A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Be Like Jimmy V

Jim Valvano, a longtime basketball coach at NC State, died of cancer back in 1993. Knowing he was dying, he continued to coach, continued to touch the lives of young men, started a foundation to fight the disease that was killing him, and battled for the precious gift that is life with all his might. Not in a bitter or cynical way, but rather trying to squeeze all that was good out of life in the time he had left. One of his last speeches was at the 1993 ESPY awards, and it was there that Jimmy V expanded on his trademark motto of "Don't give up. Don't ever give up." It was a hell of a speech, and I recommend listening to or reading it in its entirity to anyone, sports fan or no, but there is one passage that always resonates with me. Something I go back to from time to time to ground myself, and it is this:
To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. Number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that's a full day. That's a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you're going to have something special.
Indeed. So, you may ask, what brought on the Jimmy V nostalgia? It was a recent comment from Jack that contained the following:

I don't know who he is, but John H. is so completely full of shit that it makes me gasp. His are the worst, but most of the other comments make me hang my head in despair.

And yes, Nick, I know. I'm not keeping an open mind, and I've become inflexible. Sure. I guess that's that way it has to be. Perhaps it's my karma. It may be hard for your to fathom, but I'm perfectly comfortable with that.

I find these discussions, and almost all of the other ones that you all have linked me to (even TC's), to be drivel. It's not your content, Nick. I find it to be better on balance than a lot of it. But, I'm elitist. I'm liberal. I'm am resistant to external control. I've been reading for some time now, but I'm signing off.

I'm being distracted from my search.

Which made me very sad. I've known Jack for a very long time, and in many ways he has had a tremendous influence on my opinions, preferences and overall approach to life. Older than I, he blazed a number of trails and left enough guideposts for me to follow, or to use as a general roadmap as I forged along a different route.

Clearly, we no longer see the world the same way, and I think that's okay-- if everyone did see the world the same way, it would likely be terribly, terribly dull. But the fact that he does not even wish to try and see the world differently, even briefly, even just long enough to reassure himself that he still likes it the "normal" way, makes me sad. And I wonder just how exactly he is conducting his search and how successful the search can possibly be if he has indeed become inflexible and closed of mind. I hope that is merely hyperbole.

Inflexible people in general make me sad. Their world just seems so terribly limited-- how do you grow and change and experience life if it is all already cast in stone? I suppose it's easier in some ways, and I harken back to B.F. Skinner and his rather scary believe that most people simply wish to be told what to do so they can't be held responsible for their own bad decisions.

And now I'm just rambling. Perhaps its the new allergy prescription I'm on. I blame the trees. Where's a good dose of napalm when you need it? Just kidding, just kidding.

As for me, I suppose I will continue my own search through my traditional means and through some new ones. This blog is a new one, and so far I find I like it rather a lot. Since Jack if the first defectee of my small, but dedicated, core group, perhaps you guys do as well. I hope so, because one of the things I like about the blog, other than having all the power and control, is the dialogue and the debate between smart, savvy people who have very different ways of seeing things.

Don't give up, don't ever give up.
Many people simultaneously claim to be on some sort of esoteric search for "the truth" but then act and speak as if they've already found it. These people then react with anger when someone else comes along and insinuates that maybe they haven't or challenges their logic. This anger is mostly driven by fear, fear that their vision of "the truth" is fundamentally flawed.

What eludes these people is that "the truth" is only a mirage. It doesn't exist, or rather, it is only a placeholder, which motivates us as people. It is the metaphorical Grail, the proverbial carrot - it is the Ultimate Quest that drives our lives, but we will never find it or catch it or solve it. And that's ok, for life is not about arriving at some spurious understanding of "the truth". It's about learning and experiencing and understanding as much as one can. It's the journey and not the destination, that moves the world.

People are, naturally, bound to disagree over things, for everyone's quest takes a different path. Our ideas and visions of "the truth" are universally non-universal. Yet it is this disparity in the views of mankind that fuels the quest for enlightenment and keeps the collective consciousness in motion. If everyone agreed on everything, if everyone shared the same notion of where "the truth" laid hidden, new trails would never be blazed. What a stagnant place the world would be. Still - within the realm of polite debate, we must never forget that we as individuals really know nothing, and it is only by interacting with new ideas and other people that we ourselves grow and advance our own vision of "the truth". Indeed, our world vision is like a silhouette - by itself, it is mere shadow and empty space; the surrounding space defines its shape. In a similar way, our version of "the truth" is shaped by exposing ourselves to the ideas of others, no matter how ludicrous or at odds with our own beliefs those ideas might seem. When we turn our backs on the opinions and ideas of other people, the outside light is removed, and the silhouette becomes nothing, a shadow lost in darkness. Definition and meaning is lost.

