Tag Archive: success

So says Nietzsche and many others agree. Huxley was of the opinion Darwin did the deed, but is it that simple? Is all that is needed for God to die the opinion of an intellectual minority of the world’s population, which happen to reside mainly in the affluent West?

I have a growing suspicion it is not quite as simple as that. It seems that (wo)mankind have been religious from their earliest awakening. One of the earliest examples of human religious experience and expression is the awe inspiring Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc Cave paintings in southern France with an early dating somewhere in the region of 32 000 – 30 000 BCE. The cultural heritage of this cave precedes the caves at Lascaux with almost 15 000 years!

Through the centuries the idea of God developed, were defined, redefined and cross-pollinated. The one constant being that people from all walks of live from every conceivable corner of planet lived from the basic knowledge that there is something like a God, a higher power or energy, that is the source and sustenance of all Life.

Then the ability of man to harness fossil fuels and utilize industrial-orientated machinery changed the world. Suddenly we had the luxury of power and time, and the concept of knowledge changed. For our survival, at least for some, we were not at the mercy of the natural environment anymore. In those reaches where this revolution had an impact (wo)mankind felt on top of the universe; who needed God? This feeling of invincibility and spare time allocated to thought combined for the inevitable conclusion that God is nothing more than the desperate projection of those in need. How arrogant could we become?

Nature is giving us the answer; very! It seems that at the pinnacle of our knowledge, the new kind; it was and is limited, even in regarding to the ecosystems on, around and under Earth. Through natural disasters, changing climates, oil spills and shrinking water resources, to name but a few, we are learning the hard way that not everything can be fitted into a neat system with the little knowledge we have.

It might be that God is a figment of our desperate imagination, but the claim that God is dead, is merely another statement of our ignorance. How do we know? Maybe the wheel has turned enough that we must acknowledge with generations past and present that we do not understand at all, but that, somewhere deep inside, there is an almost primal experience, the old type of knowledge, of that which can be called God.

Communal Responsibility – A balance

In a recent post, Diving Deep – 5 November, I argued that individual independence as a benchmark for maturity and success has certain adverse effects. It was promptly pointed out that individualism is not the problem but rather the solution and that communalism (/collectivism) is problematic.

The question underlying both the post and many of the comments is the tension between the rights and privileges of the individual in relation to the welfare of the community, large and small, environmental and human-environmental.

Recent statistics gave the number of jobs lost in the last three months in South Africa as topping 440000. For the welfare of the community at large I would think that this difficulty needs to be shared through individual action. A hypothetical example, if I made a R1000 per hour off the back of others inability to meet certain payment deadlines; I will now have more work than ever, but I might lower my burden on the unfortunate by forty percent. In this way the individual benefits from the upsurge in work and the feeling of well-being and the community benefits by sharing the burden.

The same can be said for the community. In a situation where an individual becomes destitute the community needs to act as one to shoulder the burden. An example here might be the environmental crisis (which might be seen as an “individual”) and the need for community, small and large, to effect a positive future for our children. Communal rationing during the Second World War and the banning of CFC’s are examples that come to mind.

The balance is disturbed when there is an over-emphasis on either one or the other. The emphasis on individual independence leads to the rape of nature and the exploitation of people with the resulting gap, ever widening, between the obesely rich and the distitudal poor. This in turn then leads to an unstable environment in which riches might become a safety liability and even bad for individual health. On the other hand, an over-emphasis on community negates the individual identity. This leads to the loss of diversity and humanity which negatively impacts on the richness of the community, for example in creative expression, and on the ability of the community to react to threats and challenges.  The end result of an impoverished community is most likely to be death.

A healthy community is essential for individuals to flourish, be creative and live life to the fullest. Rudyard Kipling captured this intrinsical truth the best when he wrote: “The strength of the Pack is the Wolf and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack”.

Balancing individual pursuit and wants with communal responsibility, I think, is a much greater benchmark for maturity and success.

Measure of success – revisited

Many things have been written about what constitutes success. Most often in our contempory situation success is measured in terms of wealth. Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are household names thanks to Forbes list of richest people in the world. In a growing consumerist world, “things” are playing an ever increasing role in our measurement of success.

We have bigger houses (the average American house doubled in the last 50 years and I suspect the same trend can be seen in South Africa), prefer to drive around in big 4×4’s (even to fetch the children from school), TV’s gets larger, holidays further and more exotic, clothing keep on getting more labelled and disposable becomes the criteria of the day.

In short, it can be said that success on average is measured by the capability of a person to consume energy and create waste. The reverse is also true in a very few instances, where success is measured in the financial ability to buy technologies that allows for an excessive lifestyle but have a neglitable energy and waste footprint. This however strengthens, even expands on the measure of success; those who can use the most energy and generate the most waste and at the same time limit their carbon footprint and recycle most of their waste is the most successful of all. Hopefully this slows us down enough to think about our definition of success for a moment.

I believe the time has come for us to take serious stock of how we define success. I would like to argue that success needs to be defined in different terms all together. Success reclaimed would encompass different values than the monetary based wealth definition; I want to highlight three of these values.

The first is a life of sustainability. This is more than the financial ability to limit one’s carbon footprint through expensive technologies. A life of sustainability first and foremost embraces justice and integrity. It is impossible to live an extravagant life without impacting negatively on someone else’s somewhere. We live on a planet which is finite, limited. Growth ad infinitum is impossible. A successful life therefore is one of frugality, justice and integrity.

The second is a life of moral value. It seems that in the quest for monetary wealth, everything is upgradable, disposable or justifiable. One only has to look at a world where corruption is common place; divorce is the familiar story of many families and the own self is the first authority on behaviour. It therefore seems that a life of success rather strives to uphold honesty before financial gain and family values before a neglected community.

The third, and probably the most important, is a life in relationship. No one lives as an island. We are all dependent on another and them on us. It is therefore inevitable that success is measured on the impact of us on others but also the impact on ourselves. We can only achieve a life of sustainability that is characterized by moral fibre if we live with our interdependence as a single focus; relationship up, horizontal, down; in and out.

Success measured in terms of wealth inevitably leads to a break down of, at least some, relationships, often tempts one with immoral choices and is unsustainable at the core. The only question remains; why still use wealth as the measure of success?