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» Hatrack River Forum » Archives » Landmark Threads » In Search of a Landmark

   
Author Topic: In Search of a Landmark
Tresopax
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quote:
"Sometimes the important thing isn't the discussion itself but how it affects a person's life and thinking. Once in awhile, I see that happen here for the better because the people here are mostly open-minded and hearted. And *that*, to me, is a good discussion." -Ele

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Tresopax
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So, you’ve returned. Why?

Or for that matter, why did you bother leaving in the first place and making me replace you? I must admit, it was enjoyable, but I am not sure if one could call it productive. I have spent countless hours and words in political arguments, semantic debates, and so on that seemingly have neither yielded any new answers nor convinced anyone. Some enjoy it, but how many others have just gotten angry, or frustrated? How many others have only become more entrenched in their own personal positions, and less open to ideas? Liberals! Conservatives! Atheists! Christians! Agnostics! There seems to be more and more labels and less and less sophistication in discussions, no? And above all, still no real answers. There are never any real, clear, certain answers to anything, is there? Nothing we can really all agree upon and be happy about. Isn’t that what we’ve proven here?


I did not come to Hatrack because I thought I’d get answers...

Then why did you come here?

Because I care about the truth. And even if there is no firm answer we can find, through discussion we can always come closer and closer. It is our responsibility to engage in that discussion. We have a responsibility to have thought-out beliefs. We have a responsibility to know what we believe. It is through discussions like this with other people that we achieve that.

Ha-ha! You say that like you really believe it. No, why are you REALLY here?

Because I find it interesting, discussing things. There are smart people here and they say smart things. I learn stuff and learning is good.

Nope - try again. Why are you here?

Because I have friends here. They’re fun. I have nothing better to do!

’Nothing bettter to do’ is just something people say when they don’t want to give the real reason they have chosen to do something. If you are just hanging out with some friends here, then why are you arguing with them, rather than having simple fun? Why do you spend so much time on ‘serious’ topics? Fluff is far easier.

Don’t people care about serious topics? Everyone does, but they’re often afraid to discuss them, even with their friends. They want to, though! I know it’s true...

Do you?

You think you know things about what other people think, but how would you know? Can you see inside their heads? You assume too much, which is ironic.... You only know yourself, and maybe not even that.

No, you talk about serious topics not because you know others are interested, but because you are interested. But WHY are you interested? If you don’t think there’s going to be answer, why do you bother? If people are just going to fight and not be convinced, why start? Why not just stick to fluff like all those others, or for that matter, why don’t you just leave the forum altogether like Slash or Pod or everyone else who has turned up missing?


Because that would be giving up, wouldn’t it? Yes, I do care about these things... it’s not just a way to waste some time. I’d rather be doing it than a lot of other things. I don’t care if, in fact, if others’ don’t feel that way. I don’t care if people who aren’t interested stop reading this thread right now. Maybe most other normal people would look down on hanging out at a forum to discuss philosophy on an evening rather than hanging out at a bar discussing baseball scores or whatever, but that doesn’t matter, does it? The world places values in many of the wrong things, and where we should ‘waste’ our free time is one of them. I like this better, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s a better use of my time.

So what if I won’t convince anyone? So what if we get into some disagreements sometimes? Maybe there isn’t some high and mighty moral imperative to come to this forum and discuss politics and religion, but still, so what? I’m not going to give up just because of these things – I’m not that easy to break, am I? (Maybe we are.) I still care about it – not convincing people, or finding answers, but just the ideas themselves. They matter.

Why? You still haven’t told me why. Why? Why? Why do they matter to you? Why should they matter to anyone? Ideas are not real. Living life is real, not talking about beliefs. The stuff outside your head – that is real. But this forum, how real is it?

I don’t understand.

Yes, you do. You come to this place and talk about the war in Iraq, acting as if our discussions about it could change things. You talk about the correct religion as if someone here might change religions. You talk about philosophy as if it matters, as if people are guided by it, but the truth is that these things aren’t supported by the evidence. The truth is, people live beyond the world of ideas, beyond the world of so-called ‘serious’ topics. They just live, and work, and play, and meet friends, and love, and so on and so forth, and this is called life. Liberalism, conservativism, existentialism, relativism, skepticism – all have little to do with it.

I still don’t understand your point.

The point is simple: Life is not a discussion, or a forum, or a set of ideas. It does not exist in the ideal. The things you discuss here are not a vital piece of life. Rather, they are a distraction from it. They are what you do when you are not really living....

No, I don’t-

Yes, and let me offer an alternative theory about why you came here, why you come here and write about these things. It is not about the ‘importance of rational discourse’ or about learning or about friendships – it is about YOU. It is about you pretending that you are smart or wise or know what you are talking about, when in reality you are nothing special, an average person just like everyone, with a few gifts here and a few faults there. That is why you are engaged in serious topics, is it not? So YOUR ideas can stand out, somehow? So you can ‘win’ perhaps? So you can pretend like you are doing something meaningful even when it would be far more meaningful to be living life in reality?

I don’t think-

Ah, but I do think. It’s that last one isn’t it? This post is just another part of it – another attempt at meaning. Hey look at me... I’m special because I can write existential angst! But what’s so special about it? What’s real about it? Not much. It’s a mask, not reality.

Haven’t you mentioned the masks we wear before? Both of us have. Tresopax is a mask, and it hides reality, no? Just like everyone else and their masks. You’ve admitted this. Tresopax is the illusion that you know what you are talking about, that it matters, when it doesn’t.


That’s just self-doubt speaking. If this is not real, then what is? Which mask would you choose instead? The hard-working, detail-oriented office worker self? The wise-cracking goofball friend me? The shy, naive, little kid me? The caring mentor me? The harsh, critical me? The nervous, fearful, insecure me? Or perhaps you, Xaposert?

Perhaps there is no real you.

Precisely! The masks may be all the reality we have, so I will wear the ones I choose. Yes, you are right – this IS about me. It IS about pretending to do something meaningful, but you miss the point. In a way, it is only through pretending to find meaning that meaning is created. We pick our causes and our passions, and decide that they are valuable and Good, even though we have no absolute reason to know so, and even though there are plenty of other causes and passions to choose from. There is no inherent, absolutely True meaning of value in things. We create it with the masks we wear, and the illusions we create for ourselves. That’s life. (Is it?)

I am a scared little kid at times, and I am a fool, and weak, and whatever else is inevitably true. But for the moment I’m going to pretend I am capable of creating some meaning here and there. If it isn’t true in some objective sense, so be it. The only thing I’ve really wasted is a little, tiny bit of my life. But I’m tired of ignoring the issues that seem truly meaningful in a direct sense in favor of side matters, issues of politics and ethics, that turn into a superficiality, game, or fight half the time.

This forum was never supposed to be about winning. And it was never supposed to be about the impracticalities of politics and philosophy, so detached from life. That wasn’t what it was, in the beginning, at least for me. It was about me, you are right I guess, but it wasn’t supposed to be about me proving anything or winning anything or having the best ideas. It was about me being lost, and others here being lost, like all people are. We are lost, and through meaningful communication we help eachother find our ways – no, even more than that, we help eachother make our ways, make ourselves. It’s not about finding answers, or winning, or proving anything, or just socializing – it is about ourselves, understanding ourselves, and solving ourselves. If you want to know why, that is why – because finding those answers is not possible alone. THAT is what matters. THAT is why I’m here.

But we’ve all gotten distracted, I think - distracted with the details. We’ve become obsessed with the abstract uncertainties of who is really right about all the specific questions, or what the country or the world should do on a massive scale, or who should be elected and why. We’ve forgotten (I’ve forgotten) that this was never supposed to be the point. There’s nothing beautiful about that sort of discussion by itself. There’s little productive about it, if we miss the way it reflects on ourselves and our real lives. What is beautiful is people, as individuals, and the way in which they interact with one another, or relate to one another. That is what this should all boil down to, but because we have forgotten this, something important was lost.

So you left, no? That is why you left?

Yes, sort of. Once the original meaning was lost, it became all about assumptions, abstractions, logic, and the cold hard truth of impractical yet supposedly practical matters. Anything is possible, nothing is known, all assumptions are unproven, and foolishness is widespread. That’s you, Xap, not me, except insofar as you are me. I realized that, but not why.

No, if I’m going to stay here, I’ve got to understand the original point. I think I realized that when I wrote my first landmark, because it wasn’t really a landmark at all – it was just an explanation of where I was coming from. A real landmark should mark something – an accomplishment, a journey completed. But what journey have I completed? How far have I come? How far has anyone come? I did not know what to say. That’s what I intend to figure out, or at the very least attempt to explain if I ever want a decently real landmark.

Maybe you’ve been going in circles, going nowhere.

Maybe. I hope not....

<TO BE CONTINUED...>

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Parsimony
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::waits impatiently::

--ApostleRadio

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Tresopax
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The following quote was taken from my first post at Hatrack River, the idea that tempted me out of lurkerdom:
quote:

Is the purpose of life to be happy? Is it to find the truth? I believe it is not.

The true value of this life that God has given us is the attempt to achieve these goals. It is the journey that matters. So what if God just gave us these things? He could tell us exactly what to do to be happy or he could just waive his hand and make us inherently happy. But then there would be no journey. The fact is that we need ignorance and suffering for there to be any point to life.

Is life not, first and foremost, a journey that is to be valued for it's own sake? I believe it is. At the very least, many people seem to think living life to its fullest is something that greatly matters, and should greatly matter to everyone. If offered the chance to live forever sedated in a drugged, happy trance, I believe few would accept, and most of us would say those who did were making a mistake. I think most of us would say that such a life would not be living life to its fullest, and thus would be a waste of time.

It might take some thought to come to that conclusion however, because we often become confused, thinking that in pursuing our goals for so long, it must be the goal itself that matters. Or, to put it otherwise, we might come to consider the landmark, itself, to be what we value most of all, rather than the journey it takes to achieve that landmark. Why bother living life to its fullest if we can skip those challenges, skip the journey altogether, and go straight to the goal?