Thus it is ironic that people pretend that they have found the Grail and cling tenaciously to that lie! They discard the ideas of others out of hand, they sneer and laugh and point fingers at the "idiotic masses", but their false perception of what is real has doomed them. It is sad, really, for when one claims to know "the truth" about anything, one has shut the door to the dynamic road that leads to happiness. Such a person has essentially closed their mind to the world, and has renounced the path of wisdom. This person has condemned himself to die a bitter, unenlightened person.

My feeling is that this is why most people are unhappy, and why much of the world is a miserable place filled with such unhappy people. Because nobody is willing to listen to anyone who shares a different opinion. There are a lot of idiots out there, but such a name should never be used to describe someone who simply holds a different opinion than your own.

Save the term idiot for those who drive a car, talk on the cell phone and put on make-up at the same time.

My two philosophical cents.
Nice thoughts, Corribus, and well-expressed.

I think I found myself both supported and condemned in there.

I of course don't mean to condemn anyone. People believe what they believe. The problem is, many people believe what they believe without taking the time to listen to and understand OTHER people's opinions, and in doing so, they have closed their minds to the world around them.

My point here is that an opinion means nothing without context, without other opinions and experiences to give it shape and substance.

If I may offer a story analogy: Suppose you that you grew up on a desert island, we'll call it Kibilunga. The only vegetation that grew on Kibilunga were tall coconut trees. The trees bear fruit, and it is this fruit that most of the Kibilungans eat, being the only source of food on the island. You and most of the islanders feel that the coconuts taste pretty damn good. But being as they are the only source of food, really, your opinion is pretty meaningless, because it's the only thing most Kibilungans have tasted.

But one day, a boat lands on the Kibilungas, and a man disembarks. He hails from an island some 50 miles to the west, called Monka Monka. On Monka Monka, there are coconut trees and pineapples. The man was carrying a boatload of pineapples to his family, but was blown off course and landed here on Kibilungas. Being generally nice people, the Kibilungans give the Monka Monkan water to drink and coconuts to eat. He accepts the former happily but frowns when offered coconut, saying that he thinks they taste terrible.

You and the other Kibilungans gasp at this. Coconuts taste terrible? How could that be? Many of your fellow Kibilungans grow angry at this insult and stalk off, but some of them ask the Monka Monkan how he came to hold this belief. The Monka Monkan leads you (and the other Monka Monkan) over to the boat, and removes a cover of dried palm to reveal a large mount of ripe pineapples. He explains these are another fruit.

Some of your Kibilungan friends are obviously suspicious and hold up the vicious looking fruits with skepticism. After all, pineapples don't look to friendly. Some of these Kibilungans throw down the pineapples in disgust and stalk off, claiming that such an ugly fruit could never taste as good as a coconut.

But some of them stay, yourself included. The Monka Monkan takes one pineapple and hacks off the top of it and cuts it into pieces, and gives a piece to the remaining Kibilungans. They all taste it.

Not surprisingly, some of them like it and some of them don't. A few of them claim it's the best thing they ever tasted. But most of them prefer the coconut because it's what they knew best. But one thing's for sure: Kibilunga was never the same again.

So tell me. Who is more enlightnened? The coconut-liking Kibilungan who stayed and calmly tasted the pineapple or the coconut-liking Kibilungan who stalked off indignantly, claiming that nothing could ever taste as good as the almighty coconut? Both of them share the same opinion, but one is wise and worldly, and the other is... not.

The point being: you may hold to the same opinion that coconuts are God's gift to fruit-lovers until the day you die. But the more OTHER fruits you taste, the more that opinion matters. If all you've tasted in your life are coconuts, does that opinion really matter? Have you really tested it? How do you know it's right?

THIS is the meaning of wisdom,
Post Script:

By the way, one thing I didn't point out from this story. Notice that many of the Kibilungans grew angry when someone challenged their opinion that coconuts were the best tasting fruit. What is the logic in this? Anger only impedes your own quest of enlightment and hurts nobody but yourself, because until you let the anger go, you will never in good faith expose yourself to the opinions of others. -C.

Your parable is almost biblical. Tighten it up a little and you’d have a cool short-short story.

I think you should develop this further: write a book, develop a lecture, create some course work, and go on tour. Why, in no time at all, you’d be on PBS fundraisers, cruise ships, and university lecture halls! You could be a modern day enlightenment guru! You’ll make Stephan Covey and Dr. Wayne Dryer look like mental midgets!

All right, I’m teasing you a little, but I agree with you for the most part. I think some things are right, and some things are wrong, no matter the context. Yet quite often the context reveals the truth as well.

The best guide through all of this is using the brain God gave you, with a little conscience and a little open-mindedness. The bible says be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves, I think that’s a great platform to build on.
I agree :)

Yo! John!

What does the Bible say about snarks?

Just curious. ;->
Here's Titus, 3:2

2 To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men.

Yeah, I fail a bit on this one. :->
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