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The Ends We Pursue

December 6, 2013

Today I was talking with a friend – a lovely lady to talk to – and she mentioned my blog. I said to myself “What!?” I haven’t posted here for over 6 months you know. And it got me thinking – perhaps this blog had more meaning and impact than I had first thought while writing it. So, I logged in today. It turns out that people have been viewing the blog in dribs and drabs and this blog has been a greater good than I had realised. A more meaningful end than I had envisaged.

And we must have meaningful ends.

People often talk of means and ends as if they are distinct ends. Study is the means to a job and hence money some might say. This leads many to think in terms of ‘ends’ – things we desire. Of course the pursuit of many things we desire can often seem to lead to unfortunate consequences. The anti-globalisation movement clearly thinks that the ‘end’ of higher living standards is not worth the ‘means’ of cheap labour. Some might say that studying all our lives means we never have time to socialise with the money we’ve earned. ‘What’s the point?’ they ask, before deriding the notion of ends.

These people go too far.

The consideration of ends is very important. To search for meaningful existence and live our days as best we can – that is a noble endeavour. And we must search for noble endeavours. Trivial pursuits profane our minds and actions, leading us to ultimately hollow lives. But, surely the people looking at ‘ends’ would argue that even noble, meaningful ends may produce bad results…

That’s because they forget a fundamental point:

Means are ends in and of themselves.

Let’s pretend the end is financial security. What’s the means to achieve this? Most commonly, a full time job. But, the means of a full time job influences other ends! A good work environment ends in happiness. A friendly workplace means happier, more productive workers and more social relations. The experiences at your job form ends of themselves.

This idea that means are also ends helps explain a lot of things. It encompasses the totality of our actions. Indeed, noble intention could almost be considered an end, though I don’t wish to discuss the categorical imperative today.

Of course, then people might say “Well, it’s all well and good to have ‘noble’ ideals and pursue what truly makes one happy. But, that’s different for everybody. Localised truths don’t you know.”

Okay, your average person wouldn’t use postructuralist jargon like that. And they are right – we are different in our own interests.

To a point.

For there are guiding principles we can find that cover us. Patterns and commonalities that affect us all. The foundation – friends, family, contentment, seizing the day, living by principles – is solid. That the foundation may vary in it’s exact nature is a given. The type of socialisation we prefer, the principle we adopt, whether we prefer tea or coffee… this is quibbling at the edges. If we recognise the fundamental aspects of our lives, seen in the lives of the past, we can live our own lives better. That the understanding of this ‘foundation’ may be complex is no barrier to trying. That we may struggle to achieve an understanding is no reason not to start thinking either.

And it’s why, when I look back at why I stopped writing here that I wonder. What was I doing with my time? Writing posts here takes time obviously. But, what did I substitute this with? Probably something trivial and inconsequential. At the time I may have thought both were inconsequential. Yet, when your friend says to you that she is glad for what you have done, it makes your actions, your writing seem less inconsequential. It makes your actions meaningful, and speaks for the great aspects of meaningful relationships.

And I have so much to say that I haven’t said to people before. How well I can convey any of it I don’t know. How much time I have to convey it I don’t know. Yet, we must try and counter many a modern malaise.

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From → Foundations

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