Choices, Values, Responsibilities (and other boring shit)

It all comes down to priorities.

And choices as well, I suppose. And consequences.

Recent events have made me think again about these concepts. I believe pretty strongly that just about everything we do, we do by choice; and that every choice we make is a reflection of our personal values. For example, if you choose to eat a ham sandwich instead of talking someone out of jumping off a 30-story building into a vat of boiling lead, then your choice reflects the fact that you value ham sandwiches over someone else’s life.

Pretty simple, I think.

Along with choices, though, come consequences. Going back to our example of the ham sandwich vs. the suicidal jumper, if you choose the ham sandwich, then the consequences will include (a) that you will not be hungry any longer; and (b) someone else will be dead. When you make a choice, you must be prepared to accept any consequences that will come from making that choice. And if you know of the potential consequences before hand, it doesn’t make much sense to be surprised or offended by whatever happens as a result of those choices.

For example: You ate the ham sandwich. Now your friend is dead, having jumped from the building into the vat of boiling lead. There’s no use in being surprised that he’s dead; and, moreover, there’s no point in being offended that he’s dead. It was your choice, after all, and no one else made it for you.

So. Responsibility. I believe pretty strongly in it. You make your choices. You pay the consequences. Your choices reflect your values. So always make sure that your choices, your actions, are in alignment with your values (or, at least, with what you want your values to be — there is often a difference between what we want our values to be, and what they actually are), and that you’re willing to accept whatever consequences result from your actions.

Of course, no one is perfect. You make mistakes. When you do, it’s important to learn from them, and move on. If your friend is dead because you chose to eat a ham sandwich instead of talk him down from his suicidal leap, well, you can admit that it was a mistake, that your values were out of alignment. In this case, of course, remorse is proper, and you should try to make future choices that are more in alignment with your values.

What if you didn’t know that your choice would result in your friend’s death? Then, observe. Learn. Understand how it is that your choice resulted in the way it did, and make better choices in the future. But even then, don’t disown responsibility for your choices, and the results. Personally, nothing makes me madder than someone who says something like, "I didn’t know he would die because of what I did, so I’m not sorry! Hah! In fact, it’s his own fault for dying!" etc.

Naturally, the ham sandwich/friend’s suicide dilemma is an extreme example. Most of the situations we face in life are a lot less cut-and-dried.

So, what makes this all relevant to my life?

Well, this is basically a rant, in response to some choices that I’ve witnessed someone making recently. The consequences are decidedly unpleasant for this person, and they know it, but they persist in making such choices anyway. It saddens me to see the choices that this person is making, and the results of those choices and their reaction… and their continued insistence on these same choices.

Of course, when one has learned behavior patterns throughout one’s entire life, it’s awfully hard to change those patterns and make new choices. But there comes a point when you simply must accept that the problems in your life are the results of your choices; and that you can make better choices to achieve better results.

So, what choices will you make?

  • Will you choose to continue in a dead-end career instead over taking new risks?
  • Will you choose the ham sandwich over the suicidal person’s life?
  • Will you choose your own pride over your friendships? And if you do, will you accept that the loss of your friendships are the results of this choice?
  • It’s all up to you.

Next: "First and Primary Responsibilities, and why I say, ‘Screw it all!’ (and why it’s hard to say it with your tongue in your cheek)"

Until then, I remain,
Your humble and obedient servant,
Richard

Propriety, the Naming of Names, and a Domain of My Own

Well.

So I have this friend who teases me frequently about not updating this journal. "You know, you really oughtn’t put up a link to a journal page that doesn’t exist," my friend chides me. And today: "You know, one of the points of a journal is that you update it frequently."


So. Okay. Fine. Herewith, an update. Dedicated to my good friend and to all of the other people out there who help me keep on my toes.


Naturally, this journal began with the Best of Intentions, but sometimes it’s hard to follow through. My other good intentions were followed through on, at least: I finished the proposal I’d been working on, and I’ve been working out regularly, and even keeping those eating habits under control (sort of). But this journal will obviously be the downfall of my moral integrity.


For what it’s worth, there is a reason for the delay. My thoughts have been occupied of late by a particular issue which seems to have dominated much of my interactions with people of late. I would have put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard, or client to server, or whatever) and shared the issue with whatever regular readers wander through here, but I feared that doing so would probably only make the situation worse; there are just some things that mustn’t be made public. Propriety demands that I simply keep my mouth shut; or, at least, my fingers off the keys.


What is this issue? you say. Click here and maybe I’ll tell you.


Thus ends the discussion on propriety, for now.

On the Naming of Names and a Domain of My Own

So I name things.

It’s not unusual. My friend Lisa named her car, a beautiful Camaro, Dionysis. My car, a 1992 Geo Metro which is probably on its last legs, is called Spiff. I named Spiff after Spaceman Spiff in the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip. Why Spiff? Well, just as Spaceman Spiff, as one of Calvin’s alternate identities, could take him to strange and exotic planets in the distant galaxy, so could my car take me to strange and exotic places in the country. Granted, it hasn’t taken me anywhere more strange and exotic than Yuba City or San Jose, but it’s still an honorable name — at least, in my own opinion it is.

Similarly, my computer, Lucien, is named after a character in a comic book. Specifically, Lucien is named after the Librarian of Dreams in the Sandman comic book series by Neil Gaiman (if you haven’t read this amazing series, you really should). Just as Lucien, the Librarian, was the keeper of all of the books which have never been written, so my computer keeps for me all of the books, short stories, artistic masterpieces, and proposals which are floating around in my head. The computer is like a librarian for me, and contains many of my dreams. Hence, Lucien. A very appropriate name.