I believe this is a terrible mistake, even if an extremely understandable one. To explain why is very difficult, because it is hard to prove what should have value and what should not. Value is not something you can derive easily from objectively and universally accepted assumptions. However, I think it is something you can derive from your choices, if we can ever honestly judge how we would choose if fully knowledgable about a given situation that we have thought through completely. Suppose, for instance, I offered you a choice: You could either come to a place like Hatrack as it is, where people are unlikely to be convinced by your claims, or come to a similar forum, but where everyone would be convinced by everything you say, no matter what you say, and where they would worship you, love you, and proclaim you god of the forum. Which would you choose, after considering each possibility carefully? I'm betting (in all seriousness) you would choose Hatrack as it is, or at least that if you chose otherwise, you would regret that decision once you understood better. So, too, I think you would choose when it came to the question of evil in life. I am confident most would be sorely tempted by a life of effortless bliss, but my inclination is to suspect that most would (in the end) decide that is the wrong path to choose. My suspicion is that most would, eventually, decide the more difficult journey is more worthwhile. The journey is valuable for its own sake.

But I’d even go further than that: I’d say that a person, or at least their character, IS the journey they are pursuing. People are a blank slate, yes, but they also the series of things (experiences) that appear on that blank slate throughout their life. Thus, when I say the journey is what matters, what I really also mean is that people are what matters. They experience things and decide to value those experiences, and that is the way value is added to the world. There is nothing objectively good about a team winning a championship, or a great monument being built, or a great achievement being reached, or in anything like that. There is nothing objectively good about reaching a landmark. But there is something objectively good in the value that the people pursuing those things place in the experience of that pursuit.

In several years at Hatrack, that’s been a central theme of mine, I think. I’ve come across several interconnected beliefs that time and time again seem to threaten it, and endanger our understanding of what I consider to be the meaning of life. Each one either directly or indirectly distracts us from the worth of people (ourselves and others) and the journeys of those people. In doing so, these mistakes endanger the one thing I think we can call truly and objectively good...

Mistake #1: The belief that we know things for certain, cannot be mistaken about certain things...

We think are wise and knowledgable, but we are not. We are children. We are half-blind at best in even the most basic matters of the world. We rely on luck, faith, and hope that our beliefs are the right ones. But we do not wish to admit this – we want to have absolute confidence in our beliefs and in our own greatness for figuring them out. Therein lies the big problem, because it gives us a false perception of our condition in the world, and thus leads us to false judgements. It leads us to look down upon those who fail to recognize what we think they know. It leads us to look down upon ourselves if we make a mistake when we should have “known” better. It leads us to worry about what we know will happen, even though we know nothing of the sort. It leads us to fear being foolish when the truth is that everyone is foolish, no matter how hard they try to avoid it. It distracts us from the true value of the journeys of human beings, and instead casts the spotlight on what they should have known, done, or chosen – the mistakes we all make.

The world is an impossibly tricky, uncertain place. We must either come to see that or be forever perplexed by why we and others cannot understand it. It is not our fault – it is the condition we have been placed in. We should not be so hard on ourselves, or on others, for the mistakes we make. We should not give up on anything absolutely, and we should not rely on anything absolutely. We should just move forward with faith – faith is the key word, the thing that fills in the space between the uncertain truth and the confidence we need to be happy.

We do not need to fear uncertainty or our own fallibility. Overcoming the confusion of the world is part of what makes our journey worthwhile and beautiful, and our constant state of uncertainty is what justifies the mistakes we inevitably make.

Mistake #2: The unwillingness to have faith...

Without commitment to goals, ideals, and beliefs, that journey we pursue in life has no direction. It ceases being a journey at all, and ceases to be a valuable thing. This is how the lack of faith – faith in principles, beliefs, religions, philosophies, or goals – damages the meaning we can find in our lives. Agnosticism, Radical Skepticism, and Pragmatism are three (among many) ways of thought that, at their heart, are founded upon this brand of defeat – the notion that because we have been unable to justify our beliefs, we should give up those beliefs, and surrender to nonbelief. It is an overreaction to the fallibility I described above, but it goes far beyond doubting belief to rejecting it.

Why is this bad? Because, as I said earlier, it is the experience of seeking things we may never get that matters in life. We may never find our truth or the happiness it would lead to, and all our beliefs may turn out to be wrong, but nevertheless the experience of seeking those answers and of the faith in what we have found so far is greatly valuable. The experience of conviction is worthwhile, even if those convictions are merely educated guesses. If we have no conviction, then there is nothing to pursue, and there is no journey to value.

And if I was right earlier in saying how muddled we are in the world, educated guesses are the very best we can get. If we do not have faith in our guesses, we have nothing to go upon.

Mistake #3: The belief that there is no nonphysical mind or soul, only matter...
(Materialism)

This is a philosophy that is very popular because it simplifies the world for science. The idea of nonphysical mind sounds supernatural and bizarre in a world where physical evidence is demanded for everything, and the idea that such a thing somehow interacts with the physical world is downright blasphemous against the traditional dogma of science. However, it is also a philosophy that entails the nonexistence of human experience. After all, if we do actually experience things – the smell of apple pie cooking, the pain of twisting an ankle, the love of a girlfriend – if we do experience these things then where can that experience be found physically in the world? You cannot build the experience of love out of atoms, at least not without semantic trickery that redefines the experience of love into a series of chemical reactions that, though they do exist, bear no resemblence to what an experience is.

The danger is that if we accept those semantics then we have, in fact, redefined meaning itself out of existence. Meaning is also a nonphysical thing that cannot be found physically in the world, in a large part because meaning is directly connected to human experience. If we define experience out of existence, then we will never be able to understand how anything could ever be meaningful in any real way.

But in its truest form, Materialism is even worse than that, because it not only eliminates meaning from the world, but also us. Because we ARE the experiences we have, because we ARE the journey we pursue, by defining that journey out of existence we define ourselves out of existence. There are no people in a truly materialist world, or so I would argue. There are only biological computers, filled with lots of little switches going on and off, but without any more purpose than my desktop would have devoid of a user to make use of it.

We are minds – souls – things that experience life, and because of that we can create meaning through our experience, in a way a rock or a light switch or a lever never could. It is this feature that allows our lives to be meaningful, beautiful, and worthwhile.

Mistake #4: The belief in evil people and the devaluation of people...

If people and their experiences are what is fundamentally valuable in life then the devaluation of those people, the perception of them as evil, and the conflict that this inevitably brings is in direct contradiction to that meaning. When we fail to see the value in people, we make wrong decisions – risking or even destroying those people. When we fail to see the value in ourselves, we make even worse decisions – destroying ourselves and our own journeys. And when we fear others fail to see the value in us, we begin to believe them, and doubt our own value. I think these are the dangers in a world where people so often overlook the worth of one another.

So, the question is: Are some people truly worth less, or nothing? Are some people evil? What reason would we have to believe so? Traditionally, we consider people evil or unworthy because they commit acts that we think no good person could do. This is just a return to Mistake #1, however – the suggestion that there are some mistakes that we all know for certain are wrong. In fact, this is not the case – there is nothing we all know for sure is wrong. Many people have skewed views of right and wrong, some believing selfishness is good, or others believing cruelness is fair, or others believing that violence is useful. This cannot be said to prove such people are evil or worth less than the average person. Rather, it proves only that they, too, are fallible. They, too, lack perfect virtue. They attempt to do right, just like all good people do, but their failure to understand leads them to do wrong by mistake. Had virtues and beliefs been assigned to these people differently, any sinner could be made into a saint. Thus, they are as good and valuable as all people, only with character traits and flaws that transform their good intentions into evil. If you had those same flaws, you’d do the same evil, and you’d do it unwittingly. (You may even be doing evil right now, thinking it is good just as all evil-doers do!)

Why should we consider such people bad? Why not assume they are good people making mistakes, like we would want others to assume about us or our children when we commit wrongful acts? It seems to me that failing to value such people gets us nowhere – it does not make us any safer and it doesn’t make such evil acts any less common. All it does is damage our appreciation of the world and the people in it.

People who commit wrong are no less great than those who somehow manage to avoid wrongdoing. The (successful or unsuccessful) attempt to avoid making evil choices is part of what makes our journey worthwhile and beautiful.

Mistake #5: The belief that there is nothing that is objectively valuable, or objectively right, and that there are no answers we can agree upon regarding right and wrong, good and bad...
(Moral Relativism)

In rejecting the evilness of people, we must be careful not to make the opposite mistake of accepting the so-called “tyranny” of moral relativism. Many are inclined to do so, because it provides such an easy answer to why we cannot agree upon what is right – why good people with different beliefs do things we think are so bad. Many are inclined to do so out of pragmatism or skepticism (Mistake #2), because of our failure to find any proven right or wrongs in the world. Many are inclined to do so because of materialism (Mistake #3), because they think we are mere physical brains, and thus can find no place for any sort of really objective meaning to the world. All of the previous issues come together to lead to the rejection of objective value in the world, but to avoid falling into the final and potentially worst mistake of them all (nihilism), many introduce the notion of “subjective value”. The idea that the value we place in our actions, or in the world itself, is akin to the flavor of ice cream that tastes best to us – it changes from person to person.

The danger of this is that in practice, this philosophy takes on the worst characteristics of many of the above mistakes, and becomes a sort of arrogant infallibilism in disguise (Mistake #1). Firstly, by saying there is no objectively correct answer to moral questions, we necessarily imply that it is impossible to give the wrong answer – we declare ourselves infallible. “Who are you to tell me I’m wrong? I can believe whatever I want,” is the cry of relativism in practice. It is dogma and infallibilism in disguise. Since truth is different for each person under relativism, it is thus rooted in that person, and that person has no reason to consider any evidence outside of themselves to challenge their beliefs. They, in effect, CANNOT be wrong – which so often becomes an excuse to give up on bettering oneself, on one’s journey. Of all people I know who do wrongful things, relativism in one form or another is the a top excuse they use to justify not changing their ways.

On top of this, relativism leads down an even more problematic path. After all, despite hard-core relativist claims to the contrary, it seems like things that are merely “good for me” are less “good” than something that is “good” in a universal sense. The question arises, why bother being good at all if it only exists in my mind? If that question is not answered well, I think the end result is what I consider to be the worst mistake of them all....

