"The axis today is not liberal and conservative, the axis is constructive-destructive."- Steve Jobs
I keep reading this quote by Steve Jobs and I think it really sums up a good chunk of my own thoughts here at the end of 2011.
I had a pretty good year. I got married, got a new job doing something I really like doing, and started doing Crossfit. My outlook right now is more positive than it has been in years. There is a brooding, moody, eighteen year old me who lives in the darker part of my soul and keeps screaming that the other shoe is bound to drop sooner or later, but the hopeful, happy, close-to-30 year old me keeps telling him to shut up. Hakuna Matata, eighteen year old me. So there's some context for where I am as you read the rest of this.
Back to the Steve Jobs quote. I think you have a choice of living your life in one of three ways:
1. You can spend your life as an appendix. It's pretty easy to coast through life neither contributing to society at large in any meaningful way, or taking anything away. Much like the appendix, you can take in nutrients without harming a body or doing anything really constructive for that body either. You can eat food, go to work, go home, watch TV, lather, rinse and repeat. It's a boring life, but it's an easy one too. I think most people probably live like this though no one would ever really admit to living like this.
2. You can break stuff. You can destroy. Steve Jobs in the above quote was talking about Fox News. His point was that it didn't really matter that Fox had a conservative bias. His problem with Fox was that they were destructive. As a network, they spend a huge chunk of their time decrying politicians, and groups of people they don't like without really contributing anything positive. They don't really make anything except hateful noise. Their politics don't really matter. There are lots of destructive liberals out there too. There are also conservatives who help the poor, build roads, and protect the peace, amongst other wonderful contributions. But there are plenty of people out there of all political/religious/etc. persuasions who just like yelling about how much everything and everyone sucks. Destructive people are destructive because they are selfish. They'd rather build themselves up by tearing others down than actually taking some responsibility and doing something constructive with their lives. And that brings us to the third way to live life:
3. You can build. In season 2 of the Wire (probably my favorite season of the Wire) Frank Sobotka says "We used to build shit in this country". Frank is of course upset about the decline of American manufacturing, shipping, etc., but you could apply this quote to the state of modern discourse. But the very best people still build stuff. You CAN do more with your life than simply float through. You can take all of the energy that you may be applying to trashing someone else and instead "build some shit". The purpose of humanity (in my humble opinion) is to forward the cause of humanity. Leave the world better than you found it. Paint, work out, help the poor, raise a family, design airplanes, grow plants, read books, write books, dream and build, and work and struggle and love and be a living, breathing human thing. Life is too short, and too difficult- we can do more than make it even harder for our fellow humans.
With that in mind, here is my New Year's resolution. It's in two parts, but it's pretty simple.
Part the first:
Be more positive.
Part the second:
I am going to be kind to every human who I meet. I will hold doors. I will offer my coat to other humans who may be cold. I will donate money to charitable causes. I will say nice things to other humans about their hair. I will not argue with anyone about politics, or music, or religion. More importantly, I will not decry and denounce anyone just because their opinions on music, politics, religion or whatever differ from my own. I will not blame anyone else for my own shortcomings.
I will make things. I will cook meals and share them. I will do small carpentry projects. I will perform and make people laugh. I will travel. I will work hard. I will work out. I will eat well. I will live well, and I will help you if I can.