Thursday, August 12, 2004

The future? Guaranteed, regardless.

I just don't know about tomorrow. Do you? Does that bother you in any measurable way? It irks me a bit. The future... Seems like a grayish, confused mass of jumbled events-to-be, which I have no current intentions of inventing/preventing/denying/directing. It only makes sense in hindsight, looking back at what happened, after the smoke has cleared and all the debris comes to rest. When gazing into what my life will be in five years, I don't see any clear paths, obvious horizons, or fully fleshed-out achievements.

Yet even in my confusion I notice that there always seem to be a few people out there with a plan. Soldiers of clarity, in a sense. And their plans provide them comfort. And comfort deals out confidence. Confidence leads one to make more/better plans. So and so forth on down the life line. Self-made millionaires, back-woods politicians, Lance Armstrong, and Francis Ford Copolla. These are those who combine to be Extreme Group A.

Extreme Group B: There also appear to be a handful of ill-directed souls with no discernable life-design whatsoever. A few who live completely outside order. Completely devoid of purpose and seemingly resigned to an existence below that of a limbless jellyfish - directed solely by currents beyond their control. Crack junkies, the mentally afflicted, Vanilla Ice, and every character John Cusack has ever played in a movie.

I believe the vast majority of us reside in between these two extremes. We want to plan, we really do. But we're easily dissuaded from such efforts, after a mere couple of failed attempts. Yet we never throw in the towel and live on the streets, eating refuse, audibly arguing with ourselves, selling out to shitty record companies, and peeing our pants while shooting horse tranquilizers into our necks. We stay in the middle, muddling along, molasses fast, paying our taxes yet rarely impressing ourselves (or anyone else for that matter). But is there an extreme which makes more sense? Logically if not empirically?

I will pit these two extremes within their opposing environments and see how they fare. I believe it says something interesting about where one should tilt.

If I were to assume that life really is what Extreme Group B would claim: after I put on my pessimist hat, my atheist eyeliner, and my (oh so trendy) existentialist dungarees, I might offer the following opinion. Outside of procreation, it is doubtful that anyone has a higher purpose beyond their all-consuming search for what is probably a non-existent "purpose". No grand plan, no big picture, no Neo in the Matrix, no Shadow amongst American Gods... just you and your ridiculous ambition to be ambitious. So, what's the point? There is none. Life is the ride, not the destination. So get yourself some smack, a bottle of cheap whiskey, start jumping out of planes, sell-out to Universal Records, "invest" in the Marlboro Man, crap wherever you please, and burn your voter registration card. Life begins and ends without reason or purpose. It is, only unto itself (and bad pop music).

That, obviously, is the darker end of the life-purpose spectrum. Pitch dark, I would say.

Cast the Extreme Group A folks into that dark reality, and you will see them continue to achieve, albeit humbly. They'll simply move their goals in. "No afterlife to work toward? Alright then, I'll settle for making this one the heaven I was trying to put off." Or: "no perpetual society to build and maintain? Okey dokey, then I'll just have to get by on planning order for my life, during my limited existence." Their efforts would be pointless. Only if there was the possibility of "creating" purpose would their efforts make any sense. So, in the world of Extreme Group B, I would argue that it makes no difference who you are (A or B). Everyone lives a pointless life and ceases to be without achieving anything of real substance. 50/50 flip.

But what about casting Extreme Group B characters into the world of Extreme Group A?

In A's world, life has grand "purpose". Who knows what that overall purpose may be (heaven, fame, wealth, cure for cancer, threesomes, whatever), but it is a moot point for this argument. The main point being that there is "purpose" beyond yourself (spatially, and chronologically), and that it takes recognition and self-direction to realize it. Obviously, Group B characters would be exactly as they were in their own reality construct: nowhere, doing nothing of import or interest, ever. Yet Group A characters would be thriving in their own ways (different "purposes" leading to different ways). Their plans would always lead to accomplishments, and those accomplishments would always lead to more/better planning.

I believe it fair to assume that the majority of us live in between these two groups for good reason. Our actual world is a blend of the two extremes. Sometimes our efforts are worthless, and the results disastrous. But other times, a good plan comes together and executes with success. The difficulty is in looking past the pessimistic failures, not in looking for the elusive nature of success.

Bottom line: I would prefer to be a planner in either extreme world. Note that being an optimist is not a requirement to be a planner. At least you have some semblance of control, whereas the Extreme Group B folks never bother (and it shows).

Either way: the future? I haven't a clue. But I'd rather spend my days planning to figure it out, even if there's nothing to figure out, then spend it waiting to die a pointless death. Whatever it actually is, it's guaranteed, regardless.

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