Tuesday, October 06, 2009

First, Work on Yourself

'Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.'
--Leo Tolstoy

20 Comments:

At 12:51 AM, Blogger kasscho said...

" It's easier to wear slippers than to carpet the world." - Al Franken, governor of Minnesota (as Stewart Smalley on Saturday Night Live),

 
At 2:18 AM, Blogger Jim Murdoch said...

That's probably because by the time we become that dissatisfied with who we are who we are is pretty much set in stone anyway.

 
At 9:53 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

I like that line from Al, and didn't remember it from SNL. Kasscho, thanks for dropping by. We love first-time commenters, and all the way from Salt Lake City, no less. Interesting that you call yourself an unyielding optimist. Our Scottish friend Jim Murdoch, meanwhile, would probably register as a fatalist. I must admit fatalism is my tempermental default setting (as it is perhaps for most writers), but I'd like to consider myself a recovering fatalist. Or maybe a former cynic, and now a skeptic.

 
At 10:27 AM, Blogger Jim Murdoch said...

Not really. To quote a couple of lines from one of my poems (which Kasscho will tell you I'm making a bit of a habit of these days):

        No, I don't believe in destiny
        but I do in inevitability.

I'm quite opposed to the notion of any external intervention in Man's affairs. If you have to attach an –ism to me then I'm closer to being a pessimist than anything else. All I can hope to do is "fail better".

 
At 10:38 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Interesting, Jim. I suppose I was using fatalism pretty much as a synonym for pessimism, but of course they have fairly different shades of meaning.

 
At 10:39 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

By the way, Jim, I'm wondering if you have written anything about Tolstoy, or if he resonates with you? If so, please feel free to post the link(s) here.

 
At 11:20 AM, Blogger Kim said...

Truer words were never spoken.

I think too, it's about perspective. When I work on myself, everything else seems to fall in step.

(I consider myself a wide eyed optimist, if we're to classify, with an occasional cloud of doom on the horizon, which I blow away with gusts of words).

signed, Kim "Mary Sunshine"

 
At 11:21 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

I like that notion of blowing away clouds of doom with gusts of words. That's inspired, Kim.

 
At 12:22 PM, Blogger Pat Washington said...

"...an occasional cloud of doom on the horizon, which I blow away with gusts of words."

"So let it be written. So let it be done."

Yep, words are powerful.

 
At 12:22 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

But then, we're biased.

 
At 12:56 PM, Blogger Jim Murdoch said...

I'm afraid my knowledge of pre-20th century literature is quite limited. I did try and read War and Peace when I was about ten but I never finished it. My problem has always been relevance. The writing may be great but what has it to do with me? And it's not as if I'm likely to run out of 20th century writers to read any time soon.

 
At 1:01 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

I hear you on that, Jim. You're certainly not alone in beginning but failing to finish War & Peace. That's a pretty common thing.

 
At 9:33 PM, Anonymous joan said...

Another quote taking a different slant on the same principle:

"Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful,
we must carry it with us or we find it not."

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

 
At 9:42 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Gotta love Ralph Waldo. No one else like him. Thanks for adding that, Joan. You wouldn't by any chance be my friend Joan of Austin, Texas, would you? Either way, I appreciate your adding your two cents.

 
At 11:06 AM, Blogger Geoff Schutt said...

After a certain age (which is probably younger than we realize), I don't think we can really "change" ourselves. Rather, we can continue the "evolution" of self -- whatever direction one decides to take. From birth, we're shaped by our parents, by society, by a whole host of factors. So my view is, we can't get rid of the personal baggage we carry around, but perhaps -- and this is the key -- we can "evolve" just enough that, yes, we do become better "selves." And that said, in doing so we affect the world around us, so it's all connected, much like the global economy is connected. Weird analogy, but it works.

 
At 11:15 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Geoff, how grand to see your name back here in the comments section. You always have something interesting to add. As a fellow mature-aged guy, I do quite agree that as we get to a certain age, the die is largely cast for our personalities, habits, what have you. I think we then tend to grow more into who we really are, absent the earlier filters of ego, ambition, stubborn pride, you name it.

But as your comment about evolving just enough suggests, I also think there's so much opportunity to make some marginal but still really meaningful adjustments based on all the accumulated wisdom we've earned. And since we're no longer governed and bound by youthful pride, arrogance, hubris, etc., and (one hopes) we've now moved into what Maslow wonderfully called the "generative stage" of life, the ability to focus on others as well as on the better angels of our own nature offer unique opportunities to go down better, healthier, more productive paths than before.

Am I alone in thinking both those things are possible at the same time?

 
At 12:34 PM, Blogger Art Durkee said...

But evolution IS change, ennit?

As for personal baggage, I know from experience that it's possible to shed it, and move on more freely. If that's evolution or change, that works as definition enough for me. But it is possible to overcome things from our childhoods or what our birth tribes pounded into us; I don't say it's easy, or that everyone wants to, but it IS possible. I've seen it happen.

If I didn't believe this was possible—and my beliefs are based upon my own experience, not upon received wisdom—then there's no accounting for those among us who have genuinely evolved into something great. The Dalai Lama, for instance; or Gandhi; or Dr. King; or many others one could list. All of whom indicate the way towards becoming more fully human, more truly complete as individuals and as a species. If that wasn't possible, there would be no hope for our species' survival whatsoever; but not even on my bleakest days do I embrace such cynicism.

 
At 12:40 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Wonderfully said, Art. You've nicely captured my own feelings on the matter, as you often do. And I'm struck by an additional small irony: you've commented here shortly after I posted a mention of Maslow and his incredible work, which has been a special inspiration to me ever since an early intellectual mentor turned me on to his ideas. And I recall that the very first post on your blog after our first-ever face to face meeting a few weeks ago was about that very subject, Abraham Maslow (who didn't come up in our conversation, but easily might have). Anyway, I got a kick out of that.

 
At 10:49 AM, Blogger Art Durkee said...

Very cool. :)

Maslow does fit in here, of course. So do Frederick Franck, Albert Schweitzer, etc. I've been cogitating on this topic a lot, lately. Possibly because it's been a way of reminding myself not to despair.

Interesting synchronicities.

 
At 11:07 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

We codgers tend to cogitate, don't we? And I'm struck how a small, errant thought from old Count Leo T. has somehow prompted this long and interesting meander through other topics. You gotta love how that sometime happens when you invite so many smart, well-read and discerning people over for a virtual coffeeklatsch.

 

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