And now I’ve purchased a domain name: mossroot.com.

I hear you. "Why Mossroot?" Good question. It’s a strange name, I admit; moss doesn’t have a root structure (not to my knowledge, but, then, I only got a B- in Botany), and it’s kind of a nonsensical word.

Well, it’s like this. In my misspent youth (and for a good part of my adulthood, including the present) I played a lot of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. I calculated once that I ran over five hundred games as Dungeon Master, including a number of aborted campaigns that simply didn’t happen. I created a lot of non-player characters that I thought were really great, even if the players weren’t that interested in them.

One of these non-player characters was a dragon by the name of Mossroot (honestly, I don’t know where that name came from — it sprang into my head and stuck, and I thought it rolled off the tongue well). Mossroot was not a typical dragon: instead of gold, Mossroot hoarded books and knowledge; instead of staying in his lair protecting his hoard, Mossroot explored the world. Since my plan for my website is to make it a portal for exploration of a sorts — the arts, the sciences, and even world culture — I thought that the domain name mossroot.com would be particularly appropriate, even if it is an in joke that only I would get.

Along with this domain name comes an additional 50 MB of webspace, giving me a total of 90 MB. I’m not entirely sure what I’ll do with it all; it’s been suggested that I could possibly run a MUSH with it, but that’s probably not going to happen; after all, I’ve never played a MUSH in my life, and I doubt that the good people at JPS.net who are hosting my domain would look on such behavior kindly.

In Conclusion…

Reading over this entry, and my last one as well, it occurs to me that I’m a bit of a chaotic thinker and writer. This entry just kind of goes all over the map; as does my last one. I’d like to tone my writing skills, so that I can focus a bit more.

I have to say that I’m somewhat in awe of people who are able to write cohesive, comprehendible essays in their own journals; Jennifer is a fun writer, and I enjoy reading her journal entries; and the same goes for Lisa.

Perhaps it comes with practice.

At any rate, you’ve come to the end of this entry. As always, I hope that I haven’t bored you terribly; and, of course, I hope to have another one up soon.

As always, if you have any complaints about this journal entry, or if I’ve inspired some deep thoughts in you (or if you have suggestions as to what to do with so much web space), feel free to e-mail me.

The Best of Intentions

So, it is with the best of intentions that I start up this on-line journal. And why not? Some of my best friends are doing it, after all. But I can tell already that updating this journal on a regular basis at all is going to be a difficult chore, at best.

But today is a day of good intentions. Here I sit at a bookstore/cafe in Davis (one of the obscenely large mega-chains that have pretty much rendered the "mom-n-pop" bookstore extinct — and don’t give me any crap about how the mom-n-pop’s could stay in business if they really wanted to; Borders has a much larger advertising and facilities budget than Joe’s Books and Stuff), feeding caffeine into my body and working on at least two different big projects. One of them is The Novel, which I’ve been working on since late December. Well, actually, you could say I’ve been working on it for about three years, since I wrote the actual short story that this novel is based on three years ago. But my goal since I began this novel as a serious project has been at least 500 words per day; my Good Intention today with regards to this novel is at least another 500 words.

The other major project I’m working on this evening is a proposal for work. As an hourly employee for a government institution, I’m really not supposed to be doing this on my own time. However, if this goes through, it would be such a big boost to my career that it would be well worth the time I’m spending on it; and to hell with FLSA regulations about hours worked, time away from the office, and so on. So my Good Intention with regards to this proposal is simply to finish it. Tonight. Before my meeting with the manager tomorrow afternoon.

Another of my Good Intentions, by the way, is to stop procrastinating. Any day now. I swear.

Another good source of Good Intentions is lifestyle changes. "Tomorrow," I say on a daily basis (for example), "I begin my diet and exercise program." Well, yesterday I said "Tomorrow" for the last time (I hope); and this evening, I went to the hospital, got a full exercise evaluation by a trainer (who also measured body fat in some, ah, embarrassing places; and then she wondered why my heart rate seemed to be rather high). This program is a sure target for Good Intentions, with plenty of incentive: it’s costing me $120 per month, so I’d better get my money’s worth. The only way that is going to happen is if I follow through and actually pay attention to the lessons on eating well, go to the workout sessions, and stay in touch with my doctor. Of course, with Valerie (not her real name) as a trainer, my incentive remains quite strong.

I am looking forward to this program. I participated in it once before, about two years ago, and managed to lose a decent amount of weight in a reasonable amount of time. This time around, I figure I’m an appalling 70 pounds overweight; at a healthy rate of weight loss, I could lose it all in just over a year. That is a goal — a Good Intention — well worth following through on.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Which brings me back to the topic of this journal. My Good Intention is to add to it on a more or less regular basis. I hope to keep it interesting, without being whiny or supercilious or just plain bitchy. I’m full of opinions, thoughts, and feelings on just about every subject under the sun, and I plan to go through them all at one point or another. I also plan to format this journal nice and neat, and even to write a Perl script which will let me update it with the greatest of ease (thus simultaneously ensuring that I update this regularly, and improving my programming skills).

You’re invited to send me an e-mail to let me know if I’m boring you utterly, or if there’s something about this journal which excites you to no end.

Best wishes,
Richard