Monday, January 30, 2006

OK, that was the policy statement

By "that" I mean Saturday night's posting. In other words, that was the purpose that I say I have. But what's the purpose that I live out?

Let's do the man-from-Mars thought-experiment: A Martian anthropologist plants a wire on me and cameras in my house, car, and office, to discover what actually drives me.

A finding

What does he find? One thing he'd find is a lot of activities that I feel I just sorta have to do. I don't really have to do them; I just kinda feel like I do. If he were very smart, he'd see that I really do want to do them, even though I might not feel like it. Take work for example. Sometimes I really don't feel like going to the office, and sometimes I whine about how my day job intrudes on my life. I could probably quit today if I wanted to, and we could retire comfortably [enough] on the proceeds of our rental. We'd have to give some things up, but I could do it.

I won't, though, at least not this year, so our hypothetical anthropologist could conclude, correctly, that there's something about the job that I like. There's the cameraderie of working on a task with people that have become friends, there's the feedback that comes from making something work and having others give me an "attaboy", there's the struggle against a common enemy (take that as you will), there's the identity that comes from being part of a high-tech organization.

Therefore, one aspect of the Martian Investigation Report into Human #447-3822 would be, "One of Subject's goals in life is to work with others in a way that makes him feel good about himself."

... which is Ouch! I don't like to think of myself as being quite so selfish. So here's my rationalization: I don't think this is all bad. Our likes and dislikes, our gifts and talents and inclinations, are part of the way we are made.

Financial Findings

Looking at my checkbook, our anthropologist would find a number of priorities: saving for my kids' college education, maxing out my 401(k), supporting my church, various missionaries, relief and development agencies, children in the developing world, insurance for long-term care/disability, life, cars, house. Magazine and newspaper subscriptions.

And at the credit card bills: gas, NPR support, internet access, entertainment. I bought a computer in December. Books. Clothing.

So human#447-3822 thinks about the present and the future, about providing for his family and for the needy. As far as relative priorities, the needy and unreached are definitely at a lower priority than his wife and children. Quite a lot is going to insurance and long-term savings.

>>> more excerpts from the Martian report <<<

His spiritual life

At church, mostly he shows up. He's on a committee that meets monthly. His wife drags him to various events. He goes to something he calls a "Sunday school class" or "fellowship group," where he talks with people and sometimes tries to sound profound.

He meets with a small group of friends a couple times a month, where he sometimes leads a Bible discussion. Sometimes he seems tired and reluctant to go out, but afterwards, he's always glad he went.

He meets with a few men regularly for breakfast or lunch. Some of these meetings he finds exciting; at some, he seems pleased and relaxed. At these meetings, each man will talk about some of his relationships - with God, with his wife, with his children. They seem to be concerned about each other's feelings and health and relationships.

He prays, sometimes with his wife. He doesn't pray as much as he seems to think he should.

He spends some time reading the Bible. When he rides the train, he sometimes writes in his notebook, or in some other book. He and his wife have a lot of Bible-related books on the shelf, but they don't look at them very often. Some authorities suggest that this is a sign that the books were used more in years past.

Relationships at home

Although he rarely works late and spends a lot of time at home, he also rides public transit, even though it takes longer. He says part of the reason is he hates to drive (independent observations confirm this) and that he wants to save the earth. (He is also cheap.) But another reason is he likes to read and write. Sometimes he does work from the office, too, but he hasn't been doing that recently.

His wife sometimes wishes, and says, that she'd prefer if he put priority on doing things with her, rather than for her. But sometimes he doesn't even do that -- he gets involved with his own projects and is sometimes very self-absorbed. He is not as kind and patient with his wife as he says he should be, but he seems genuinely remorseful when he realizes that he came up short. And even though they argue sometimes, he seems very committed to her.

With his children, he seems to think they'll soon go to someplace called "college", and to have mixed feelings about that. He rather dotes on them.

>>> end of excerpts from Martian report <<<

OK, so let's bag the thought experiment already. I think that the way I actually live reflects the purposes I stated before in only a limited way.

Well, I think I'll stop here before I quit making sense altogether.

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