Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Success

Note to various snoopy persons: I CAN write this at this time because it assists me in gathering my thoughts for the essay I must compose on the subject of success. So don't, pleeeaaase don't, tell me I shouldn't be blogging.

"How do you define success?"

First of all, I don't like the question. To ask how I define something is to suggest that there is more than one valid definition - more than one truth. Though to quibble about the wording of such questions might seem ridiculous, the same reasoning is used to justify error within the church and perversions in society at large. This same reasoning suggests that you have the right to define your life - to "create your own reality." Morality itself becomes a joke, for one can define "moral" however he pleases. Is an action right? Depends on your definition of "right"? Is an action good? Depends on how you define "good"? When everything becomes relative, objective "truth" dwindles to nonexistence.

As I have said before, "Just because you define the moon as a ball of green cheese, the moon does not for that reason become a ball of green cheese." (And aren't we glad!)

But, one might say, "Aren't some words relative, anyway? Is not a person obliged to create a definition for a word such as 'beautiful'?"

Actually not. True, 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder', but the beholder cannot change the definition of beauty. Bear with me a moment.

Beauty:
1.the quality present in a thing or person that gives intense pleasure or deep satisfaction to the mind, whether arising from sensory manifestations (as shape, color, sound, etc.), a meaningful design or pattern, or something else (as a personality in which high spiritual qualities are manifest).

Different sources bestow pleasure or satisfaction in the mind to different people. But regardless of the exact shape, form, taste, sound, or feeling a person calls "beautiful", the fact remains that the person derived pleasure or mental satisfaction from it. Grammatically, it is impossible to call a thing "beautiful" which, instead of proffering pleasure of some sort, wounds, disgusts, repulses or conjures up a feeling of loathing. Though a repulsive thing can occasionally be called "beautiful" (eg: the Cross), it is only beautiful because there are elements in it which do breathe pleasure and satisfaction. Understand that by "pleasure", I do not mean a sensual lust, but a thing which is pleasant - soothing to the senses- "good, right, and salutary".

So even relative terms are not subject to "personal interpretation." Rather, they have a set definition. Beauty is pleasant and satisfying. Beauty is not loathesome or detestable to the person who describes it as beautiful. This is true regardless of what item, person, place, time is called "beautiful".I recognize what this question is asking, but I refuse to answer it. I don't have a "personal interpretation" of the word "success." I strive to use English verbage and grammar as it stands without modifying it (well, maybe a few modifications).

Success (American Heritage Dictionary):
1.The achievement of something desired, planned, or attempted.

Succeed II(Funk&Wagnall's College Standard Dictionary):
1. To accomplish what is attempted or intended.

Success is (and I abide by this definition) to achieve or acomplish what one has desired, planned, intended, or attempted.

This being said, allow me to prove myself a heretic and an infidel in the eyes of current culture by stating that success is not always "a good thing."

No! Absolutely not! Success cannot always be beneficial. The merit of 'success' depends on the merit of what end was gained by the accomplishment and what means were used to gain this achievement. A bank robbery may be a complete "success", yet what person (besides Nietzsche) would applaud it?

As Victor Hugo muses in Les Miserables, "Oftentimes a battle lost is progress gained." To determine whether a failure is beneficial, one must consider who lost. The success of evil results in evil. The success of good results in good. Conversely, the failure of evil fosters beneficient growth, while the failure of good dashes hope to smithereens and envelopes life in death.

The penman who authored this question undoubtedly attempted to inquire as to what outcomes I consider to be desirable. He or she does not really wish to discover my philosophical quirk of poking holes in the unblemished countertop of academic inquiry. So, I will bite my tongue and respond to the "spirit of the question" rather than the "letter of the question", but I will reword the question to make the letter fit the spirit.

"What outcome of your efforts do you consider desirable? With what result of your labors will you be physically, emotionally, and spiritually satisfied?"

Much better, though still not perfect. I will try to answer.

Because the Old Adam often proves much less dense than water (consequently floating), my reaction to the issue of my labor is always tinted with sin. (I am a sinner, yet righteous. How odd?) For this reason, I will speak of those outcomes the "righteous me" desires that I derive satisfation from.

I am satisfied with my work when I meet a goal I have purposed for myself which does not contradict or detract from God's Word. When I or other authorities set for me a noble, achieveable goal and I do not finish my work, I am disgusted with myself and bemoan the wretched state which causes me to put off God pleasing, yes, even God ordained, tasks - those good works entrusted to me by my superiors and by my conscience - until much too late.I also consider personal failure precious if by failing I was prevented from experiencing or perpetrating evil.

Some failures bring extreme relief: these too are welcome. Several times, a successful issue of my striving would have brought about exactions of my time and energy which would have sapped me of any remaining energy and broken me upon the rack of conflicting commitments clamoring for my attention. I am grateful that my aspirations were denied.

