Archive for the 'gratification' Category


March 25, 2014

What does it mean to do something out of love for someone, whether that love is for God, neighbor, or stranger?  (I was reading this.)  How does it differ from doing it because one is willing to do what one is called upon by God to do?

I think the coloration of the doing probably does make a difference — doing out of love of God, doing out of willingness to serve.  Maybe they are like different diplomatic portfolios.

I have been aware of doing things out of love for God and I have been aware of doing things out of willingness.  I find the second more difficult to do — it requires more detachment, more ability not to be plugged into a feedback system of any sort and instead to navigate and travel on faith.

Of course, both of these postures for doing things are different from engaging in a loving relationship as the basis for going out into the world to accomplish something.  When that kind of love gets mirrored back, there is often no willingness from the original beneficiary to switch roles.  They may even be horrified at the thought of such utilitarianism.

If loving for the sake of anything produces a coloration of motive, then maybe willingness has its place as a simpler posture with less ego involved — I don’t know, but it’s a possibility, it seems to me.


“If, then” statements

December 4, 2012

I was thinking this morning about how empty promises are predicated on a structure that is similar to the more neutrally expressed “if, then” statement of computer programming.  It’s been a very long time since I did any computer programming, but I remember such statements as something like, “If X is an integer, then Y=2X.”

I think the underlying point in the outcry against marshmallow experiments in my previous posts is really that we should learn to live in the X part of the statement, period.  Living in the X part should not be predicated on Part Y ever occurring or even on a sense that it should occur.  In the context of a neutral statement, this does not seem particularly difficult:  the state of being an integer seems a fine one to live in, in and of itself.  Who needs 2x?  It’s when the if-part implies a difficult situation that we start looking forward to the then-part:  once I finish shoveling this snow, I will go inside and dry off and have a nice, hot cup of tea and a snack.”  Innocuous, but still, looking forward to Y.

Shoveling snow isn’t (usually) so bad, and we usually know whether we have the wherewithal to make a cup of tea and have some cookies in the pantry.  We know whether we can have that snack and we (usually) can control it.  We might get an emergency phone call as soon as we get inside, but that’s not usual.  We can control the factors well enough to gloss over any risk that the promise won’t be fulfilled.

But promises made by others to induce us to get through something very difficult can be dangerous, I think, especially when there is no supporting evidence that they are true and the person making them has a personal reason for wanting to believe them regardless of whether they really are.  I would much rather find a way to tolerate living in X, living in the if-part as the state of things for now and maybe forever.  I can still remain open to the possibility that Y will happen, but I am not depending on it.  Maybe I’m even ignoring the entire apodosis (main clause in a conditional statement; the if-clause is called the protasis).

One tool for (tolerating) living in X is detachment, which can start with distancing oneself from the difficulty by just naming it and recognizing one’s reaction to it.  It’s a trustworthy tool, it does not require one’s going out on an emotional limb that may not hold.

It’s interesting:  Moses knew he would never enter the promised land himself, that fulfillment of the promise was for his people.  (He would only see the promised land.)  And yet he found a way to tolerate the wanderings through the desert nonetheless.  It wasn’t through a hope that he would find personal physical pleasures, and the story doesn’t have “God” being that cruel as to promise him such and then not fulfill it.  The (future) welfare of his people might have been marshmallow enough for him, but that is an altruistic posture — it’s not, I don’t think, the same emotional posture as expecting personal physical gratification.

People who predicate their lives on a gratification model perfect a set of skills.  But it’s not the only set of skills in the world and it may not be apt for another person’s life.  For some people, learning to live in the difficult, X part without regard to any particular outcome, without regard for the Y part ever occurring for them, is the challenge.  And it’s part of the challenge for them not to be taken in by other people’s promises of Y.  Unfortunately, they don’t always have wax in their ears, like Odysseus’s sailors, and their being tied to the mast is only a metaphor for their own inner strength to remain willing to do what serves, come what may.

Double-stuff cookies

September 15, 2011

I realize some people prefer sandwich cookies (like Oreos) with twice as much creme filling as usual, but they seem to me to get the dynamic wrong — a little yearning for more creme might be okay, and too much unmitigated sweetness makes me thirsty.

I worry we try to maximize our rewards in a similar way in other contexts, and to our detriment, as we change the balance of things without realizing the consequences of so doing.  We talk about a balanced diet, a balanced life, everything in moderation, but then we think we can outsmart all that, or something, and turn up the volume in one place without distorting the entire musical effect.

I wish we would strive for balance rather than trying to maximize particular elements that please us.