Mistake #6: The belief (or fear) that all values are baseless, that there is no meaning whatsoever...
(Nihilism)

quote:
"What I relate is the history of the next two centuries. I describe what is coming, what can no longer come differently: the advent of nihilism. This history can be related even now; for necessity itself is at work here. This future speaks even now in a hundred signs, this destiny announces itself everywhere; for this music of the future all ears are cocked even now. For some time now, our whole European culture has been moving toward a catastrophe, with a tortured tension that is growing decade to decade: restlessly, violently, headlong, like a river that wants to reach the end, that no longer reflects, that is afraid to reflect." – Nietzsche
How do we avoid the conclusion that there is no meaning or purpose in life? It is not a common belief in conscious thought, but I think it lurks underneath the average person’s thinking. What am I doing, why am I doing it, and what if it is all a waste of time? That’s what people think. What if I am worthless? What if I will die without any lasting impact on the world, or anything else? I think that below these questions lies the evidence that Nietzsche’s prediction was in part correct.

What is in the mind of a little boy who rampages through his school with a shotgun? What is in the mind of a terrorist who gives his life to destroy countless lives? What is in the minds of the hateful, or the depressed, or the angry? I think in many cases it is a sort of nihilism, a sort of failure of faith in there being value to life. It creates fundamentalists, as people turn to extremes to seek a meaning they could not find in normal circumstances. It results in suicides, as people give up in the face of confusion. In every day life it simply leads to frustration and often the acceptance of lesser mistakes to avoiding falling into this big one.

Nihilism is appealing in a way, because it not only resolves all our doubts but also justifies any lifestyle we want. If there is nothing fundamentally valuable or right then we can make no mistakes, we cannot be wrong, and we never need to be corrected. Unlike relativism, we don’t even have internal moralities to worry about. We can do or do not, live or die, act or sit back and it makes no difference under nihilism.

The problem is that this is wrong. There IS good in the world – and this we know, if for no other reason than I feel good sometimes. Even that, by itself, is meaning – and if we fail to recognize that then we risk destroying it.

And is that it? Are you going to list only six mistakes? Are you trying to boil all the problems of the world down into six?

Nonsense. I have only picked six that I like to talk about, six that I think are important. There are others, but they seem less critical to me.

You speak as if you have proven these things – as if you have proven there is good in the world, that people are nonphysical minds, that that they know nothing but that they are also fundamentally good and seeking to do right, and that there is something objectively and absolutely right for them to do. But all you have offered are statements of facts, unsupported by real argument. Why should anyone believe it?

I have given the arguments elsewhere, on other threads. If people did not believe me then, I don’t expect them to believe me now. Besides, I am only interested in these six problems because I have great difficulty refuting them myself. I walk a close line along the edge of each of these, closer than most probably, and at any given moment I could fall in. That is why these six seem critical to me, whereas other problems seem less important. Perhaps it makes me a hypocrite for complaining about things I am closer to accepting than an average person, but I am only worried about that which could trick me, not the mistaken beliefs I can quickly identify and confidently refute.

And the point is not to prove my above statements are true. The point is to illustrate why I consider them to be important, and beyond that, to illustrate how they are connected together.

And how is that?

It is like I said earlier - the thing that is beautiful and valuable is people, as individuals, and the way in which they interact with one another, or relate to one another. That is what we, or perhaps just I, have forgotten in our discussions of politics, or everyday worries, or petty arguments. And these six mistakes are things that cause that distraction. We cannot see the full value in people if we consider them evil. We cannot see their value if we understand the state of ignorance they must strive against which leads to all the evil they mistakenly produce. We cannot see their full value if we view them as physical, mechanical objects, rather than a journey of experiences. We cannot see their full value if we don’t believe in value, or consider it to be a purely subjective thing. And we cannot come to realize that value in ourselves if we don’t commit to ideals or faith in our own unprovable beliefs.

We are lonely souls lost in an endless stream of experience, interacting with one another, trying to reach to an ideal of greatness but making mistakes all the way. We create value by finding meaning in those experiences and that challenge, and thus become valuable ourselves. We are all like this, from the villains to the saints, the smart to the foolish, and the young to the old. Even if by the tragedy of life we end up in conflict with one another because our perspectives and understanding of the world differ so much, we are still each heroes in our own stories, trying to reach the same ultimate goal. A truly great author (like God) could write each of our stories, and if it was done completely and showing every perspective, I don’t think any reader could deny the value in it. That’s what I think, and that’s what I think is so great about the world.

That sounds very idealistic, but I have suspicion that, as I said earlier, this is not about high ideals. I think this is far more basic than that...

How so?

This is not about what is “truly great” about the world. This is not about objective beauty or the nature of people or anything so abstract. It’s a far more self-centered argument. I think this is just about you, or more accurately, us! It is about you getting what you want. It is about avoiding the thing you are most afraid of.

How so?

I will explain...

<To Be Continued...>

[ July 06, 2005, 11:40 AM: Message edited by: Tresopax ]

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Zotto!
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Soon, hopefully. [Smile]

I'm really glad you're back, Tresopax.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
But we’ve all gotten distracted, I think - distracted with the details. We’ve become obsessed with the abstract uncertainties of who is really right about all the specific questions, or what the country or the world should do on a massive scale, or who should be elected and why. We’ve forgotten (I’ve forgotten) that this was never supposed to be the point.
Leave the "we" out of this. Your masks often make the mistake of assuming that your particular observations are universal truths.

You talk to yourself, Tres. You've always talked to yourself. Your posts have always been about trying to word something so that you're satisfied with the result; your conversations have always had as their end goal the refinement of your own opinion.

Even this landmark, with its rambling internal dialogue and statement of beliefs, is all about you again trying to articulate what you believe the world to be, and seeking to engage us in dialogue only so that you can elaborate on that belief.

There's nothing shameful about a search for meaning; I respect you -- and have always respected you -- for so wholeheartedly embracing it. But you run the risk, like Irami, of vanishing down your own navel.

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Tresopax
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What are you afraid of?

Scene #1: Kindergarden

I sit at a table with three other kids. Two of them deviously convince me to tell something to the teacher. I am gullible so I fall for it. As it turns out, this ends up becoming one of only two times I have used profanity. The teacher gets mad and I realize I have done something bad. I cry. I get punished.

She does not understand that I was tricked.

Are you afraid of being misunderstood?

I am not bad, but what if they think I am? Or.... what if I really am?

Scene #2: The first day of Middle School – lunch.

I enter the cafeteria with my bag lunch and fail to spot any of my friends – who are my friends in this new school anyway? I sit down alone. Two other boys from my class sit down across from me eventually, but say nothing to me or eachother. Should I say something? I don’t. I might say the wrong thing – they might think I’m weird. I eat my lunch and go back to class.

What are you afraid of? Being misjudged?

I am cool, but what if they don’t understand that? Or.... what if I’m really not.

Scene #3: High School

I am in math, and the teacher has asked a question. I know the answer, or at least I think I do, but I don’t raise my hand. The teacher is waiting for someone to reply. Should I answer? Am I sure I am right? What if I’m not? By then it’s too late – she has given up on anyone knowing and has launched into the explanation herself.

What are you afraid of? Being wrong?

Or being right. Is it better to appear smart or appear dumb? Either way I am labeled, judged. Perhaps it’s better not to appear at all....

Scene #4: Hatrack

I am writing a landmark. What do I write? I don’t have any amazing stories like the others. In fact, my life isn’t all that exciting. It’s rather average. I’m not that special, am I? What do I have to say that would be worth reading? Anything?

What are you afraid of? Being average?

No, there is nothing wrong with averageness. But isn’t it absurd to celebrate averageness, if it is only averageness that I am celebrating? Isn’t it ridiculous to speak of being the hero of my own story when the hero has done nothing heroic? To treat a simple life as if it were important – to treat a simple online forum as if it were important – to treat a rant like this as if it were important – aren’t all of these things just pieces of naivete, random angst, deserving of mockery?

There are thousands out there with the same problems and their own little personal philosophies on how to fix those problems, on what should matter, on what should be meaningful. They haven’t convinced me, and I doubt I will convince them. So why should I come out and speak as if I know something? Isn’t that just becoming a cliche? Isn’t it being naive, silly to think my words are any better than any other words on the topic? What if I’m making a fool of myself?

Is that what you are afraid of? Making a fool of yourself?

No, it’s more than that. I AM a fool – I enjoy being foolish, being silly, having fun. But I also like being serious. Are they not compatible? I think they are, because that’s who I am. But I’m afraid others don’t get it – won’t get me – can’t get what I’m saying, whether it’s wrong or right.

Ahhhh. So it is all of the above. You are afraid of being yourself, and all that that entails – the risk of being misjudged, the risk of being seen a fool, the risk of being called bad, the risk of being hated, and the risk of being wrong. It’s all the same. This is it, is it not?

Perhaps so....

And thus you see my point: You want to be yourself without the fear of being misunderstood; you want to be heroic even as you are average, so you have derived a belief system in which everyone is heroic and everyone is worth understanding completely. You don’t want to be considered bad so you say there are no bad people. You don’t want to be misjudged so you say judge not. In this way, in that ideal world, you have no more need to fear. It is the reality you wish existed. And because you wish it were true, you believe in it.

Not true. I believe in it because it seems true, not just because I want it be true.

Yet what you are saying is not all wrong, I think – I do fear being myself, because I fear how people may misjudge it. I think it is true for almost everyone, except for those with the gift of not thinking of such things. Some are loathe to admit it, and some probably don’t even realize it, but even so they hide behind their masks, afraid of being themselves. They know if they acted as they really wanted to, people would take it wrongly, so they restrain themselves, and conform to the “normal” way of doing things. At some stages of life this amounts to “being cool”, or later to “being professional”, or often to just demanding the “respect “of others. It is the art of painting your mask correctly, in such a way that it causes others to judge you the way you want them to. And I think it is ever-present in our society, among virtually everyone, because so many people fears the same thing.

I see nothing wrong with that in certain circumstances. It is just play-acting a role and it can be quite fun as long as you realize it is just play-acting, and can step out of that role when necessary. The problem only arises because people are too fearful to step out of their roles. They get to the point where they actually CANNOT do it. They have learned, mistakenly, to take life’s roles too seriously. They internalize it to such a degree that is their own self-judgement that they fear most of all. They might turn to alcohol or drugs as crutches – excuses to act in a manner they won’t let themselves do otherwise. Or they might turn to some other excuse. But that only seems to hurt them in the long run, enabling their actual problem – which is fear of consciously being themselves, or fear of being who they want to be.

