There are a few things that will get me sitting down to think about life.
One thing is the Leonard Cohen tribute movie (at time of writing available here); another is, curiously, this Xkcd cartoon; and it is all amplified if I consume scotch. Today has seen all three factors, specifically featuring Wilson & Morgan House Malt. So, a couple of words.
First: My life never went a straight line. I have spent a lot of time in a pendulum between envy and disgust towards people who did education, work, career, life partner, children, all that. I broke off one education (cand.negot.), chose another (Russian language, history and literature), did fairly well initially despite being distracted by everything else, then lost momentum – and after that, I felt like a broken spring. I could have been an international-profile economist by now. I suppose I should be grateful I did not manage to. I was unemployed for a while, found work, studied IT support, let it go, went unemployed, studied technical design for a while until I gave it up (I confess I still have a weakness for CAD, at least 2D), and finally got my BA from SDU, the University of Southern Denmark (one should note that I had taken so long to finish that they renamed the university; so my degree is not actually from the university where I began my studies). Somewhere along this process I was engaged, left her, got married, got a divorce and married again. Not because it was unimportant, it was all that mattered when it happened. But life shaped me as much as I shaped it. I finally started working in public administration and have settled into that, even if I have worked in several places on the way.
What I wanted to write about today is a series of epiphanies. I am, you see, a serial spiritual reincarnator.
I grew up in a house with that diffuse combination of left-wingers who like the notion of the people (The People) but have little respect for the individual representatives of the tribe. We were smarter. And yes: My mother was very intelligent, and my father is. But there is a sort of equivalent to The White Man’s Burden when you feel it is your responsibility to educate. When my ambition broke, I got to talk to a lot of interesting people; I may have experimented with life at university, but nothing compared to what happened when I was sent into the unemployment projects. But characteristic for all the stages: I came to a realization of what I was and was not. When I was studying IT support, I saw that I had to get back to my studies; I remember sitting at university one afternoon, looking at the sun through the trees – it was in the countryside, and even if it was a huge block of concrete with rusty plates, it felt like home for a very long time; and I remember sitting there in late summer, thinking I had to move on. I found a new me.
It seems the definition is important. I have rediscovered myself as a bureaucrat. I am curiously fascinated with the term. I certainly discovered I was not to become a scientist. My good friend Kim showed the talent for the task. He deserves every scrap of success he ever gets – deserves as in having earned it through hard work. I could not do that. My mind is restless (which is a poetic dodge; my concentration is just all over the place) – he has the patience and focus, which I acknowledge and occasionally envy.
I find MOOCs seductive. I know that I am not going to be a scientist. But the method and being presented with new ideas has a magnetic effect on me. I have studied statistics, networks, rhetoric and other topics with Coursera, Stanford EdX and Open2Study. They are great.
I came to a conclusion. That I will invent, reinvent and re-conclude what I am. I am fascinated with headlines and definitions, but they will only go so far to cover what I am. So I thought of three things that I want to do and always wanted: To create, shape and defend.
To create – to decide to leave behind something I have created. It can take on many shapes, physically and intellectually. A carpenter as much as a school teacher – but important because you are not just a tourist in this world, you create something that will last. It is easy to create something of use for today and tomorrow, and it is worthy to have a job to feed and shelter yourself and your family. But we should all try to leave something enduring behind. An opus, if you will.
To shape – to strive to give the world the shape it deserves. To shape is also to reshape, to split the unhealthy and and unconstructive. There are thoughts in us and around us which are not worthy. There are values in us which have not found their final form, and the creativity around is presents a potential.
So everyone has an obligation to shape and reshape oneself and the world around us in a direction of equilibrium and sustainability, so the shortsighted, the selfish and the narrowminded does not defeat us. After having children it is more clear than ever that we – as well as the world around us – have not found our final form.
Creation is ongoing, and we are all subjects and objects – with an obligation to strive for the best in ourselves and others.
To defend – to acknowledge the value of oneself and the people around you in a way to also understand the necessity of stopping the people and ideas that present a threat to you and your loved ones.
If you create your life’s work and shape the world around you, there will be those who try to pressure you – perhaps because what you do threatens their view of the world, perhaps they feel your ideas are misguided. Understanding is not the same as allowing others to decide for you. So you or the people you love are threatened on your life – physically as well as in your views – you have the right to say stop! – and resist.