Sunday, July 10, 2011

It's not so bad!

In Andre Agassi's acceptance speech to the Hall of Fame, he notes how he discovered at some point that his problems were of his own making, a product of his own decisions. Put differently, a product of his character. You can try to run away from your problems, but you cannot run away from yourself. Sometimes a move to a happier place is necessary because external circumstances do matter. Life can turn on the things happening around and to you. But it turns in equal measure on what goes on within. We feel with our heart, and the heart is hidden. How we orient ourselves to the world matters surely as much as the state of the world itself.

I directed the following question to my friend, Janet: What percentage of our happiness turns on our attitude?

Janet's response, paraphrased: "I'd say about 100%. But how much of our attitude we can control is not clear to me."

I thought that was a brilliant insight. And correct. I’ve found that chronically cheery people are more than eager to say that life is at their disposal, that their attitude is a soft and warm clay ready to be molded and directed to their advantage. Look at me, they say. I've experienced hard times, and I just bucked it up, pulled myself up by the bootstraps and engaged in a score of  other golly-gee-willikers can-do metaphors.


I have doubts. I suspect that attitude is more like sexual preference. There is certainly a measure of volition that contributes to shaping the persons (or things) to whom (or what) one is attracted. One can make decisions that reinforce or run counter to one's natural inclinations, but how much of those basic inclinations one can affect permanently is far from clear to me. I doubt that the percentage is very great. I mean, I find Johnny Depp as dreamy as dreamy can be. And I’m more willing to admit it than, well….everyone. Still, as dreamy as he is, he’s still a dude, and there’s something about his dudeness that means that Johnny and I can only be (pretend) platonic friends. And this isn’t a matter of a social taboo. It’s just basic and visceral. He’s a dude, and dudes are basically disgusting. Sorry, Johnny.

Similarly, how much of our attitude is given a natural bent is far from trivial. 

A related upcoming post: Why argumentation is basically useless. Hold your breath!


Andy D. said...

Let me see if I'm following. Your unnatural sexual attraction to Johnny Depp is not ok because you prefer women. Likewise, if one cannot pull oneself up by one's bootstraps, one will be miserable.


I think we need some clarification here, Chief. I'll chalk it up to, "ahh, the summertime..." (Said ala, "What can one say but, 'Salieri...'")

Captcha -- "andicat" -- please write your own definition!

Technoprairie said...

"andicat" - adding a cat to your group of animals, people, stuffed animals, etc. "I shouldn't have to andicat to get your attention."