements … the power of a volcano to erupt, a typhoon to destroy, a tsunami to smother, an earthquake to swallow. The planet forces are unstoppable and devastating, despite our misguided confidence that we rule the planet.

We feel safe in Australia, protected and superior. But other peoples have woken one morning, only to be set upon and murdered by their neighbours in an ethnic cleansing rampage. I wonder whether our sense of security may be nothing more than a thin veil of misguided trust in human nature, especially as we have failed to successfully integrate diversity within our nation.

I heard a doctor, who works at a medical emergency facility, recently say I must tell my family I love them … that I never really know what a day might bring. This day could be the day a loved one’s life is changed forever. Leaving Cape Tribulation on our way to Cooktown, we were the first on the scene to a vehicle burning out of control, the owners safe but panicked and distraught. They had invested their life savings in their motor home … and lost everything.

Yet more. It’s possible that even a few words spoken can have the power to change our life … perhaps devastate a relationship we considered safe and secure.

Life is fragile and each moment of each day must be valued for itself.

June 18, 2015

Are you Pedantic?

We are all guilty of being pedantic about something … maybe even a little obsessive compulsive at times?

I like to snip the grapes into little bunches so that you don’t have all those sad little stalks sticking out like dead things, when people eat a few. It’s weird I know, but that’s my thing.

Am I pedantic because I believe it is the best way? After all, haven’t I refined this process over a long period of time?  But if I’m honest, I have noticed a reluctance to change even when I can reason that change might be an improvement, I just don’t want to do things differently. But … isn’t there always room for improvement?

For example, if I get used to driving a certain route between two destinations and even though I know there might be a better way due to changed traffic conditions, road works, new information etc., I am reluctant to go a different way. It’s comfortable traversing the well-worn path, safe.

Interesting … but does this make me unteachable? Perhaps, unless I’m open to changing cultural perceptions and new technological developments that could make life easier for me.

My Mum taught me to iron the tea-towels. (I’ve heard some people even iron their bed linen.) But my daughter pointed out that ironing the tea-towels is really quite pointless. After (quite long) reflection, I had to agree. I don’t iron them any more but it took me a while to give myself permission to stop, to decide that it really wasn’t worth the effort.

A friend was talking recently about the use of a delay cycle on her washing machine. You can put a load on but set it to start first thing in the morning, for example, ready to be hung out when you get up. Useful feature in a busy household. When she was explaining this to her mother, her mother refused to use the capability, even though her washing machine provided it and it would improve aspects of her lifestyle.

Irrational? Unteachable? Maybe. It’s easy to stand in judgement, but I know I’ve been guilty of dodging change in order to stay feeling safe.

I’ve even heard peers, on occasion, boasting about not taking up new technologies (e.g. refusing to have a mobile phone). It’s interesting the stories we can tell ourselves at times to justify our resistance to change.

It’s like a constant battle inside … change or not change. But I realise that if I don’t change I’ll get left behind and become an irrelevant, irrational, pedantic old lady. As much as I try though, I actually probably already am an irrelevant, irrational, pedantic old lady. Sigh. It’s an on-going work in progress.

( Confession: I still iron the pillow cases … oops!)

 

 

May 22, 2015

Gossip – essential to life?

Gossip, is it bad? We all do it. We all talk about each other. We all believe we shouldn’t do it, or that’s it’s bad … but is it really? I’m not talking about vicious rumour-mongering, I mean simply talking about other people when they are not present.

For example, the closest person to us is usually our partner. I am most likely to talk to my partner about other people in my life (though of course there are sometimes strict confidences withheld). In this talking, it seems to me I get an opportunity to work through my understanding of life and other people to some extent. This talking helps me to analyse other people’s behaviour, measure their ideas against my own, even perhaps helps me to understand myself better. The person I might be talking about might be really important in my life, or maybe an acquaintance I’m just getting to know.

Is that wrong … or essential?

Angossipother example. I might talk to one friend about another friend because these friends are unconnected and unlikely to ever meet. I feel this is a safe environment to share confidences in a way that is not going to bring about betrayal. The individuals are not known to each other and not likely to be known.

Is that wrong?

However, we all know that dreaded feeling … that feeling you get when you realise someone heard what you were saying, and you didn’t Gossip2intend them to hear. It can make you sick to the stomach. Why do we feel like that? We wouldn’t feel sick if they hadn’t heard. It wouldn’t prick our conscience one little bit.

Interesting … why?

Is it because we manage our inter-personal relationships on different levels? There is the face to face aspect, where we carefully consider what we say and do. Then there is the non face-to-face aspect where we consider it acceptable to say different things, as long as the target doesn’t hear. Is this necessary? Or is it somewhat self-indulgent and questionable behaviour?

I had cause to reflect on the nature of gossip during my Master of Arts. I read an academic paper that positioned gossip as an essential component of establishing self-identity and the human condition (by Hazel Smith The erotics of Gossip). Hazel quotes Eggins and Slade who argue that “gossip is a way of making people conform to social norms, while conceding that it affirms relationships.”

It caused me to reflect on the strict social boundaries we have, often unspoken, about how we talk about each other, who we talk to about each other and how we know instinctively when a confidence is implied … or broken.

My conclusion is that we talk to each other, then we talk about each other … it’s a fact of life. The nature of ‘confidence’ is subjective and interpreted.

It’s never going to change. It’s part of the human condition. What do you think?

March 21, 2015

The Culture of Family

What is your family culture?

It can be hard to ‘see’ the culture within your own family. Why? Because it’s normal. It’s what you grew up with. You are imbibed with it.

Perhaps you might have got an inkling as to your family’s culture when you stayed the weekend with a friend from school. Or better still, when you met your partner’s family for the first time.  Perhaps you may have even been forgiven for thinking that the other family was just that little bit … weird?

Why?

Isn’t this because their value systems differ from yours? For example, one family may value punctuality and see it as a manifestation of integrity and reliability. Another family may value spontaneity and see it as being responsive to those in need in a timely manner. Two such values can be quite conflicting.

Another family might value honesty (though we are never really completely honest) but another family might value protecting each other from emotional upheaval as more important.

We value competition in our family and it permeates our reactions to everything that happens. So much so, that I find it hard to imagine a family culture that doesn’t have competition at its core.

Of course all this can become a bit challenging when Person A marries Person B. For the marriage to work successfully, it seems to me that A and B have to make compromises to their value systems. You could call them adjustments. Perhaps this is one reason why the first year of marriage can be so HARD. But if A and B work at it, they end up developing a new value system which is a blend of A and B’s original values. Sometimes the compromises that A and/or B are being asked to make prove too great … and consequently they may decide to separate. That’s fair enough when you think about it, but painful none the less.

The blend of a couple’s two value systems ostensibly turns into a family culture as children appear. All of us work really hard on this, embracing our sense of ‘rightness’ and wanting to raise children with the strength of character we deem important. It’s critical to parenting.

And so the world goes around and generations repeat.

Perhaps if we understood how our value systems differ from our neighbours, might we be just that little bit more tolerant? Love to know what you think.

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