My friend Doug recently blogged about his favorite poem by Tennyson: Ulysses.
I would go but half way with Ulysses… For roaming the world and knowing is a great thing, but the doing of life is more important to me, not the grinding toil of it all, though there is more to that than we sometimes remember, but the helping of others, the feeding, the education, the caring.
I used to think that it was odd that certain professions basically only paid you to be a teacher of others who might go into that field, I am thinking of the liberals arts and history. Because I came from a business mindset, I thought you education ought to make you better at something that produced “value” from carpentry to law, but something you got paid for doing not for teaching someone else how to do it so that could teach someone else. It seemed that most artists, most English majors and certainly most history professors only taught others to teach, though, I knew some folks in these fields used their skills to “do something” it seemed like the market was already flooded and there were still more students graduating every year!
As I got older I realized that much of these fields are about self development and that many of the fields i had felt were not of high value made a person a better salesman, and better truck driver or doctor or lawyer or whatever they chose to do with their more educated self. But this awareness did not put my mind at ease about humanity. As I backed away to get a broader perspective on these “wasted fields” I realized every little worker bee was really pretty much only adding value to a system in a way that we in that system has decided was valuable. To build a house or paint a painting or cure cancer or feed the hungry are all completely pointless to the universe. As I have said before, Mother Teresa and Adolf Hitler look about the same from a million light years away. Yet my Buddhists friends would disagree. The death of a butterfly in California causes the slightest shift, not in Florida, but the other side of the galaxy. Does it? I dont know. Ive never been there, and to be honest, I have never even felt the shift here in Florida, yet I know butterflies die every day in California.
It occurs to me there are two paths one can follow from my thoughts, one is nothing matters, so do nothing, or do whatever you wish without regard to others, The other is, the realization that the only things of value are the things we give value to. Enriching the experience of one’s life, through reading and conversation and travel and trying new things add value to the life one lives, and then taking that enrichment and teaching others, either in lecture, in writing, or best of all, by example gives our lives the most value. Be we lawyers, painters or boat captains, “Direct Marketing” or mentoring others either completely as apprentices, or only in passing a light bit of knowledge that we have mastered is not only the best thing we have, it is the only thing. our knowledge dies with us, unless we write it, or share it, our enriched life becomes dust in a century or less.
So while you climb to the top of a great mountain or overlook a great plain, like the Amway salesman, unless you turn around and inspire the next person to go on a quest or to help a neighbor or whatever you are doing with your life that makes it worthwhile, you are a “dead leg” in the pyramid. Of course, I used to worry when I was approached about the multi level business plans of some product or another, what about the last guy to buy in? But it this case, you truly dont have to worry about the last guy, because it is life and life only (thanks Bob!), And if you get the last guy to buy into life, he is already rich, and only has to wait for the next child to grow up to show them the wonders of the Pyramid Scheme of Life!