Perhaps that fear is just leading me to delude myself into thinking all of these people, including myself, are so highly valuable. Perhaps! But it seems too clear to be a delusion. When I bite into a piece of chocolate, I value that taste – I don’t think I could be mistaken about that. It is clear. Similarly, when I think about the idea of myself or someone else and their journey through challenges and difficulties, whether that journey leads them to do right or wrong, I can’t help but find it just as clear that they should be valued too. When I read Ender’s Game, and see through the eyes of Ender, I can’t help but consider his life (fictional as it may be) to be a valuable thing, despite the fact that he destroyed a whole species, more or less. That, I think, is the (or one of the) point(s) of the story of Ender’s xenocide, whether OSC intended it to be or not (I’m inclined to think points are inherent in stories, not put there by authors.) If we could read everyone else’s lives as we read Ender’s, I’m sure we would find them no less valuable. That’s the heart of what I was saying earlier and, although I admit that I don’t really know much for sure, I have difficulty believing this is wrong – it seems too clear.

Fair enough.... but so says every person whose thinking is deluded by fear, emotion, or the like. “It seems clear.” I’m not convinced.

More so, what is the solution to these problems that you have proposed? What is the answer to fear? You speculate people are inherently beautiful and valuable things, enough so to justify everything bad that happens here, and that various fears and misleading philosophies distract us from recognizing and appreciating that value. If this is true, what can we do? Is there any way to escape these problems? If you don’t have an answer I don’t see what value this speculation could have.

I don’t know. I could only speculate some more.

Certainly, don’t stop now...

In that case, I think the answer is other people. Friendship. Love. I think that through relationships with others we reflect ourselves - by appreciating them we learn to appreciate ourselves. People fall in love and not only can they find the great value in their partner, but through that partner’s eyes they can see and be confident in their own value. This is not just romantic love – it is also the love between families, or friends, or between God and man.

With others we interact, bouncing ideas off one another, jointly finding answers to our questions – jointly creating ourselves and appreciating one another. This is the best way to be yourself, and overcome that particular fear. Alone you have no frame of reference, no other points of perspective, and faith becomes difficult. Without friends, or at the very least God, it is difficult to find one’s own value and purpose, because that purpose is not reflected back at you. Other people are the source of our fear, in a way, but I think they are also the solution.

And?

And that’s all. That’s the purpose of friendship – the function of our relationships, and communities – and the simplest solution to our problems. It’s the primary method through which we progress in our journey. It’s why we are here now, I think.

Ahhhh, now I see where you are going with this. The purpose of Hatrack! Let me see if I have followed your argument correctly, because it also seems very vague and jumbled....

1. You hypothesized that the point of serious discussion on Hatrack was not to prove any political points, win any arguments, or even expound any views. Rather, you said you had been distracted from the original purpose – the thing that is really to be valued at Hatrack.
2. You argued that the thing that is most valuable in life is people – not necessarily their happiness, but rather their experiences and journey as a whole.
3. You argue that certain practical problems of the world, such as fears and mistaken beliefs, distract us from this value in life, and thus threaten it.
4. Finally, you say that through our interactions and relationships with other people we can escape those problems, by seeing our own value reflected back at us, by helping one another understand, and by seeing the value in others.
5. Thus, I suspect you are planning on concluding that Hatrack, as such a community, even if only a semi-anonymous internet community, serves this function – that what really matters here is the people, the members, the Jatraqueros. You are going to argue that our differences, flaws, and arguments are irrelevant, because we are not here to find who is right or is best. You are going to argue that people are here to express themselves and value the expressions of others – something worthwhile in that it leads to finding real meaning in our lives.

No?


Actually, no. I wasn’t planning on arguing that, although I might end up doing so nevertheless. I wasn’t really planning on anything at all... This is just a rant, a train of thought. I don’t know where I am going. I don’t know my conclusion. Or, maybe I do, but I just don’t know how to say it yet. I don't know...

<To Be Continued...>

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Enigmatic
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I'm going top this landmark by starting my landmark thread NOW and just keep posting in it until I get up to 1000!
hehehehe

--Enigmatic

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Frisco
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Man, it's been a long time, Tres. Last time I remember talking to you, we were talking about apathy and just when the thread got heated, I shrugged and said, "meh, whatever" and stopped arguing...pissed you off something royal. [Razz]

Wait, did you leave because of me?

[Wink]

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Tresopax
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Perhaps the truth is what I proposed initially – that you aren’t really going anywhere at all in this search for a landmark, or at least not somewhere that bears any practical relationship to the real world we live in. As much as we’d all like to sit back and appreciate the inherent value in all our lives, reality forces us to pay attention to other, more practical matters. People are out there suffering, or even dying. Other people are out trying to take advantage of them. Still others are out to start fights with the advantage-takers. There is disease, natural disasters, wars, terrorist bombings, personal conflicts, broken hearts, lost family members, bouts of depression, fits of anger, unemployment, divorce, loneliness and countless other horrible things that reality forces us to confront. Sadly, I think these things force us to set the appreciation of life and the love of others on the backburner, while we look out to protect ourselves and others from this suffering that reality inflicts upon us.

And what about this thread? What about everything I’ve said so far?

It may be truthful musings for you – truthful insofar as it reflects your state of mind. But you live in a detached mind, no? It’s a sort of fantasy, distinct from reality, although interacting with it. You place yourself in this ideal world of your mind, complete with theories and intuition that are often good but just as often bad, and you try to reconcile it with the harsh, practical reality outside your mind. But you can’t do this, can you? Everything you’ve said here may sound well and good in theory, but what do you do with it in a practical sense? How do you act differently? What does it mean? Almost five years of ranting on supposedly serious theoretical and political issues, but does any of it impact real life, or is it just a mental exercise, or a waste of time? This is the same problem I stated at the beginning of this thread, and you have only managed to argue in circles around it, leaving it unsolved.

In those years has the value of yourself or others really became any more clear? Has ‘appreciating’ it made your life better? Has Hatrack solved your problems? Has philosophy or religion or serious thought of any sort? Perhaps in the ideal world within your mind, but not in reality. Not in any clear way. The reality is that you are still as confused as ever about real things, as inexperienced as ever in real matters, no matter how experienced you are in thinking about ideas or abstractions or whatever.

Truth, you have said, is a dance of the real and ideal. I think the problem is you don’t know how to dance – and perhaps that is really where this so-called landmark thread will end up. You don’t know how to put the two together, do you? You can’t translate your ideals and ideas into something real.


What is reality?

We both know.
Reality is the real world.
It does not consist of abstract theories.
It is a simple place.
It is not an online forum.
Or is it?
It is a place built of actions and substance, not semantics.
But through meaning we understand it.
It will not change simply because we wish it to change, unless we act to make it change.

What am I, in reality?

WORKER
Is it reality when I put on my fancy shirt and tie, sit at my desk, and produce? I enter data. I manipulate it. I print. I click around on things with my mouse. I pretend like I’m an adult. Is that reality? Is reality that I’m an average office worker, one of many?

FRIEND
Or perhaps it is reality when I’m hanging out with my friends. I joke around. I play. I smile. I act irresponsibly. I am a goofball. Is this reality too?

SCHOLAR
Or is it the student me, when I go to class and learn? I sit and listen as the professor says profound things, or at least pretend to do so, as I doodle on my paper. I worry about getting high grades on the next test, even if the grade matters little. I act smart.

MENTOR
Or is it the tutor me? Or the coach me? I teach and pretend like I know what I’m talking about. I get frustrated when inevitably that teaching fails. Once again, I pretend to be responsible.

RELATIVE
Or what about the brother me, or the son me, or the grandson me? Or the neighbor me?

JATRAQUERO
What about Tresopax, or Xaposert – are they me? Is that part of me that is rambling on in this thread the real me?

Are any of these reality?

Reality is that you are – we are – I am just a child, pretending to be somewhat adult but doing a poor job. I am sitting here at my computer expounding upon things I don’t really understand, as if it should be meaningful to people, when it likely is not. I do this all the time, at Hatrack. I am neither courageous, nor experienced, nor wise. If a girl caught my eye, I’d probably chicken out before speaking up to her. If I wanted a raise at my job, I’d probably be too nervous to make asking worthwhile. If you come to me with your problems I will probably make up an answer, not really knowing a real solution at all. If you ask me what I want to do with my life, I won’t know what to say. What are my skills? What are my virtues? I have vague ideas, but they never seem too impressive to me. What have I accomplished? What am I proud of? I have little to no idea. I can boast of a diploma on my wall, but I know that means less than many think. I can write with fancy words on occassion, but that’s just deception if there’s no real meaning behind it – and I suspect that among those few who have bothered to continue reading this far, there’s at least a few who suspect there’s no real meaning behind most of what I’ve said here. Or, perhaps, no value. I can be fairly smart about some things, and I will likely beat you in a game of Risk. I like basketball, but am bad at many other sports. I like a lot of stuff, but am not an expert at much. I live, but with only a vague direction and purpose. I think I’m unique, but not amazingly special or interesting. I’m fairly ordinary. I certainly can’t compare to some Jatraqueros, or some of the things they have done with their lives. I really have no business even writing this landmark. In reality I am impressive in a few ways, but unimpressive in most. More importantly, in reality, I don’t know how to define myself.

Existence precedes essence. I am, and that’s what matters most. What I become after that is determined by whatever I choose to become, and whatever I learn to become.
In this way, reality is flexible. In this way, reality can be bent to reflect the ideal.
I can define myself as I wish, if I have the courage to be whom I wish. But reality may not make that easy.
Do I have that courage?
It is doubtful....

There are people suffering everywhere, because reality has forced that suffering upon them, not because they have chosen it. This is reality. Murder. Rape. War. Loss. Heartbreak. Failure. Insecurity. Loneliness. Disease. These are not theoretical concerns – they are real and must be dealt with. It is easy to expound on an ideal, to talk about how we SHOULD fix the world’s problems and our own problems, but it is often much rarer that those answers succeed in reality. Logic often falls apart in the face of true problems – it’s too easy to make an argument that sounds good untested.

