Playing Nice

It seems that there is a mythic type of parent-child relation, the time when the child realizes that the parent is very much human and fallible. That it can be a bit of a disappointment in what you’ve built as a small frame for the world. Not that I particularly think it’s a good thing (and nor do I blame my parents for it), but the fact that I was able to experience it very early allowed me to integrate that into who I was even as a teenager. Somehow, I felt that it gave me equal amounts of exasperation and compassion toward my parents.

I would wager to say that what I’ve been grappling with lately is also something very potent in terms of recognizing yourself inside or outside the models of life that your parents created for you – specifically, how well do their values align to what you feel is right for how you want to approach your life? There is a lot of nagging in my mind on the naivete that is espoused in value creation. If I am firm and resolute about something now because of the experiences I’ve had, will I be a sell out if I change my mind when I’m older and these things do not apply? Or I realize that they didn’t mean the same compared to what I thought they did right now?

My Dad’s favorite saying that he liked to impart to me was, “Live to work or work to live?” He was very, very anti-establishment, as much as one could be being in the military. He refused to play nice for a lot of things sometimes, in the theoretical vein of, ‘Why play nice, when one has ethics to stand up for?’

As an outside party to his work, I only saw that his refusal to bake cupcakes and play the game were something holding him back from advancing who he was in a larger scheme of things. It hurt him, the family, and sometimes I thought, how he viewed himself, even if he was cavalier about it. Granted, this fusion was part of his identity, but was his stance of having his back toward the fire and staring out of the cave really a movement out of the cave at all? And I’ve come to the conclusion that…maybe I want to play the game. Will I come to realize that trying to better myself will be something that will lead me into a trap of those with more clout? Am I smart enough to circumvent the petty attitudes to achieve change? More succinctly, I’ve posited this to someone recently in the manner of, “You’ll have to play the game to the top, but, what if the playing is what changes you?”

I have this voice inside of me, a cynical man’s voice, that is telling me that feeding my ego rainbows and sunshine won’t make me a better person in the long run, and it’s my objective view of this voice’s life that makes me question if some sort of balance can’t be achieved. I told my co-worker earlier that how on Friday, when I was dealing with a bevvy of patrons in the last half hour of my shift, I dialed up for help within the department to be able to delegate and efficiently handle the workload and keep the patrons happy. I told her that I felt that my values told me that after I got off the desk, I needed to called both of the people to help me and to thank them for their help. I rambled on to her that, yes, perhaps that was playing the game, but if people know that they’re appreciated for how they can help me and how I might be able to help them, isn’t that a construct of a positive value within the system?


10 Responses to Playing Nice

  1. Me says:

    People like to feel appreciated, it makes them continue to do what they are doing and do it well.

  2. strangerandstranger says:

    The human condition is about striving for a better state of exsistence while at the same time trying to be content with the progress made to date , but no one ever truly is. Knowing your appreciated helps that.

  3. a lee says:

    i can offer a few observations from personal experience if you want, but then again if you think it will just make me sound old and cause you to roll your eyes, then I’ll keep quiet. : )

    • firewings says:

      I’ll take any observations. ^_^

      • a lee says:

        i haven’t forgotten. i’m just slow…

      • a lee says:

        i think i got carried away, but I was thinking…

        I think that the fact you are asking these questions likely means that you are going to be fine no matter what choice(s) you make.

        I think your questions are dealing with an area that is far bigger than the both of us, and it’s layered in life. I would think, in fact hope, that you never stop wrestling with these questions.

        On the other hand, you may be over-analyzing. : )

        There is no crime in changing your stand on issues or beliefs as you grow older. Not all change is growth, but growth requires change, and if you aren’t growing you’re dying. I certainly hope I change some of my current views in the future, and God knows I’ve changed plenty over the past. Change, even a reversal, doesn’t necessarily imply selling out. It may mean wisdom has come.

        On the other hand, to violate your principles for something less valuable is a definite sell-out. And there’s the rub, right? What is ultimately more valuable? And that’s your choice: what are you going to value as a creature, as a human, as a woman, etc?

        From my perspective, with my history, at my age, my brief observations/lessons/opinions are:

        1. The greatest evils are: violating the trust of another person, hurting somebody on purpose, disregarding others’ good for the sake of your own gain, and prohibiting others from being true to themselves.

        2. Humility is life, pride is death. Period.

        3. Nothing you have, nothing you can get, nothing you do, nothing you can do, is your own. You have it and do it for the good it can bring to others. At the end of the day, there is something unavoidably dissatisfying about making your life be all about yourself.

        Having said all that, I can’t say that “the game” is inherently right or wrong; good or evil. Same with playing it. It’s your heart and your motives along the way. Sometimes they make you engage the game, sometimes they make you bow out. Sometimes it’s all about choosing the lesser of two evils, sometimes about choosing between great and good. No easy answers.

        But yes, there is a fuzzy and frighteningly enticing line in each game where the game will take you and change you. As long as you stay humble, as long as you are willing to look stupid, as long as you keep loving your dear ones first, as long as you never become complacent, as long as you are willing to say “I’ve made a horrible mistake,” the game may bite you and chew on you, but it won’t devour you. Yes, it will absolutely try to change you, but you don’t have to let it do so.

        Quick and dirty? For me, I suppose you could put it this way: To this day, I don’t think the odds of changing the game are very good. The game is inherently corrupt. But, you can’t do much to help the other people on the chess board by standing off to the side and shaking your fist. Engage the game and be the soul of whichever place you find yourself on any given day. When you fall down (and you will, in ways big or small), stand back up wiser and more humble, and re-engage. And on the day you look into the mirror and realize you are losing touch with yourself, or others are suffering by your hand, stop. Exit gracefully if you can, give the middle finger if you must, but either way find a more honorable way of life. People are more important that power, prestige, money and possessions. Love matters most. It is the only thing that is Real.

        So says me, and with twenty years on you, I still fight it—and myself—every day.

  4. GS says:

    We live in a changing world, the only thing that doesnt change is the speed of light so if you are going t change anyway, why not change for better?

    And about feeding rainbows to the ego, you are what you think of yourself

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