15(ish) Philosophical Building Blocks For Life

buildingblocksIn life we learn how to handle the here and now because of our experiences of the past and hopefully, those experiences have provided us with the ability not to make the same mistakes twice!

As we shuffle along from day-to-day with our daily toil and personal challenges, we often draw on our collection of proven and solid foundations, or even anecdotes and ditties sometimes, that help us with our decisions and actions for today. We build on these cornerstones which we have collected from our past.

We all have these little building blocks which we have collected through our passage of time, it’s a fundamental part of our learning and development, it’s how we mature. Some people may have a few more of them than others do, some of those blocks might not be quite as solid as the ones that our friends and colleagues use but we still have them, at least to some extent. But what happens when we don’t have them, or at least find it hard to believe we own some? What happens when we lack those personal foundation stones for today’s building project?

We all need a guide for our construction endeavours today (and in the future) but sometimes those foundations can be under developed, they can be obscured or even forgotten. Often we can’t see the wood for the trees, we are confused or unsure about which blocks (or tools) we need to use for our current project. Sometimes our personal building site or workshop can be in a total state of disarray, a complete mess because of the actions/inactions of others or ourselves. Our personal beliefs and thoughts about our blocks and tools can also have a profoundly negative impact on how we respond to situations. This insurmountable mountain of chaotic confusion is also often viewed through a heavy cloud of pea-soup fog… welcome to the individual world of addictions for many people!

Often in the realms of addiction, use of a particular substance, or the adoption of a particular addictive behaviour, can be born out of the simple need for a crutch. A form of support we believe will help us deal with all our difficulties. That or a convenient vehicle of escapism, one which we believe will whisk us away from all the stuff we just can’t cope with, or don’t particularly like. For many, an addiction is the easy option, the path of least resistance down a muddy road in a shitty world… but is it really? The simple answer to that could be – perhaps – but only ever in the short-term.

When you get your head around your addiction and it’s causes – honestly, most people will find that they actually want to change (see ‘Stages of Change’), even if they have been ambivalent to that change in the past. When you can truly examine your life values and balance short-term gains against your long-term goals and aspirations (see Cost-Benefit-Analysis), you will find maintaining your addiction is actually outweighed by the negative impacts it is undoubtedly having on your long-term expectations.

Thankfully mainly due to my parents, my family, some friends, many colleagues and a lifetime of experiences, my development has molded and formed the person I am today. Little snippets of my past often pop into my head today, they provide triggers and guidance for actions and interactions with others. I’ve also usually been lucky enough to mostly benefit from a well-known Hellenistic philosophy in life; that once traditional British trait of stoicism, espoused so amusingly in Pythonesque surreal humorous song by Brian. When shit happens I can so often hear my subliminal mind humming… Always look the bright side of life!

Some things in life are bad,
They can really make you mad.
Other things just make you swear and curse.
When you’re chewing on life’s gristle,
Don’t grumble, give a whistle!
And this’ll help things turn out for the best
Always look on the bright side of life!

It might sound condescending, trite or even a little puerile but it actually works.  It’s often a good idea to be pragmatic about stuff, especially the things we can’t control or change. Yes, sometimes shit happens in our lives, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t also have desires, aspirations and goals for your future. Having a plan is good – failing to plan is planning to fail – but it’s also a good idea to have realistic expectations for your aspirations. To prevent that feeling of being down-trodden (again) when your plans don’t come to fruition it’s always worth recalling Rabbie Burns‘ advice ‘Tae a Moose‘… His “Wee, sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beastie” profoundly reminds us that; The best laid schemes of mice and men, Go often askew!

It’s actually possible to be a ‘pragmatic idealist’ indeed, the so-called Generation Y author David D. Burstein promotes this philosophy in his book Fast Future: How the Millennial Generation is Shaping Our World. Apparently this particular trait is becoming ever more prominent amongst the ‘millennial’ cohort (see here). Not such a bad thing perhaps? I don’t necessarily agree with all of David’s brand of political or entrepreneurial outpourings however; it does go someway towards illustrating that… philosophy worthy of sage status doesn’t always have to be age related.

Sadly many people haven’t enjoyed the levels of parental guidance and/or lived experiences they need to draw on and manage their life in a positive way. With the support provided in a mutual-aid environment, assuming we choose to make a personal choice to engage with it, we can all assimilate new levels of knowledge and learn new skills from others. Learning from those around you is usually a worthwhile endeavor, if not always an enjoyable one… Irrespective of our age or background.

Now I would never presume or profess to be an Eye of Providence or some latter-day Soothsayer however; what I can do is share some of the anecdotes and ditties which I have found useful in helping me manage my life and escape the chaos it can present us with. They (and others) have proved to be beneficial cornerstones and building blocks for me, although they might not do the same for you. As in any mutual-aid setting, they might not turn out to provide the same level of drive for you but in sharing them, I can give you an opportunity to tap into the kind of things which provided me with positivity and direction.

I have selected five ‘maxims’ of personal philosophy, some of which are shown as multi-part thematic offerings. All are presented in no particular order of importance, from three distinctly separate periods in my life. They come from different people and varied sources, none of which really matter to you but obviously do to me. What matters is, also for varied reasoning, they stuck in my head and more importantly, formed tenets of my behaviour and outlook on life. Hopefully, you might find something useful for your own life too. Perhaps you might also find fun in submitting them to Google to see where they came from, or why they might have resonated with me? If nothing else (and you’ve read this far) I’d like to think that your engaged in thought about you and your life.

Formative / Adolescent Years:

  • Manners Maketh Man / Mind your Ps & Qs / Treat others how you would like to be treated / Honesty is the best policy.
  • Life is a journey to be experienced, not a problem to be solved. / You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.
  • It is never too late to be wise / fear of danger is ten thousand times more terrifying than danger itself / Be Prepared.
  • Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen / It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.
  • Now’t clever in too much strong drink.

Adult / Working Life:

  • Planning and Preparation Prevent Piss-Poor Performance (6Ps).
  • You can’t legislate against stupidity / Lies, damned lies and statistics.
  • No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion.
  • Shit Happens! / Always be grateful, you’re a long time dead / Somewhere someone is always worse off than you.
  • Open your eyes, look within. Are you satisfied with the life you’re living.

Later Life:

  • A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination / Work to live don’t live to work
  • Don’t look back, you’re not going that way / Hope for the best, prepare for the worst and expect nothing.
  • Life is what you make it / However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.
  • Correcting bad habits cannot be done by forbidding or punishment / Your past mistakes are meant to guide you, not define you.
  • Life is so very simple. It’s people who make it complicated / No problems, only solutions.

I’m sufficiently intelligent to understand that some, or maybe even all of the above are open to individual interpretation. Some people will take great joy in academically (or mischievously) dissecting each and every phrase to either, dispute its actual meaning or predict why I might have chosen it from a personal psychological perspective. Who knows, perhaps an ‘expert’ opinion from some self-appointed social-media ‘shrink’ might provide with a better understanding of what goes on in my head sometimes? I doubt it.

universalparadoxThanks to my personal set of foundations and cornerstones, I’m as satisfied and happy as I can be with most of my life. The parts that I’m less than happy about I have learned from and more importantly; I’m relatively confident that the poor choices I may have made in the past haven’t caused too much undue damage to others. Yes, sometimes different ones would have clearly resulted in different outcomes however; who’s to say they would have been the ‘right’ choices for me at the time… other than me?

Choice might be the universal paradox in life but is also what life is all about. It’s about the human right to make (correct) choices that are right for us at the time… hopefully they’re also the best choices for our long-term aspirations and goals and don’t present unforeseen and negative impacts for anyone else!

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