Success for me often translates into failure for someone else. In these cases, I ought to weigh the harm my success (which in itself is right and good) would do to my neighbor. My failure may grant immense blessing to another; with this I am (or should be) satisfied.

A success or failure is a satisfactory outcome if from it I am pointed to the cross. Contrition and repentance for rebellion (known and unknown) against my Father are always good outcomes.

Ultimately, an outcome is desirable if it is pleasing to Christ. I, according to the Spirit, should be content with these and not bemoan results of my labors which do not match my hopes. For what is past is past. I cannot change the past. "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." God will take care of the past - and He has! That's where absolution comes in handy. (I use "handy" jokingly, invaluable would be better.) But I can learn from the past in order to structure my strivings in a manner conducive to outcomes which honor Christ and build up my neighbor.

I see that I have talked alot about pleasing failures. That's because they're easy to identify and list. Satisfactory successes are much more numerous.

We all like success. We like to accomplish our goals. I guess the easiest thing (since I've already spent too many days working on this blog post) is to say that I prefer to succeed - to accomplish my objectives - whenever it is not displeasing to God (as revealed by Scripture) to do so. This, by the way, often translates into not harming my neighbor.


Minor digression. While penning (or typing, whichever you prefer) this post, I started down a rabbit trail, which, though not particularly applicable to the subject of success, is not deserving of the garbage can. Therefore to do it justice, I shall let it to remain, riding on the "success" of the previous post, whatever that may be.

One of my personal oddities is that events seem much more desirable if they include an adrenaline rush. Seriously, I'm not joking. And yet I really detest rollercoasters and other rides which jerk and jolt me around. My adrenaline rushes come more from involuntary responses to thoughts and interaction. This is one reason I so much enjoy public speaking; when I speak in public I can be absolutely terrified, yet overcome my terror. I feel powerful as I hold every impulse in check and force myself to speak clearly inspite of my quavering lips.

Yet, even everyday events cause such surges of hormones (such as adrenaline, dopamine, oxytocin and vassopressin). I'm quite serious when I speak of be the effects of hormones - they're quite powerful. I can feel my alertness suddenly heighten, my heart quicken and seemingly leap within me. I can even, in a way, sense the involuntary pupil dilation and facial muscle contraction stimulated by hormones. I'm not just speaking of romantic attraction; don't take this wrongly. I'm speaking of the involuntary hormonal changes which accompany every task and thought. The pleasure of reading and visualizing an engaging tale, a deep conversation, new ideas, the kindness of another person's actions, a hug from Mom or Dad; even my own thoughts trigger changes in feeling. Young women are very vulnerable because they are so caught up in the tossing waves of emotions. A single glance, a single syllable, a single touch can either send them into the clouds or bring their carefully built card castles crashing around them. It's so weird. We're always watching, watching everything. And, unfortunately, we young ladies are often trapped into reading into every move of every person around us. We try so desperately to get into the brains of the people around us, yet often we are afraid to ask them what they are thinking. It seems too risky. What if that person rebuffs the request? What if that person's response cuts and slices senseless to the havoc it wreaks on hearts opened to receive and cherish confidences? No, we think. It is better to try to figure out what people are thinking from their words and actions than to inquire and risk the razing of our hopes.

Hence we might say that catty girls simply vocalize and accentuate the manner in which all female minds embellish and read meaning into what they see and hear.

But women aren't actually all that thin-skinned. We've got a thick shielding of impermeable armor we've created for ourselves. This is why statements of people at school, in the community etc, who aren't close to us seem to slide off our backs, though in reality tiny barbs do penetrate the skin. It is the people who are closest to us who hurt us, simply because for them we open ourselves up. We take risks. We make ourselves vulnerable in order to attempt to express the affection normally hidden in the inward vaults.

3 comments:

Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

Very profound, Truth Questioner. I really admire and enjoy your carefully thought-out and well constructed lines of reasoning. And I cannot help but appreciate the relentless probing that you do of your own heart and mind. It is, in its own way, a very brave thing to do; and it is helpful to others, who may be less able or less courageous to do so. Thanks!

TruthQuestioner said...

It is much easier, Pastor, to probe oneself aloud when one does not have to look into the eyes of one's listeners or see their reactions.
In this way, the internet faccilitates communication for me of things I would not ordinarily communicate. It takes less courage when one is shielded from seeing the affect of others. Face to face, cowardice (or simple shyness) prevails

Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

Ah, yes, I understand that, too. Although many do not realize it, I am actually quite shy by nature and personality. The confidence I have in preaching and teaching derives entirely from the office to which I have been called, by virtue of the One who has chosen to speak to His people by my mouth.

I know exactly what you mean about the benefits of internet communications; which, despite their weaknesses and potential problems, are able to contribute something quite beneficial.

Anyway, I'm glad for the way in which you are able to share your thoughts and insights here.