Friday, September 21, 2007

False Authority

Growing up, I took my parents' word as law, thought they knew better than me, knew what to do in every situation. I listened to them when they told me which school to attend, which Church to go to, how to improve myself, to go to college first thing out of high school. However, the older I get, the more I realise they don't have a clue, and they were just guessing along the way.

More and more I realise that this is prevalent among anyone tasked with making decisions; they're often going off little more than guesses. Doctors listen to your symptoms, maybe take your blood pressure or listen to your heartbeat, and then make an educated guess about what's wrong with you. My grandmother was mis-diagnosed twice by doctors last year when she had a bowel infection. Mechanics tinker around, kick the tires, check your fluid levels, and then make a guess as to what's wrong with your car. I spent $90 at AAMCO (a transmission specialist mechanic chain) who told me I needed a new Catalytic Converter (a $150 part) for my car, when all I needed was more transmission fluid in my car ($20). More and more I find that people really have no clue what they're doing.

So how does this make you feel about becoming an adult? I always thought there would be some switch-over moment where I instantly knew what to do, and possessed the knowledge to act confidently in every situation I face. I admit imaging such a moment is silly, but now I find out that I'm always going to feel as confused and clueless as I do now, and it scares me.

Corollary to that, I realise now without any benchmarks to track my life by, finishing high school, finishing college, etc., that life isn't a series of stages where when one enters the next stage they will become someone new and completely different than they are now. Life is an endless string of days exactly like this one. Unless I make changes now, I'm going to feel the same and be the same person in the future that I am today.

5 comments:

Nico said...

I love change. I am of the school of "bend like the reed or break like the oak." This holds true in literature, where it is important to be dynamic or to buckle under the pressure of a conflict.

This is one of the reasons I chose to stick with working on the net. In a year's time, the nature of my job has changed to something completely different than it used to be. Before, it was to attract attention to existing brands. Now, it is to help change the nature of the way brands are represented. Who knows what it'll be like in another year's time?

In this manner, I think it's exciting to not have a clue. You then are able to shape the reality around you by your actions based on what you need to address. For example, your parents hadn't a clue about how to get you to where they wanted you to go - but by putting up the fa├žade that they did know, they were able to significantly influence you, to create values, all while not having a clue.

Cluelessness instigates change because it takes moxie to step up the challenge. It forces you to become a dynamic character. And this is what I find to be exciting about adulthood - it's roller coaster scary, not haunted house scary.

I will quote the great Greeks yet again in this group blog: "I am wiser than many more men because I realize that I know nothing." Once I understood this - once I understood that life was just a series of improvising - I actually did have that epiphany moment. I realized I don't know everything to do, and from that point on I was able to act accordingly with some authority and conviction.

After all, if you have all the answers, where is there left to go?

Josh Leffler said...

some guesses are better than other guesses. someone who has been guessing a bit longer will be a bit better at it, and his or her advice might do well to be heeded. imho

Josh Leffler said...

also those who isolate themselves from the other guessers (extended family) which is a pattern in the u.s. will suck at guessing more - which is why your/and mine and everyone elses parents probably were such n00bs and really were throwing chance at the wind. but like wikipedia with more user input extended families are ftw. i'm in egypt btw unique perspective maybe.

SnrIncognito said...

pendulum swings seem to occur in everything.

when youre a child, appearance is reality. when you get older, experience is reality. time to revisit that great 'ol question "what is reality?"

thinking that information means knowledge says to me that you have a lot of faith in other people.

thinking that personal experience means knowledge says to me thaty ou have a lot of faith in yourself. this is, i think, the big jump between chldhood and adulthood.

when a child, you have no power. you trust those who take care of you because you have no reason not to and no alternative. you find that size, and age endow you with the ability to experience. eventually, your power and your experience start conflicting with others'. more importantly, you discover that all the information youve been given, all of it, has come from the experiences of others. so, yours must be just as good. right?

well...sorta. just because you experneice something differnetly from someone else doesn't mean your two perspectives are equally valid. there are a lot of factors that go into a perspective.

adulthood comes when you know that there's a lot more to discovering truth than either trust or confidence. testing ideas against experience and recognizing when experience and bias coincide is the test of an adult's reasoning abilities.

many people who have lived for half a century are still children.

as adults it's our duty to examine what we've been told and what we see with the same skeptical lense.

yeaaahtoast said...

When i was a little kid, and even to this day, i have always wanted to be like my parents. An odd combination of open-catholic-community-socially-skilled and reserved-hardened-learned-traveled-weathered-wealth-of-knowledge, i always thought that if i could just halve myself down the middle and pull from each of them, i'd be one pretty damn good person.

So i did, and what i found out while trying the combinations which i felt were the true "me", is that the way my parents are now is a culmination of their whole lives and i can't draw upon these characteristics unless i live some of them.

I was sheltered and spoiled my whole life, in the best ways. While i never had problems with self identification, sex, or emotions, i have problems with other real-life situations: money handling, legal stuff, and dealing with people in a potentially dangerous situation. When confronted with things like that, i usually tuck tail and run home, which i blame on my parents insisting to fight my battles for me. Of course i know now that this is kind of an "instinct" for them to take me under their wing and deal with the snapping jaws of the beast. And i know that while whispering to me "everything is going to be ok, we'll get through this" they're not even thinking of the outcome, they're focused on the battle, the next moves they are going to pull, and how in the world they're going to get through it.

Through hard times, it seems like they always knew what to do, and so i find myself thinking about my own kids... how i will possibly be able to know the right moves to make. And even without thinking of kids, how the hell am i supposed to get married, buy a house, get a new car, set up a 401k, think about retirement, and find a job that will allow me to have kids in the first place!? Ack. Then how do i enjoy my youth without tying myself down to the things listed above?