And yet if this thread is anything, it is that – untested, disorganized argument. That’s what hatrack is.

Perhaps I have made a mistake in my quest for a landmark. Perhaps a real landmark is not anything like this at all, but rather a real story that casts a true light upon reality. Many landmarks have been done in that fashion, like Papa Moose’s excellent story, or Annie’s more recent amazing story, or all the other simple real-life landmarks that I enjoy so much. Why can’t mine be like that? I think it is because I don’t have any stories like that to share – and wouldn’t know how to write them if I did. My life is not as interesting, it seems. And yet, it still does interest me... in fact the most interesting stuff is in the most boring of stories. Does it need to be a dramatic story? Is that the sort of thing that makes good landmarks?

How about the friend of mine who committed suicide? We used to play together as kids, until our paths diverged. My path led here; his path led to drug addiction. He too was an amazing person, whose value was perhaps not recognized enough by the rest of us at the time. That is the danger of not seeing the value in someone – it is a very real danger after all, I suppose. Too real.

But there I go, hijacking stories about reality to fit my ideals. It is not in my nature to just tell stories, I suppose. It is more in my nature to try and understand them, figure them out, solve them like puzzles, even though I can only really speculate. I don’t think I could really write just a story as a landmark, because stories alone do not matter to me – it has to be broader. Real must be complemented with ideal.

And I think that if we fail to do so, very real consequences occur. I listed off all those sufferings that go on in the world, yet many are not inevitable – most are man-made. How many of them are a result of our lack of principles as a species, or our lack of understanding, or our failure to see the value in others – those others we call wrong, or evil, and upon whom we seek revenge or from whom we seek protection? How many result from a failure of ideals, from wrong theories about the world, from failing to examine our beliefs? How much of the world’s suffering is a result of our own invention? I think a lot is – most.

But mankind will not change. It is set in its ways, right or wrong. We cannot expect it to change – that is naive. And if it will not change, what good can we do about it?

I am not just talking about the global level. I am talking on an individual level. How many people fight with their friends for silly reasons, resulting more from a conflict of understanding than a conflict in reality? I see it all the time, including at Hatrack. How many people suffer because they cannot see the value in themselves or others? How many people get angry or afraid unneccessarily? It is these very real, very fixable individual problems that, collectively, constitute most of the world’s troubles. Can’t we change those?

What would make you think those people would change any more than mankind as a whole would? Hatrack should be enough to prove that. How many times have people been convinced of anything – much less to change their way of doing things. They can’t see their own mistakes, and it can’t be proven to them. Just the same, we are probably blind to our own mistakes. I am and you are. That’s reality too.

But maybe through this sort of introspection, I can help myself.... If nothing else that should be possible.

What makes you think that? Has it solved anything so far? This thread is introspection - has it gone anywhere worthwhile? Nowhere novel. Like this thread, so goes serious discussion at Hatrack, and so goes serious thought about philosophy and life.

Then is that it? Are we just supposed to meander our way through reality, without thought?

No, I think this is productive in a vague way. But I think it is different from what you are trying to make it. You are reaching for an overarching, unifying argument – a conclusion. However, I don’t think there can be any conclusion – or any ultimate landmark. That’s a holy grail that cannot exist, because that’s the nature of reality – it can’t be figured out with certainty or clarity in that fashion. It just can’t! There is no solution. There is only perpetual solving.

Wasn’t that your original point? That life was a journey, not a destination? I think there is no destination – no ultimate landmark, or final point to Hatrack, or to life in general – just meandering lines of thought. It is me doing the things I do every day, in every mask I listed above, with no fixed conclusion, truth, or ultimate purpose other than itself. That’s reality, the sum of these actions.


That is not acceptable, by itself, though. Even if I am just going in circles, I cannot be happy if I KNOW I’m just going in circles – I need some purpose I believe in!

Then perhaps the goal is to be naive – to think you have a purpose when you do not?

No, that’s not acceptable either.

If reality gives you no purpose, yet you wish for a purpose, you can either accept reality or be naive. There is no other option. Which do you choose?

But reality does give us a purpose!

You just said life was a journey, not a destination. There is no destination that serves as our final purpose.

No, the journey is the purpose. The wandering is its own goal, but only if it is wandering towards a goal – only if it is meaningful, passionate wandering. We people and our experiential lives are the ends and the means, simultaneously.

I do not understand.

Neither do I.... and I only have a couple posts left to get an answer....

This is spiraling into a meaningless jumble of ideas, contradicting one another.
As it inevitably always does
And perhaps that is your answer...
That, in reality, that is what we are creating – a jumble of ideas? A massive confusion?
And perhaps that is the most appropriate landmark for Hatrack – a place that, itself, is a jumble of ideas, a massive confusion, where anything goes, nothing is agreed upon, and anarchy reigns. These are facts of life for the internet.
Perhaps it is appropriate for life in general, which is equally confusing.
Reality resists being understood, to the point where the attempt to understand serves to frustrate and divide.
Yet our ideals demand that we do understand it – they demand that we value things, that we are pursuing a truly meaningful journey.
And we still fail to understand.

And so the result is this: We sit at a forum like this, or with friends, or alone with ourselves, and achieve nothing in our attempts to understand. We try to justify that understanding of reality that we have, but it conflicts with the understandings of others, and in that conflict all understandings are undermined, leaving the threats of relativism and nihilism. We become broken Jatraqueros... we think everything has been discussed to death, and all things are dead horses, except that which is trivial. We become fluff. Or we become angry. We look out upon people suffering and all the responsibilities we have in our practical day-to-day lives, and we give up on understanding – on the ideal in general. Reality wins.

And is that so bad? As nice as it sounds to appreciate the inherent values of others and think about great things, don’t people have REAL lives to be living? Don’t people have jobs to be doing? Don’t people have families to be caring for? The fact is that if nothing else, Hatrack has proven that we will not get REAL answers from serious discussion here or elsewhere. We will not achieve enlightenment, or be able to find a hidden appreciation in others. All we might achieve is a rant – a rolling mass of confusion, with different views and ideas mixed together, but no ultimate conclusion, form, or direction. And so, if this is true, aren’t we wiser to spend out time otherwise? Having fun? Taking care of responsibilities? Living in reality?!

That is the real question here, if you will admit it, and also the major discovery you've made in these five years at Hatrack. What approach should we take to this forum, or to life in general? Should we persist in this faith in the ideals behind it all – in the idea that, as Anne Kate once put it, this is all an elaborate part of building the Crystal City? Or should we drop it, and admit that we are just living, surviving, propogating – spending our time as usefully as possible with as much enjoyment as possible before we die?


I’m confused.

<To Be Continued...>

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Jim-Me
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Tres, you have always annoyed me greatly. You didn't this time. [Smile]
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Tresopax
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Makeshift white superhero cape blowing in the breeze, sword at his side, still just a little boy but clearly older than the child concieved almost five years ago, Tresopax stands unsure of himself, facing his opponent. Xaposert, in faded jeans and a simple black T-shirt, stands in his long shadow, facing back towards him, squirtgun loaded, equally unsure but embracing that uncertainty with confidence. The wind blows fiercely; a storm may be on the horizon. Tumbleweeds tumble on by.

A final dramatic showdown – is this the scene I should be writing? Is that the end, the landmark I am looking for?

Hatrack, though in many ways fictional, is part of reality – one side of a Jatraquero’s life. It may be a big side or miniscule side, a revealing side or an enigmatic side, but it is part nonetheless. Because of that, the fictional masks that Jatraqueros wear here are nevertheless part of their real selves, and offer a window (though incomplete by itself) into their true, complete character. I believe that Slash the Berzerker is neither simply a lizardman nor the selfish pragmatist he presents himself as, that Tom Davidson is not simply the reasonable, argumentative, liberal poet he appears as here, that Orson Scott Card is neither just the sarcastic comedian nor just the wise author nor the ornery columnist he often appears to be, but that rather each of these situational masks presents a window into the far more complex real character of each of them. Even the seemingly deceptive masks of Cedrios are real pieces of his complete self. Through this, the virtual fiction of Hatrack and the real fiction of reality can both influence and reflect the true world of real people, their perceptions, and their decisions. If people are what matter and people are a set of experiences, then it is these experiences that are real and meaningful. In this way, even dreams, illusions, or virtual forums are real and potentially very significant, because they too impact real people.

Although I cannot say that Hatrack will alter the course of human history, I can say that it does in small ways alter the paths of our own personal histories, because it has done so for me. I know this can be more than fluff if we so choose to make it, because it has been so for me. It is a subtle part of the construction of the Crystal City, if only our own little crystal cities – which somehow come together to make up humanity as a whole.

Thus, as Tresopax and Xaposert stand head to head in a fictional scene, it is neither fiction nor fluff, but rather a reflection. I remain confused, and have for whatever silly reason chosen to reflect that confusion as a Hatrack play of sorts, a dialogue between masks. (Hey, it seems more fun that way.) I have written all of these posts and have yet to figure out what I am aiming to conclude from them, where they are ultimately headed. Yet, the same theme follows throughout them all...

I began by concluding that Hatrack is not a place for solving political questions, finding answers, practicing debate, or even just simply hanging out. Rather, from my time here I’ve concluded its most important goal is to help us understand ourselves, through our appreciation of, interaction with, and understanding of others. And so is the purpose of life, because Hatrack is just a subset of life, subject to its greater purpose. This is the great ideal – the notion that we can live happy, meaningful lives simply by appreciating all of this, eachother, and ourselves. Isn’t life awesome? That’s the theme – that’s Tresopax – and me.

But practicality intervenes! Problems! I have listed one after another that I’ve run into, firstly the desire for definite answers frustrating us, secondly the mistaken beliefs distracting us, thirldy the fears blocking us, fourthly the potential suffering that endangers everyone at all times, and finally the seemingly indisputable fact that we really live in a world of things and actions, not ideas and ideals. These are barriers that make the above idealism near impossible.

