~ Saturday, March 29, 2003 ~
I worry sometimes about motivations. Specifically, mine, but other people's too, through association. I try to be rational and make well-informed decisions and all that, and yet, some of the most far-reaching choices I've made in my life--the ones I *keep* making, a little bit at a time, and the ones that end up defining who I am--have been made not because of rational thought but because of baser desires. Take dancing, for example. I'd like to say that I started learning to dance with such determination because I wanted to be a better dancer and because I think dancing is an excellent way to heighten awareness, be social, and enjoy the sheer pleasure of moving with someone else, but it's not like that at all. It's because of a guy. Back in high school, I started learning to waltz and polka and do other Victorian-type dances because this guy I liked was crazy about dancing and I wanted to be around him more and impress him with my natural grace. It didn't work, but I learned to dance in the meantime, and as a result I met many other wonderful people and now I have this safe, enjoyable thing I can do with friends (and strangers, even) when I want to be around people and bounce to music. Great. So it certainly wasn't time wasted, but what would have happened if Mr. Dancey Guy had never been on my radar? Perhaps my life would be danceless, and I'd never have met all the lovely people I've met through dancing, nor had the happy relationships I've had.
The same is true for philosophy: I wasn't turned on to philosophy by the wonderful ideas that exploded in my head when I happened to pick up Kant's Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals at a public library. Ideas didn't start exploding in my head until some time after I'd already been studying philosophy for a while. What turned me on to it was...another guy. In high school, again. He was an Artist and an Existentialist, and he spoke in idioms he made up on the spot. I was infatuated, not only with him, but with the way he saw the world, and I wanted to see things that way too, so I started thinking maybe I'd study philosophy. I did, and I liked it, so I kept studying it. So now I have a major in philosophy and I can write analytical and argumentative papers about different worldviews, and I don't completely freak out when other people start talking about Nietzsche or Kant, but Mr. Existentialist Artist and I fell out of touch some time ago.
And again, with Judaism: I started delving into the culture and the tradition and the infinite volumes of commentaries upon commentaries on the Law not because I picked up a pentateuch one day and became fascinated by the lucidity with which the Rabbis thought, but because the HUC students who came each year to my synagogue to act as our rabbis were cool and charismatic and friendly and also deeply thoughtful, and Jewish philosophy fascinated them, so suddenly it occurred to me that it might be all shiny to me, too. And with music, too. I'd never have given TMBG (nor several other pop artists) a second glance if someone I admire hadn't been crazy about them. What is it with me and questionable motivations? Why can't I pursue something without my interest being [validated by discovering that someone I respect shares that interest/sparked by the desire to be like (and to be liked by) someone I admire]?
The thing is, I don't think I'm the only one. I think there are many people like this, who consider themselves intelligent and rational and will still happily follow the colorful banner of a charismatic leader, and actually adjust their beliefs and actions so that they jive with the colorful writing, rather than following the colorless banner that nevertheless says exactly what they believe, or (even rarer) making their own banner without caring how colorful it looks or who might follow behind.
I want my own banner. But I also want friends, and bright colors, and love. Is that a weakness?
~ prattled by Miriam at 8:10 p.m. [+]
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