Human Machines

I’m an older woman, pushing middle age hard and fast. Unlike some people it doesn’t bother me at all to be “this” old. I don’t feel like death is knocking on my door or anything and I’ve had the rug pulled out from under me enough times to not be worried about what the future holds. What comes, comes. What doesn’t, wasn’t meant to be.

The only thing that bothers me is not understanding the culture of the world I live in and work in. I’m constantly baffled by interactions with other people. One day things are great and the next they aren’t and I have no idea why or what I’ve done. I especially do NOT understand the mentality of Twitter. How anyone can possibly ever know who anyone else is no matter how many 140 character blurbs are posted is beyond me. I just don’t get it.

I asked someone this past week for a bit of advice on a matter that was concerning me. Their answer was non-committal and rambled on about something called a zero-sum life, tit for tat they mentioned, not owing anyone anything. This person was quite a bit younger than me … not quite young enough to be my child but almost … so I found myself wondering if this is a generational thing, an attitude of the 30-something’s generation. And I’ve found myself dwelling on it.

It seems like such a sad idea. Not cold really, just missing some of the vital components that make life … life. Humans aren’t machines that can be tallied out at the end of the day. You can’t force someone to ever love you so how would you ever make that sum equal zero? If you’re hurt by something someone else did, how can you ever know for certain that it wasn’t a misunderstanding? Do you just hurt them back and hope that makes it all cancel out? Where does compassion fit in this scheme?

Life is hard. Kick-you-in-the-gut leave you bleeding in the road penniless and naked hard. People need choices, options, compassion, room to make mistakes without feeling like all hope is gone. Room to stand up after they’ve fallen down. A path to make things right again.

Thinking you can zero out your relationships with someone else misses the whole point of humanity in the first place.

I am an introvert. I could sit in my garden with my goats and chickens on 40 acres for weeks at a time without ever seeing another soul and be perfectly content. I really understand what “having my space” means. But even I realize that I could never live alone independent of the rest of the world for very long. Humans aren’t meant to be alone. They are meant to connect with others.

But to connect means there will always be a give and take. Equality, a zero sum life, might happen in business (though I doubt it really ever does for long) but not with humans.

I was raised with a mother that worked a job, had a college education, as did her mother before her. In an age where mom’s stayed home and took care of the kids, mine didn’t. I was always expected to do whatever needed to be done irregardless of my gender. My dad didn’t wish for sons when he got daughters, he just carried on. We fished, hunted, played ball, and went to dances all in equal quantity. I never learned girls couldn’t do things just because they were girls.

I was also raised in a home where all nationalities, religions, and races were welcome without a thought. Prejudice was not part of my upbringing. Friends were friends and meant to be treasured and cared for and learned from.

But to say that we were all the same would be a mistake, and I think a huge tragedy.

Every single person on the face of the planet has something to offer that is a combination of who they are, what they believe, how they think, what their experiences have been. So how could you ever put a value on what they have to give or trade in comparison with what you have to give or trade? The outcomes can never be the same thing.

And that doesn’t even begin to approach the emotional set of circumstances we all live with. How do you measure one person’s hurt feelings against another’s? How do make someone love you to even the books? It can’t be done.

It shouldn’t be done.

In the end we aren’t a zero sum balance. Our lives mean something to someone somewhere even if we never know it and if we don’t know it how can we ever pay them back?

This week I chose to walk away from someone. Someone who made a huge difference in my life … the difference between life and death. They don’t know it because I chose not to burden them with that. They have their own demons to face. But for me it is a debt that will never be zeroed out. It can’t be. I could never do enough and that was too great of a burden for me to carry or to ask them to carry. So I let go, even though my heart was screaming for me to hang on. And all I can do now is hope that someone, somewhere will be for him what he was for me … and that maybe some day we’ll meet again.

Life is no game that can be won or lost. Score isn’t being kept. Promote what you love instead of bashing what you hate. The world will be a better place.

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2 thoughts on “Human Machines

