My god, you know how vain that sounds? Some old man writing advice to the young, like it really makes a difference. Well, younguns, I suspect you know something of the truth on that score. When old people start offering advice oh how to live they either want to sell you something or they believe they have a corner on the market of some absolute truth. I use to believe in absolute truths but they have a way of contradicting themselves which makes them less absolute and you and I fools for believing in them. The reality is that there are very few absolute truths in this world. Life and death is one of them. Death is a final end of life. Oh, I know, there are many who believe in life after death but no one had ever come back from the dead to prove. Should you believe in life after death? I can’t say that it hurts but I can’t say it does much good either. It is largely speculation and if you feel better believing a thing is so, well, then so much the better. If believing in life after death makes you a better person in this world then, please, do believe.
You see, it’s not so much that equivocation that is at fault, without absolutes one is forced into equivocation. It’s that we should have some continuity in our equivocation. Well, yes, that does sound a bit circular in argument. It’s like morality. One shall not steal. That seems fairly straight forward. Yet, are there times when we may feel justified in stealing from others? Perhaps, depends on the circumstance. Back in the day when there were coin operated pay telephones, coins that were discovered in the coin return slot wither belonged to the individual who did not take them or to the telephone company. To take those coins out of the chute and put them in your pocket was the same as committing an act of theft, according to the telephone company. One can say the same about coin operated machines that dispensed a double of whatever it was that your were buying. Very often you were benefiting from someone else’s loss. Yet few of us would think of robbing a bank. Would we take advantage of insider information to make a profit in the stock market? That is stealing according to the laws. Or perhaps we world in a call center that sells some service. Is overselling the customer more than what he needs theft? In my book, yes. When we do that to make our quota for the day or week or month, we are stealing from another person who trusts us. I think that is the worst kind of stealing, when we violate the trust of others. I have more respect for the armed bank robber than someone who trades upon my confidence for his own gain. But I need to make a living, provide for my family. I am not against salesmanship as an advocation or profession. I respect the work. People need to be convinced to part with their money when the cause is good, when it is to their future benefit. But to over represent, to sell me items I don’t need at the moment, to try and rush me into to a decision to buy from you some product or service simply because you have a quota to meet, well, now we have entered into that grey area which requires good judgment.
Integrity is a much abused word these days, yet it is a most powerful concept and often misunderstood. For myself I would define it as being true to those ideals I hold true. Of course even that definition has a slippery slope that can lead one astray. Our ideals may be far from true in the reality of living. But if I believe that I should be honest in my dealings with other people and I expect the same in return from them, then my actions should reflect such an ideal. Of course there are those who are scrupulously honest with others and yet lie to themselves. We all are guilty of misrepresenting ourselves to ourselves. I may think I am a good singer or artist and yet my ability may be less than I believe it is. These are our personal flaws, aspects of that image we see in the mirror that is distorted in some way from how others see us. But other individuals are also mirrors. If some person we know seems overly vain about their appearance or some other aspect of their being, we see that the image does not match our own perceptions. Yet what we see is something within ourselves. This also works for the positive images we observe. I have grown to admire how efficiently a man or woman does a job, some work operation. I have learned several crafts and do them quite well. So I can so easily spot a good worker who works at his job in so easy a manner as if his craft is second nature. I let others teach me something of their work and ability by taking the time to observe them. Believe it or not, this is a point of integrity, taking a sincere interest in someone’s presence. We want to be noticed for our own presence, to be admired for what we do at work or in social situations or in our family lives. We automatically project these images and recognize the projected images of others. This is one of the great beauties of life for it provides a linkage to other individuals. These links help us to form groups of various stripes and give us great satisfaction.
My last bit of advice is the hardest to give let alone express coherently. When we are young we search for love and truth and many times confuse the two. Both are ideals, something the Greeks during the time of Socrates and Plato discussed so very often. I like reading Socrates. I know the rage is for the old Stoics and Epicureans and their search for wisdom. Funny that much of their writings were more entries in personal diaries than theories of philosophy debated in the society of philosophers. Much of what they wrote were observations of the actions and the imputed motivations, a bit of mind reading, something we all do. But the main influence of Socrates is in his investigation of ideals and their ultimate meaning. Meaning, now there is a loaded word. How often do I hear or read how so many young want meaningful work. Yet if I were to ask each of you just what do you consider meaningful work most of you could not give much of an answer. Well, work that is a benefit to society. Any paycheck earned and spent is meaningful to society, so what? I want to do good in the world. Does that mean that being unemployed is doing bad? Does doing good in the world end with retirement? nd what about love? Most of us felt loved by our mothers, although love from dad was different, wasn’t it? Just what is this ideal named love? Just a bunch of jangly emotions that make you tingle for hours on end? Or could it be a kind of quiet contentment with the presence of some individual whether physically present or not? We know that loyalty is a type of love but it never quites fits our wants, does it. Men and women have spent millions of years and billions of words trying to describe and define love, yet we know no more about it than if nothing were ever said or written. It is that indescribable individual personal experience. Note that that individual personal is a redundancy. No two perceptions of love are ever exactly the same. Like Socrates, we can spend our lives trying to define love and truth, and beauty, too. The end is not the correctness for the definition, for one shall never find it. The end is in the doing, in loving and in finding truth. It will never be a completed process. One never retires and stops loving or searching for truth, the two have a habit of turning up at odd times when we least expect them. But isn’t that the meaning we seek in life? Doesn’t that make the difference in the world? Isn’t that the real legacy one leaves his fellow man?