Monday, December 3, 2007

What Are You Against?

One way to find out your path is to figure out what you like, what interests you, what you're good at.

This is the positive image, the ideas and traits and talents that define who you are. Another way to find your path is to look at the negative image, or the things that define who you are not.

I've been thinking about this recently as I think about the people I know or know of--be they politicians, businesspeople, neighbors, whoever--who walk a path I never could.

They are people who make choices that I am unequivocally against: Corruption, apathy, abject wastefulness, conformity for conformity's sake.

We live in a world where it is often unfashionable or uncomfortable to say you are against something. I'm not for intolerance, but I am for discernment: I am for saying that some things are better than others. If someone disagrees, okay, let's debate, but that doesn't mean I'm bad or you're bad if we have strongly held beliefs, and finding someone with beliefs other than yours is certainly not the time to end the discussion, but rather a critical--the most critical--time to engage in it.

I feel like people are afraid to say they are against anything. But if we are not strongly against anything, we are not strongly for anything, either. What is your philosophy of life? Who are you not? What are you not willing to do, under any circumstances? Can you point to principles that you hold dearly?

I ask because principles and philosophies are a way to build a life that is larger than you--a life that has something of the heroic in it, a life that isn't just about petty needs and daily exigencies.

Tell me in the comments who you are not. I hope this doesn't come off as high-minded or self-righteous. I can point to moments where I wish I had acted to fight something I found insidious--like government corruption--and I didn't. I'm not sure what I will do the next time, but I think defining this aspect of yourself is a way to avoid the regrets of inaction.

What do you think?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Here is the unadorned list, no explanations or justifications:

- I am not practical.

- I am not driven by logic.

- I am not an activist.

- I am not a gossip, a fluttering chatter queen or a one-act show for the coffee break.

- I am not a land to colonize.

- I am not political.

- I am not broken, weak, or in need of a dictator.

- I am not easy to know.

- I am not forgiving of people who are repeatedly unreliable.

- I am not who I was at the beginning of this year.

- I am not cynical.

- I am not unafraid.

- erzsebet

(I found this a fascinating thought experiment - and a very difficult one at that!)