  1. I will say two or three thing to this post. I have a pretty good grasp of what a middle aged person in normal mentality and society means and I chose not to be a part of the masses in my thinking. I have heard the sob story over and over of when I hit 40 it’s all downhill from there. And I would like to call complete bullshit on that statement. I’m right on the cusp of 40 and there is not a lot of slowing down going on over here. That being said I went on a soul searching journey of my own. I chose my medium of reading in order to understand things and the world around me. On my journey I have come up with a few common themes (after reading close to 100 books over the last 10 months in all kinds of various categories from religion to business to psychology to art and biographies)… The one theme that stands out the most is knowing and understanding oneself. Or as Peter drucker would say managing oneself. Sun tzu and Buddha would call it knowing thy self and knowing thy enemy. But my focus is on self. The one person and thing I have control over in my life is me. At the end of the day I am in full control of my actions good or bad. I have to live with me even if someone else does it does not want to partake in me. The more I work on me the better I can improve everything around me. So it’s about within and without. It is a zero sum game this life of ours. It’s not fair and it’s not forgiving. I’m not being negative I am just being a realist. At the end of the day Mother Nature will laugh last. Mother Nature give 0 fucks about laws or religion or move or hate. When she is ready to change the tide or take someone off of this planet or bring new life on this planet she just does it. Mother Nature never read the constitution or the bill of rights. Nor did she read the bible. So let me end this by recommending a couple of books that may clear up some things from a scientific standpoint as studied by some of the great and knowledgeable people of our history… One I have already mentioned above, emotional intelligence by Daniel goleman, and the selfish gene by Richard Dawkins. Read all of those and then proceed to let me know what YOU think. Oh and one more thing… Suicide, even in thought, is an excuse not a cure.

    • I’ve been giving a reply to your comment a lot of thought in recent days. At first I was just going to trash it because I can do that. It’s my blog. I get to control the content of comments … and everything else. It’s my truth that matters here. But if I gained nothing else from my conversations with your brother and you, you have made me think about life and that deserves respect, if nothing else, whether I agree with you or not.

      Your reply made me grin. Pushing 40 you are only beginning to see the gates of middle age and whatever that holds or means in life. I’m pushing 50 and feel I’m only just beginning to grasp what makes life so great. Maybe you’re ahead of me in that respect … but I seriously doubt it. You see I knew everything there was to know about life when I was 22 and 35 and 43 and … I’ve now lived long enough to know I knew nothing.

      I’m impressed that you read 100 books in 10 months and were able to formulate a life theory based on them. I’m all for reading books and expanding your mind with other thoughts and ideas. Had you spent that same 10 months wandering the planet from country to country on your own two feet with a backpack and a few dollars in your pocket, I would be seriously impressed and probably asking when I could meet you for some long in-depth conversation. The problem is the theories of Daniel Goleman and Richard Dawkins and whoever else you chose to read and slap together into your own formula on life, are great when they’re between the pages of a book but in real life they don’t stand up. Maybe pieces and parts of them do … maybe …

      People are not pie charts or experiments or ideologies. Humans are not machines. Life is so much more fluid and alive and fascinating than that. Condensing them into this theory or that theory misses vast areas of life that have no explanation in rational scientific thought. I did my thesis project on Chaos theory. (Did I mention how many degrees I have, btw?) I am perfectly capable of logical thought on a scientific level even in the academic world.

      But you illustrate my concern with the upcoming generation. You read these books and formulated your opinions based on them … how exactly? Because you identified with some truth you already had? Yes? They expanded on an idea already in your mind. But where did that idea come from in the first place if not from your own experience in life? Do you not see that? And if you already had this germ of an idea based on experience alone, why are you trusting a book and someone else to tell you what to think? Are your life experiences not enough? Do you not trust yourself? Your own eyes? Your own thoughts? Your own beliefs? You say the one thing that stands out is knowing and understanding oneself and yet you came to this conclusion based on what other people said rather than on what you believed to begin with.

      Zero-sum life theory is the most concerning topic though. It is the belief that there are two groups in life. One is the “in” group and the other is the “out” group. For the “in” group to survive, the “out” group must die. In other words, for one group to win, everyone else must lose. It is the theory adopted by the Nazis when they committed genocide and killed millions upon millions of people. It is the theory adopted by racists to justify hatred of anyone who isn’t blond haired and blue eyed and white. It is the theory used by ISIS to terrorize the world. So, I’ll ask you this … which of those groups do you identify with?

      I know you’re not blue-eyed and blond haired. Your brother told me you were half-Persian (of course, at this point, I’m not sure how much of the 200+ emails is real and how much he made up) which, if I believed in zero-sum theory of life, would automatically make me stick you in the ISIS camp. But … I’m neither a racist nor a zero-sum life theorist. So, I choose to believe that you are simply naive and have taken pieces and parts of this theory and applied them to a context for which they weren’t meant.

      But that’s what happens when you rely on other people’s theories to define your life.

      I’m not sure what your comment about suicide was directed towards. I am not nor have I ever been suicidal in thought or ideology so if you somehow read that between the lines, you need to learn how to read between the lines better. The only thing assumptions do is make an ASS out of U and ME. (ASSUME … get it?)

      You challenged me to read some of these books you read and used. I challenge you to live life and learn from what you experience, rather than what you think. Maybe, just maybe, somewhere in the middle we’ll both learn something new.

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