We are all heroes, each on our own little journey – we are our journey, in fact – and it is our stories and the stories of those others around us that are beautiful and make life worthwhile. If we could fully understand, appreciate, and pursue this ideal all the time, I think we would not be troubled nearly as much. But it is an ideal that is destroyed by the necessities of living within reality and the conflict it produces between what we must do or believe to achieve that ideal and what we must do or believe to survive in real life. In a way, the passion of pursuing the value of our own journeys and the journeys of others conflicts with the dangers that passion causes in our practical lives. That passion requires conflict to resolve, while practicality desires to escape conflict. I want to be Ender saving the world but I also want to be Ender free as a kid boating at the lake. This is what I’ve concluded that this time at Hatrack, and the equivalent experiences in the so-called real world have taught this particular Jatraquero.

When two forces are in direct, unresolvable opposition, yet I cannot reject either, the solution is not a battle to the death. Republicans and Democrats, atheists and Christians, pro-choice and pro-life, liberal arts majors and science majors, idealists and pragmatists, yin and yang, the list goes on – all seem to be by necessity in conflict, yet in each case to choose one or the other would be to be unbalanced and even wrong. It seems at first that one or the other must be dead wrong, but it ends up appearing upon reflection that neither could be. I believed this instinctually long before Hatrack, but only through serious discussion did I realize how important that idea to my method of resolving problems.

High-minded Tresopax with my philosophy, semantics, and dreaming – critical Xaposert with my politics, abstractions, skepticism, fluff, and absurdity – there can be no final resolution between them. That has become obvious. That is a landmark I’ve reached – one of them.

It is a childish thought in a way....
...but I have reserved the right (or perhaps responsibility) to be childish.

So, although we stand head to head with a line between, I no longer think we are destined to fight one another. Rather, it is the line dividing the two that we are fighting. It is the distinction between seeking a simple life and meaningful life that I want to erase – I want both, simultaneously. I want the instability of seeking a dream alongside the stability of living peacefully. I want love and passion, family and career, Peter and Ender both. I want to write a silly, playful fantasy thread about two fictional selves in a random, rambling debate, but I want it to be real, serious, and meaningful too. I want to be the hero of my own story, but also the person who can sit back and read it safely in his own home. I am inclined to attempt to end this thread with a great post that somehow incorporates all these rantings into some final, well-thought-out conclusion, but am simultaneously inclined to end it with a giant virtual dance party. The real problem is, it seems wrong to have one without the other, yet impossible for them both to make sense together. How can a dance party be well-thought-out and meaningful? That is the riddle here. I want to be a contradition!

And so that would be my answer to the question of what Hatrack should be: It should be both fluff and seriousness, at once. It should be a meaningful party. It should be a passionate game.

The same goes for life, as I have said before.

Ah, yet another conclusion. And is this the final one – the landmark we are looking for?

No, not quite. It seems right in a way, but it’s so unclear. What can I do with it? How can I implement it? I am still confused!

In fact, much of this thread has been an example of the failure to express those very ideas in the sort of clear, practical way that seems almost impossible. And many other threads feel like the reverse – a failure on my part to understand other people and what they are really talking about, behind their direct wording. I think that is yet another thing I have learned - the conversations at Hatrack, both proving the amazing value of other people and the practical near impossibility of expressing things fully to those other people - seemingly justifying some ideas that have long floated around in my mind and simultaneously refuting others, but also illustrating just how difficult it is to transform those ideas into real solutions or even into understandable language.

I think it may be more than just an inability to express things in words. I’d propose the inescapable conclusion that you, and likely everyone else, are simply unable to completely understand anything that you are trying to understand here. That is the real problem here – and the real reason answers cannot be found on this forum. You can talk about the meaning of life (or even the meaning of small segments of life like Hatrack) only in a vague sense. If you try to refine that into definite solutions to those questions, your answers dissolve. I think this is just our nature – our inability to understand the biggest possible picture of things, like God would be able to. We can only glimpse it, I think.

And does that mean that we are equally unable to find an answer to our conflict – to resolving the difference between the needs of practicality and the requirement of meaningfulness? Does that make our goal futile, if we hope any more than a vague answer?

Am I just banging my head against a brick wall after all?

The alternative is to destroy one of us. The real or the ideal.

But that is unacceptable. We have already decided that. There will be no duel to the death.

Yes, but then the head banging goes on. Isn’t that also unacceptable?

Are all the options unacceptable?

If your assumptions make them so.

Is confusion inevitable?

If your assumptions make them so.

Is frustration, unhappiness unavoidable?

If your assumptions make it so.

Am I a fool? A loser? A fake? A naive little kid, for thinking that these things are escapable?

If your assumptions make you so.

I am afraid they do. I was wrong about my fears before – it is not the judgement of other people I fear the most. I think it may be the real truth about myself that I’m afraid of. It is that I am fooling myself into thinking I can succeed when I am just banging my head into that wall – that, even under my own assumptions, in the end I will have to become that which I’ve always tried to avoid becoming...

Everybody else?

No...

A waste of a lifetime. A fool whose fears, insecurities, confusion, and misbelief prevent him from living, from having his own journey, from being the hero of his own story.

That is a fear for many people, I think. Maybe for everyone. After all, we are all confused in the same fashion, for the most part, aren’t we? Given that state of confusion and uncertainty, how could we ever be at peace? Even if it is true that our lives are worthwhile and even if we are not banging our heads against the wall in Hatrack or elsewhere, how can we be satisfied without knowing it is true? It requires a great faith to accept such a shaky claim – a claim that could be shaken to pieces by relativism, or nihilism, or pragmatism, or a whole host of other isms, or even just the failure to find agreement or solutions in a place like Hatrack. It is almost foolishness, or would be if it were not necessary to be content.

Where is my final landmark to be found if I am trapped in such confusion and uncertainty? I set out to determine and illustrate how far I’ve come since being at Hatrack, and what meaning it has given to me, as all landmarks should celebrate the distance crossed to reach that point – but it seems impossible to determine the value of that journey, or whether it has value at all. Is my goal impossible?

Has my quest for a landmark failed?

On July 11, 2000, exactly 4999 posts ago, I first stepped out into this main corridor of Hatrack River. It was a brilliant, shining, thriving town. As Hobbes eventually explained to me, those with knacks were drawn to it, and it seemed to have a sort of aura to it – as if the citizens were hopeful, passionate about something, confident they were achieving something, although it was not clear what that thing was. That is the image I was left with, fictional as it may be, of my first days here. It was something you could believe in, sort of.

But now thunder claps and the sky darkens, as Tresopax and Xaposert together turn to face the horizon. Something is coming... what is it? A silence, growing louder and louder. A monster! This is where my journey of five years at Hatrack has led.

Hatrack seems to be fading and dissolving – no, not Hatrack itself, but the perception of it in my imagination. The forum seems largely the same as it always has been, but I am different now, and I percieve differently. The town of Hatrack River, the forum itself, the wench’s tavern, the ivory tower, the remains of the Young Writer’s Forum, the sand under our feet, and the lines drawn across that sand to divide us – the truth is bleeding through, that they aren’t really anything. They do not exist beyond the limits of our own minds. All that is left is the people...the people... and something else... what is it?

The overly dramatic finale that I cannot resist? The End of the World as I know it?

It’s already here, everywhere, and it wants to destroy the both of us, standing here in our silly ideological duel. Don’t worry though – it won’t win. We have not failed.

How so?

Because we are here. We are posting this. Had we failed, we would not be, because we would have found no reason to. Because we do, it must mean Hatrack is something after all, something with value and meaning to us. The same goes for every other Jatraquero still here.

We may have failed in the sense there will be no great thesis or conclusion or clear meaning that we can write in a single post. That ultimate idealism can’t be realized. But wouldn’t that be missing the points we’ve made here anyway? Didn’t we say that it was not the ultimate conclusion that mattered, but rather the journey – not the landmark but the traveling it took to get to the landmark that matters? And didn’t we say that what we have learned here from that journey is that despite the inherent contradiction, idealism and harsh reality must exist hand-in-hand in order to understand things? All of this, and everything else we’ve tried to say – it still amounts to something – something very important, at least to us, which is enough. But what is it?

I think we do have an answer to that, and I think it’s been lurking here all along.


No, not an answer, nor a conclusion, but a landmark nonetheless.

Well, cross your fingers...

<To Be Continued... but I hope not concluded...>

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Xaposert
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PART I

Sometimes I feel like a little boy who has picked a weed and desperately wants to show it off for his father to appreciate, only to be frustrated by his father’s inability to see it as anything other than a weed. True, it is just a weed, but aren’t weeds awesome? If only I could describe it just a little differently, in a slightly different life, with a slightly better analogy – then they’d all see what I see, wouldn’t they? If only I could write the perfect landmark, express exactly what I’ve wanted to. I try, but it does not seem to work, and so I question the truth I’ve assumed all along. What if I’m wrong?

I feel like the father, too. I am addressing this thread and all of my posts here to Hatrack in general, but most of all I am arguing with myself, with my own concerns. Really, I am hoping to convince myself most of all. I want to believe in my own story, but I do not, not completely.

That is the monster at the end of this thread; it is me and my own doubts. It is the truth that cannot be suppressed, the silent storm of frustration in the realization that suffering might not be avoided altogether, that security is impossible, that understanding may not happen, that fighting will never end, that fears will never all be conquered, that potential will not be fully reached, that enemies will always exist, that ignorance will continue to find ways into power, that crimes will continue to be committed, that justice will not be fully done, that virtue will not be completely awarded, that ideals will not be totally reached, that answers will go unfound, and that people will not understand. I though I had escaped it once but it has followed me here, catching up to me all this time. It is between every word I have said up to this point in this thread - I have tried to run from it, from one justification to another. But it can’t be escaped. Instead, I have ultimately come to suspect it must accepted, not just as true but possibly as the foundation of everything else. If there is a weed to be appreciated, this may be it...

WE KNOW NOTHING. WE CAN PROVE NOTHING ABSOLUTELY. WE ARE ALWAYS FALLIBLE AND IMPERFECT.

