Monday, December 22, 2008

Paradoxes of The Human Condition

In motorcycling, it is said, there are two types of riders; those that have gone down and those that have not yet gone down. I have always disliked this saying as it seems to reflect a belief in the inevitable or a defeatist attitude. It gives the impression that we have no control over ourselves or our future. So it was with great interest and admiration for a fellow female rider when I heard the following words from her. “I have not gone down, because I choose not to do so.” This woman made a conscience choice and it is serving her well.

Maybe you are thinking she is a timid rider, or that she puts few miles on in a year, thus avoiding opportunities for mishaps. If so, you would be very wrong. What keeps her safe is a state of mind. She is always aware of her surroundings, pays attention to other vehicles around her, examines her bike before every ride; in effect, she uses all the tools and suggestions taught in motorcycle safety to insure that she never goes down.

This is not to say that there aren’t things outside of ourselves over which we have no control. There are many. However, it is how we hold our mind that determines our triumph or defeat under adverse circumstances. I thought much about the “I choose” attitude when the electrical power went out for nine days. There were many people in such a state (and yet still) that conducted their lives in the cold of winter without power.

The paradoxes of the human condition became more evident as I lived those nine long days. We are all in various states of survival mode every day of our lives. During times of stress and human hardship we can witness the spectrum in human reaction as well. Each one of us is making our choice about how to handle our adversity. I found the following definition below in reference to the paradoxes of the human condition:

1. Our imaginations can take us anywhere, but our physical bodies can't.
2. We are capable of the kindest, most noble things, but we are also capable of the most horrible and terrifying things.
3. Humans hope for everlasting life, but are always inventing new ways to destroy each other.
4. We choose not to sacrifice at personal cost though sacrifices are inherent to existence and ultimately life itself, as it facilitates adaptation, which is a critical concept of survival.

In reading the paper, listening to the radio, or just talking with the neighbor, all of the above could be found. Some stories were more disturbing than others. Can you really get your power back any sooner by taking out your frustration on the line crews? Are you really helping your fellow man by selling generators at four times their value? We would all do well to take a lesson from number four above, which can also be phrased as “what goes around, comes around.” Because if you are fortunate enough to have never suffered from hurricane, earthquake, fire or storm, it will be the sacrifices you make now that ensure your survival later. Take a lesson from my rider friend. Choose.

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