A Life Wasted

I’ve spent most of my life just cruising along and doing whatever seemed right at the time. I avoid conflict and tend to be pretty lazy. Like most Americans from my generation, I was brought up to believe in patriotism and self-sacrifice, but that instruction came from a generation who didn’t really believe in what it was preaching. The current state of American politics today displays that very clearly. You can’t really put it on one specific political party, because one side actively works to unravel the fabric of what America was intended to be, and the other refuses to stand up for what those ideals were intended to accomplish.

For nearly 40 years I have sat on the sidelines, refusing to participate in the argument because it just didn’t seem worth the effort. I’ve never been a very confrontational person, not because I’m afraid, but because I tend to not like wasting my time and effort on things I know won’t change. It always seemed that there were better things to do with my time than try to convince someone that their viewpoint is wrong. When someone has come to inhabit an idea and choose to live their life in that house, you’re almost never going to bring them out of it. That goes for any ideology you might think of. We tend to go all in on belief systems.

As I get older, though, I’m starting to feel this need to put my thoughts out into the world. I look back on my life, and while I have done some pretty amazing things, I feel like my contribution to our country is sorely lacking. I spent more than a decade of my life in military service, and while I realize and accept that this is a positive contribution to our society, I’ve never felt it lived up to my potential as a human being. I suppose I could go out and volunteer for things, but I just can’t bring myself to go that far, so maybe dipping my toe into the arena of advocacy for personal freedom is something I can do to make a real and meaningful contribution to society.

I used to say that I am a Libertarian, and that’s mostly true, but like a lot of things in my life I’ve come to realize that I don’t want to put a label on myself. Once you’ve decided to put the moniker of an organization next to your name, you’ve railroaded yourself into a certain way of thinking, and more and more I’ve started to believe that this just isn’t a healthy way of looking at the world. It’s much better to have principles that you accept as the truth, and form your opinions with those as the starting points.

So this forces me to think about what principles I believe in. When you discard the templates and actually have to start thinking about these things on your own, how do you know what makes sense and what doesn’t? Despite what many people think, very little of it is intuition. Most of it will spring from logical thought. That doesn’t seem to make sense at first glance, because we would tend to think that truly logical thought would bring us all to the same conclusion, but when you really look at logical thought, you start to understand that logic in and of itself can never provide a single answer to any question. It is a method to get from one point to another, not a perfect formula that provides the most pure answer possible.

So before we can start down this journey of logical thought to reach a rational conclusion, we have to start with some very illogical processes. Logic will help you take the journey and find the destination, but only you can choose where the starting point is. For example, if you want to get to Los Angeles, there is a logical route to get there, but that route completely depends on where you start from. If you’re in San Diego, then you take Interstate 5 north until you get there and it’s very simple. If you’re in New York, though, then the route is much longer and far more complex. The destination is the same, but how you get there is completely different. So it is with life.

So what is the destination? I think most people would agree that it is a state in which we are filled with joy. Because we are individuals, what that means is different for each of us. No matter how much we have in common, we are each unique and we each have a different idea of what a purely joyful state would be. Joy is the destination of every human being, regardless of creed. What creates that joy is unique, but it is the one thing we universally have in common. No one wants to exist in misery.

Now that we have a destination, we have to identify our starting point. For me, it is the idea of personal sovereignty. If we are all unique, it doesn’t make sense to me that we should be promoting ideas that encourage “group think” or force people to act or live in a certain way. Like most starting points, this is a personal belief and while it does have some basis in logic, it requires that I make a decision based on what feels right to me. I can’t ignore the fact that there are aspects of humanity that are heavily influenced by social constructs, but when I pare all of those things back and look at the core, I see a world of individuals.

So now we have a starting point and an ending point. If we being with the idea that we are each individuals with our own ideas of what joy is, and the universal goal of all human beings is to attain that state of joy, then we must start applying logical thought on how to get the most people into that state of being. Many people think that by removing certain obstacles we can usher in an age where joy is maximally distributed to the largest number of people. Others think that it is the overcoming of hardships that bring us joy. The truth is far more complex than that.

I’ve spent a lot of my life thinking pretty hard to get to this point. My upbringing helped me arrive at the starting point, but upon reflection I agree with the principles that our country was founded on. It is clear that we as people fail utterly in our attempts to embody those ideals, but I believe that they are pure. Certain truths are simply irrefutable, not because you can’t come up with an argument against them, but because the way we are as humans causes those ideals to ring true in at least some part of our being. I can’t believe that there isn’t a single person in the world who doesn’t at least partially agree with the idea that a person should be able to choose their own path.

The title of this blog post is “A Life Wasted”. It may be more harsh than is warranted, but for a long time now I’ve felt like I’m just existing. A person needs to feel like they’re doing something with their life, and maybe this is something I can do that will take me into the next phase. It is my hope that this will somehow turn into a place where meaningful discussion takes place and perhaps makes a difference in someone’s life. At the far end of the journey, perhaps it will grow into something that makes a difference in the country, or even the world. That is the dream, but for now I’ll be content with just putting my thoughts into writing and hoping it sparks something in whoever is reading it.

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