Ironically, if anything seems close to being certain to me, it is the above statement. Five years at Hatrack River has shown that. No argument has ever fully destroyed all doubts I have on anything, and no viewpoint, I believe, has ever convinced everyone to agree. There are no firm conclusions that all can agree upon, nor any proof that will silence a dedicated opposition, nor anything that can’t be disputed by someone, even if that someone is just me. Years of science and academic study has only confirmed this through mountains and mountains of failed theories, many of which seemed so justified at the time they were accepted, only to be disproved soundly later. Philosophy, too, backs it up; Hume has never been firmly defeated, to the best of my knowledge, on these grounds. No great foundation has been discovered upon which we can confidently determine by logical proof the correct answers to all our questions. Instead, foundation after foundation has broken under pressure. Human knowledge has been discovered to be almost inherently fallible. We truly know nothing with certainty, and can only accept that which we choose to have faith in.

Thus it is only this fact – our own uncertainty - that is the foundation from which I want to work, and also one of the most wonderful truths out there. It is wonderful because, like a two-sided coin, we can flip it to discover it has a positive side that matches and may even outweigh any fear and danger it creates on the negative side. After all, the same bold statement can be written as the following:

THERE IS ALWAYS HOPE. ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.

Hope is a function of our own lack of certainty about the world. It arises when it seems that things are going wrong, but we cling to the possibility that what seems to be so bad isn’t really as bad as it seems. We may think happiness is beyond our reach, but because we know nothing, we can never be sure it is – and thus we never have a solid reason to give up. There will always be hope because nothing is certain.

If God made the world, I think this was the second most amazing feature He was able to give to us – possibility! It is possibility that allows our journeys to exist, because a journey is a quest towards an uncertain goal. If doom was certain, there would be no need to have a journey, no need to try, because the outcome would be clear from the start. And interestingly enough, if success were already certain, the same would be equally true. Only when success is in question, and we are forced to aim for our hopes – only then do we strive towards dreams, and live meaningfully. This is what I believe. If it is true that experiences, journeys, and striving towards our goals is what is valuable in life, then possibility, hope, and uncertainty itself are the keys to the meaning of life.

But it is also something we, and especially I, often manage to forget. Instead we focus on the other side of the coin, on our failure to have certainty, and the fear that risk causes for us. We are AFRAID. It is in our nature to value the status quo, even when it is change that would truly make us happy. Our instinct is to sit on the couch peacefully and watch some TV, not to seek out challenges. Our inclination is to strive towards a calm, static goal state filled with absolute happiness and no concerns whatsoever. Perfect peace. And the uncertainty of the world challenges that peace – it makes it impossible to maintain – it means anything and everything could fall apart at any given moment, with or without notice. That’s what September 11 reminded so many people, but for others there are countless personal events that carry the message just as strongly – the death of a friend, the divorce of a parent, the loss of a job, or anything else that could come with no notice to change everything.

I believe our fear of those changes really does ruin our lives, in both personal and political ways. It leads us to start foolish wars, destroy human lives, and forget human rights – all in the name of satisfying our fears. It leads us to fear strangers, shy away from the unknown, and avoid taking the risks necessary to truly live life.

This is not the correct way to view uncertainty, or so I have come to believe in the past few years.

It is uncertainty that makes a journey a journey, rather than just a progression of events. It is uncertainty that creates challenge, and it is challenge that adds value to our lives. Without it we would just be machines, going through predetermined motions – we might be happy in some shallow pleasurable sense, but I can’t help but believe our minds are constructed in such a way that stagnant pleasure can satisfy us in the long run – I can’t help but think that at the end of our lives we would wish we would have pursued greater challengers, took greater risks, and faced uncertainty head on.

This is why I love our own fallibility so much – despite the fact that I also hate it from time to time, particularly when I am not thinking straight. Like many things, you can choose to perceive it in different ways – as a horrible, dangerous source of fear, or as a wonderful source of hope. I think it is wiser to choose the later, at least if you want to avoid hating life.

Furthermore, among the many uncertainties of the world, one is particularly important – more so than the rest. I am talking about the uncertainty of our own identity. What am I? What sort of person am I? What should I do? How should I act?

In the same way we fear uncertainty in the world around us, I think we fear uncertainty in our own identities, only more so. We naturally want to be someone fixed, with certain traits that we can brag about or be aware of – good at this, bad at that, like this, not like that, etc. We fear existentialism – the notion that identities are a mere matter of choice. It depresses us to think we can change that easily, that we are that arbitrary, that we cannot even rely on ourselves to be constant. But the truth is that we really are that uncertainty; in fact, we are even more uncertain than existentialism would have us believe. After all, our identities are not only a matter of choice, but also of chance. We can choose to act and think in certain ways, but various other features seem somewhat beyond our control, such as height, intelligence, or personality, and instead these features can change at any given moment based on external factors. An intelligent person, for instance, can easily become far less intelligent quite quickly if certain diseases strike him or her. Even those features are not fixed.

Thus I can tell you about myself as I am now, but I cannot tell you with confidence how I will be tomorrow. And you cannot trust, with confidence, that tomorrow I will be the person you think I am. I may change, whether by choice or chance. It is an extremely scary thought because it means we do not even have reason to completely trust ourselves. It means we cannot be confident in our own abilities because those abilities could be gone any second, and we cannot be proud of our accomplishments because our ability to achieve them may have been a matter of chance – and any moment we may wake up and no longer be whoever it was that achieved those accomplishments. It is something we are horribly afraid of, but something that is true nevertheless, or so I think.

That fear is not justified, though. For just the same reason that uncertainty itself is good, I think uncertainty about ourselves is also a good thing. In fact, it is a great thing. It means we might be able to become whatever it is we want to become. It means we always have a reason to try to improve ourselves, no matter how much we might THINK we cannot. It means that those things we tell our children about being able to do anything really are true, regardless of how naive we foolish adults come to think those words from our own mouths are. It means a murderer or rapist or arch-villain might really become a good person in the end – in real life. It means a troll could become a valuable Jatraquero if we allow him. But more important than any of these, it places us all in our own stories – our own journeys towards becoming better people. By allowing for hope, it necessarily creates the need for things like landmarks, to reflect the distance we’ve come. Without change and uncertainty in ourselves, there would be no real story of our lives and no real landmarks, because we would be static. In this way, change and possibility, though feared, is good.

If you doubt this, I would point you simply to Hatrack for evidence. After all, what lesson is more evident from this forum than the uncertainty of almost everything?

I am sure there are at least a few around who might be inclined to view our failure to agree on anything as just a failure on our part – that if we were smarter and wiser we would all be able to realize the One True Right Way. Some might even think they know that Way, and wish everyone else would just listen to them. I’d invite these people to look a little closer. I think the reason we repeatedly fail to agree on our answers is because, in fact, these answers are unclear by nature, and cannot be made certainly clear through debate, science, or any sort of proof whatsoever. The reason a bunch of people think abortion should be banned and another bunch think it is allowable is not because one side or the other is stupid, but rather because the issue itself is uncertain. I think we truly can’t be sure of the answer. The same goes for our disagreements over God’s existence, or our disagreements over who should play Ender, or our disagreements over whether so-and-so is actually so-and-so in disguise.

When I first came to this forum I thought the conversations were really interesting, but I foolishly believed deep down that once I began to post, most people would just agree with me because my conclusions just make a lot of sense. Since that point, the thought has crossed my mind time and time again that people SHOULD be agreeing with me, but are not – and that that must mean those disagreeing are just being impossible, irrational, or ridiculous. But clearly that conclusion is wrong, as has become obvious over the five years here and my many years in the world in general. The real truth is that the reason people don’t agree with me is that the things that seem so clear to me actually are not as certain as I might believe. Nothing that seems certain really is.

In a way, I suppose, we are being impossible, irrational, and ridiculous after all – but it is all of us that are doing it, not just those in disagreement with me, or those in disagreement with any given point. It just our nature to be confused, as human beings. We are silly creatures in this way.

Given this, I suspect also that we take ourselves far too seriously. I do, perhaps in this thread too. In fact, human beings in general take themselves far too seriously. Why do we get mad at those who disagree with our fundamental beliefs, when those fundamental beliefs are not certain? Why do we get frustrated if our expertise is disrespected when, in fact, we all know so very little? What reason do we have to be so arrogant and demand such respect when we are, by nature, so ridiculous?

This is my challenge, directed at myself, but also at everyone else who cares to take it: Recognize that it is not reasonable for one blind man to become angry at another blind man for disagreeing over something neither of them can see. Recognize that only God knows for sure, that we are silly creatures who are lost and uncertain, that we have no reason to demand the sort of respect that we seem to think we need. Recognize that the world will not necessarily end if we can’t get what we want, because what we think we want may not really be what we need anyway. Recognize that, in fact, our enemies might really be more right than we are. Recognize that this is only a game and that though many of think we know how to win, those are at best educated guesses.

I wish I would never see another silly fight, or broken relationship, or depression, or war caused solely by the fact that people can’t recognize that they, too, might be wrong about something. Let’s just all chill instead. We will live, and die, and on the way we will try, but there is no sense destroying one another beforehand over disagreement about what we should try and how we should try it.

Flexibility, the ability to change and become something entirely different as one’s needs demand it – this is the ideal that I believe such an uncertain world demands. A person that can take on different viewpoints, a person that can alter even his most fundamental beliefs as apparent truth demands it, a person who can recognize a mistake and correct it. A person who can continue to progress. I am no such person, but it is something I try for – an ideal. It is part of the answer, the beginning part.

This is the foundation from which I think I (and we) should begin. It may seem strange to attempt to build upon a foundation of uncertainty, but when you consider that it is uncertainty that we can be most certain about, and consider that it is uncertainty that allows hopes and dreams to be possible, that creates the necessity of effort in living, that gives us something to journey for and be passionate about, and in turn that allows life to be meaningful, then I think it makes sense.

The past few years, including my time at Hatrack, has taught me to appreciate this uncertainty. I have realized it existed for a long time, but have largely feared it. I think that only recently I’ve come to see it as something more important – something good. That’s a realization that has impacted my life. Though it might not be obvious, even to those who know me best, that appreciation has resulted in the choice to take different paths – paths less traveled, into a more uncertain world that I believe will accordingly hold more meaning, or at the very least more hope.

Still, that hope alone is not enough. Hope is useless unless you have something to hopeful for. Uncertainty is meaningless if none of the resulting possibilities are more desired than the others. There must be something to hope for, there must be something for us to be passionate about, or else our own uncertainty collapses once again into the void. There must be something fixed, which flexibility and uncertainty helps us to pursue. What is it?

WHAT SHOULD I HOPE FOR?

Six years ago, when I graduated from high school, I asked that question and had no answer, and that failure began this entire journey. Since then I have decided that no matter how hard we try, we are not going to find final, solid, certain answers to our important questions, for all the reasons I’ve given above. Nevertheless, I still think I need faith in something – in some dream. What is my goal – what is my dream?

This is why I think a meaningful life really is a dance of real and ideal, and why this is a landmark for both Tresopax and Xaposert, in two parts. Reality is the uncertainty I described above, and as a result is also a journey. But a journey toward what? This is not a question of logic or rational analysis. It requires an ideal... something of real value.

That is why this is only half of a landmark – the easier half. How and what to build upon our cloud of uncertainty is the bigger challenge.

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Tresopax
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Part II

What is there to hope for in such an uncertain, confusing, enigmatic world? Take away the material things that we spend so much time seeking. Take away the knowledge that we spend so much time learning. Take away the honor, glory, and reputation that we spend so much effort earning. Take away the things we build, the jobs we perform, the roles we take on, and all the “things” that we cannot trust to last, whose value is subjective, whose truth is uncertain. What is left? If everything at Hatrack River and in the world in general amounts to a great confusion, what should we seek?

If all of that is dissolved, leaving only a foundation of uncertainty, and a void of darkness, there is still one thing that shines through and cannot be silenced: people, and the spirit or passion they have for whatever thing, transient or not, that they pursue.

They are my landmark, because in the past five years, it is they that I have most learn to value, to hope for. It is they that have most changed my life. People. Us. Everyone. They are the citizens, the journeys, the experiences, the questioners - they are the point. Hobbes, Destineer, Jeni, Slash, Tom, Anne Kate, Moose, Thor, Dragonee, Bob, Squicky, Pod, Farmgirl, doc, Syn, Ced, Scott, Kwea, Ethics Gradient, Jebus, Jay, Chris, Black Fox, Kwea, David, Dog, Ela, Mr. Card, and everyone, including myself I suppose. If there is meaning in the world, something to be hoped for, it is only because we have created that meaning, by being dreamers ourselves.

It has always seemed to me that children are born into the world with a spirit, a sort of will to live, a will to challenge themselves and to grow. Whether it is caused by the Holy Spirit within them, by some soul they possess, or simply by the firing of certain neurons, it is nevertheless a real, powerful, and beautiful thing. It is their essence. It makes them shine as human beings, and continue to shine as they grow older. It drives them to not just want to survive, but to thrive and advance as people. You know what I’m talking about don’t you? I don’t know what to call it, but I know it is a fantastic thing. It’s more than just motivation – it is joy. Occasionally I can catch a glimpse of it in a good book, or a powerful song, or even in a post on Hatrack. Usually though, if it shows up, it is in a person – someone who is truly passionate about what they are doing, someone who has a real dream that they believe in, someone who appreciates the world around them and is free to be curious about it. Not someone frustrated in traffic, or someone presenting a false face in an effort to be cool, or someone afraid for themselves and their children, or someone stressed out about their job/school/life. It’s the end of It’s A Wonderful Life. That’s the enthusiasm, the spirit, that I’m talking about.

When I was much younger, I vowed never to lose whatever that spirit is, or whatever I thought it was at the time. I saw older people who didn’t seem to care about anyone or anything, an attitude occasionally shared even by my peers in Middle and High School. Forces conspire to break that passion – to make people weary. Fear, suffering, loneliness, unhappiness, anger, hatred, confusion, exhaustion, hunger, and so on... they contribute to that dissolution. They wear away at that spirit and it fades away somehow.

A true unmaker does not unmake things, because things don’t matter in the first place in this uncertain world. It is people that matter, and thus the truest and most horrible unmaker is that which destroys people and the spirit that drives them. Even if nothing physical is of any value in the world, the void still does not win, because people still matter. But if people lose that spirit they are born with, giving up and not really living anymore, then there is nothing left. That’s what I’m really afraid of – an unmaking of us, you, or me.

I have tried to keep my vow but I can’t help but think that, perhaps, there is no stopping this enemy in the people around me. What is worse than someone who was once filled with hope being crushed by life, to the point where they no longer possess that spirit and twinkle in their eyes? I see it happen, although not always in such an obvious way. It disturbs me. In reverse, though, what is better than seeing someone push back against that crushing force, and shine through even in the most difficult circumstances? I think I’ve seen that too, and it wipes away everything disturbing, at least for a while.

It is because of this that I hope everyone, myself included, can figure out how to make their way into the latter category. I hope, for one thing, that you all see why I am suggesting that you are the essence of my real landmark here, because it is you all that continue to possess that spirit despite your different circumstances or troubles. I hope that everyone else can see that beauty in themselves, in all of this, so that they can find the motivation to continue their own journeys, so they will not surrender their own hopes, the one way we can truly cease being meaningful.

I believe we create passions because beneath it all, the only thing we should be absolutely and universally passionate about is passion itself – that thing that creates value.

It is this idea that I’ve been trying to get across one way or another throughout this entire thread, or in fact, throughout the entire time I’ve been at Hatrack, although I think I have failed and still am failing. The truth is what should have been obvious to me all along, and what I stated quite clearly in the post above: I don’t understand. I can’t fully understand. And consequently, I cannot really give answers. I can’t even express what I am thinking to you, not completely. And yet that’s what I’ve been seeking to do, that’s the landmark I’ve been trying to write, as if by writing it I could complete some project, some final dissertation or journey. No, a landmark is not an answer or thesis. Instead, it is a graduation, or a confirmation, or a funeral – something that is supposed to cast light on the big picture, the grand symphony, so that we can see how an individual journey, past, present, and future all fit into it and add to the greater value of it all. It is a guy standing at a podium declaring that we should all go forth with hope and boldness, or a woman speaking for the dead about how one person’s life changed the world and all those around that person. It is our opportunity to step back and understand why this is all going on, if not consciously then intuitively. It is our opportunity to appreciate the symphony as a whole, and thus realize that even though the specific things we care about may not have absolute value, and even though our ability to achieve them is totally uncertain, it is still worthwhile to pursue them, because it is not those goals that matter most truly, but rather the music we are creating in their pursuit.

This is how I think these ideals fit into reality – because without this one thing of true value, the passion of the individual human being, our other more pragmatic, realistic goals will fall apart in the face of that nihilist void and the harsh reasoning that we face in the modern world. Instead, because valuing things is valuable for its own sake, we can mount a shaky-but-effective defense. We can have faith not only that we are worthwhile, but also that as long as we pursue things of value to ourselves, we will remain worthwhile. We can know, even if others are blind to this, the value must be there. And we can find the value in others, and share in appreciating them, just as we appreciate a beautiful melody, only more so. We can live on, if not in happiness, then at least content to some degree that we are not wasting our time here. I have faith that we can keep that spirit.

I don’t think I have succeeded in expressing this as I wished. In fact, I suspect that I have mainly succeeded in sounding confusing and rambling on, or perhaps just sounding cliche, not only in this post but also throughout this thread and five years of Hatrack. In the end, my journey has not reached its goal of finding the ultimate landmark – but that is the point, and in writing towards that point I have found a different landmark along the way nonetheless. If I am correct, then reaching that final landmark, expressing that ultimate answer, does not really matter. It is my attempt that matters. It is your attempt. It is our attempt to work together to create some sort of value here that is important.

We have not failed. We have succeeded, simply because we tried, we pursued our end.

We have, in fact, changed the world. We have created Hatrack, and even if it were to cease existing tomorrow night, its story – the story of us attempting to do whatever it is we do here – will still have been worthwhile. The crystal city is us, not just Hatrack, but everyone – or everyone who is trying to pursue it, whether or not they know that in their pursuit they have already completed it.

Congratulations and thanks to all of the Jatraqueros. Congratulations to those new here, to those who’ve been here forever, and to those who’ve left but whose memories live on. Congratulations to everyone, Jatraquero or not. You have lived well, with passion. Continue to do so. Continue to be the hero of your own story. Appreciate the stories of those around you. Appreciate your own. Do not give up on Hatrack, on life, on yourself, or on your journey, whatever you have chosen to make it.

That is the final challenge of this landmark, and once again it is directed first and foremost to myself, and secondly to everyone else. I wish those who have grown weary of Hatrack and those who have grown jaded towards the same old issues coming up again and again might find a little renewed spirit in the notion that their arguments and fluff alike has served to further Hatrack and the lives of Jatraqueros, regardless of whatever frustrations it entailed. And I wish those who have left Hatrack in disillusion might consider that there is more worthwhile going on here than is seen at first or even second glance. But, most of all, I wish to reassure myself that I have not deceived myself about life itself, of which Hatrack is just a smart part representative of the whole. I wish I could remember just what it is all about, so I didn’t get distract with doubts, worries, and so on. I wish I could keep that spirit, or whatever you’d call it. That is what I hope for right now, most of all.

I do not know where I go from this landmark. You will notice that I did not say what exactly my own passion is, or what my journey is to me. I don’t know. Perhaps I will figure it out, or perhaps not – the next landmark, whenever that may be, could be anything. All I really know is that it is worth trying to get there. The past five years has proven this. In fact, my whole life has proven this, not beyond any doubt, but enough to justify faith – to justify hope in an uncertain world.

Thank you to all of you for being part of that justification, for being my landmark. Live on, and do so passionately, because you are the meaning of life.

quote:
"At last he came to a door, with these words in glowing emeralds:

THE END OF THE WORLD

He did not hesitate. He opened the door and stepped through."

quote:
[Smile]

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Storm Saxon
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Yay, Tres is back.
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Jeni
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I've always thought you to be a fascinating person, Jon. Thanks for taking the time to share all these thoughts with us.

I wish every Jatraquero would read at least those last two posts.

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Peter
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This is really awesome. I'm gonna save it and read it later when i have time. but what i've read is really thought provoking
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Hamson
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Wow thats a lot of writing. I'll be sure to read it some time. maybe.
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