I bet you’ve heard the Serenity Prayer – you know, the one that’s been popular for eons in self-help circles and asks God to help us accept things we can’t change, give us courage to change what we can, and enough smarts to discern which is which?
Although I think it’s a bad idea to request that God arrange things a certain way, the world could use a dose of “wisdom to know the difference” between what we ought to try to change and what we need to turn our backs on.
I say that as much for personal health (physical + mental) reasons as for the sake of anyone within earshot/screen distance of an upset or ranting loved one. Or one(s) you loathe if you haven’t managed to avoid them.
These days I’m better about knowing when to invest my energy vs. save my breath. But because I haven’t yet closed my Facebook account, and because the comments section of virtually any online platform I visit can turn on a dime into a Trump/Obama/Sanders/Clinton/liberal/conservative/neocon/capitalist/commie/whatever-bashing session, I often see people become emotionally invested in arguments that will never, ever, ever change a damn thing.
I get where some of them are likely to be coming from. They think any rational person would see their perspective if he or she weren’t completely close-minded or driven by ulterior motives. Other types I have nothing in common with, and nothing but contempt for.
Those are the perpetually and probably recreationally angry. They don’t give a whit about whether or not their adversary has a true understanding of the pros and cons of an issue. They just want to make sure that other person knows he/she is ignorant, evil, of amoeba-like intelligence, selfish, heartless, delusional and/or incontinent, with a point of view that has absolutely no merit.
Don’t be angry…be absent
I read an article on Intellectual Takeout that talked about how people these days wear anger like it’s some kind of badge of honor. It seemed to me an apt characterization of the political involvement of our day – the whole “I’m outraged! This means I’m paying attention and I know things!” bit.
For a long time, that was me. While I’ve never seen the point in beating up on people online (get off your duff and do something real for your cause, or hush), I invested hours staying abreast of the machinations of systems I had almost zero chance of affecting.
I added essentially an unpaid part-time job on top of my current events hobby, writing, speaking and meeting to advocate for or against things the people with the power were considering. Hour upon hour at the keyboard prepping, arguing, cajoling, pontificating, and nearly all I had to show for it was severe shoulder, neck and arm pain that hampered my ability to do things that had a far greater effect on my life.
Please don’t think I’m suggesting that trying to right wrongs is always a completely pointless effort. What I am saying is that I believe the most common types of advocacy these days are ineffective. That’s why, instead of railing against the flaws of a system or group, I now consider whether I might be better off outside of it.
If you’re at all like me you might feel like [ _________ ] would be so much better if only [ _________ ] (fill in the blanks as you see fit) . I could probably do about a hundred of these. At least. But if the thing is kind of a big deal to me, and there aren’t many others in the affected group who share my perspective, and I can find an acceptable alternative, I’m out of there.
I can’t change things when I’m outnumbered.
The odds are probably against me, at least where I’m at now. I’m a libertarian thinker (strike one!) who lives in the Bible Belt yet doesn’t attend church (strike two!) and doesn’t believe politicians, police, soldiers or schools deserve unquestioned loyalty and an open checkbook (yer out!).
Even when others share my perspective, I’d have to devote time to rallying support – time that for me is better spent elsewhere. The opportunity cost of my activism can’t truly be measured, but if I had spent as much time writing (or even on building websites) as I did rabble rousing, we might already be on the road by now.
Even when people agreed with me about a thing, getting them to speak up about it and be counted was exhausting and often futile. It wasn’t until I read something I believe the late Harry Browne wrote that I realized the futility of most efforts that require convincing large groups of people to see things my way.
If we’re talking apartheid, thievery, genocide and the like, that’s a battle worth fighting. Transportation or development? Comparatively small potatoes.
Life’s too short to spend it apologizing for my views, or being angry because others don’t share them.
Constant anger and lashing out is unhealthy for me and ineffective as a solution. There’s something to be said for just letting people be how they want to be. Or me being how I want to be.
People have differing opinions. That’s OK. The only time it’s not OK is when they try to force my behavior to conform to their wishes.
Since I believe I ought to be able to make my own decisions – even when they’re bad or wrong – as long as I don’t harm others, there’s a lot more conforming going on than I’d like right now.
And no, I’m not alluding to the stereotypical libertarian’s favorite recreational activity, which IDGAF about except that they keep locking people up over it and sending the rest of us the bill.
I don’t expect a place/situation will ever completely and perfectly suit me, but I think there are more and less like-minded places and people everywhere. Getting out on the road and experiencing them ought to be a freeing experience.
Even when there are places that chafe my sensibilities (like New Jersey, where you cannot pump your own gas!) they’ll open my eyes, make me appreciate my relatively free life, and probably provide fun blog post fodder.
When I give up on trying to change a group to suit, I create space for those who already share similar views.
Leaving a system that’s problematic for me offers a chance to choose circumstances more conducive to the life I want to live.
Brian and I wanted to move to New Hampshire where there were more like-minded people and we had a better shot at fitting into the groups and systems we’d be a part of. Even given New Hampshire’s Yankee sensibilities and strong libertarian streak, though, we’d have to work with our neighbors to create the life we wanted.
Settling in a fixed location may be something we do in the future, but we’d have to do it with the awareness that what we liked about our chosen home could change any time the balance of power or community composition shifted.
RV life isn’t much different in that respect. We will have to conform to whatever rules apply wherever we’re at. What is different, though, is the ability to leave places that don’t suit us or to go places we hear good things about.
We don’t know how we’ll fare in the friends department. My guess is that we’ll meet some kindred spirits along the way, miss them when we part ways, and try to reconnect down the road.
I’m sure there will be people and places that cause the quills to stand on end 🙂 – but unlike the typical suburb we won’t be held hostage because we own property next to them.
Is it time to leave?
If a group or system is failing you, I believe you owe it to yourself to explore options beyond battling to change others. You don’t have to go nomad or live in an RV. But if you are willing to ditch the mainstream or live unconventionally, you’ll increase the odds of creating the life you want.
Have you walked away from something big – something you’d wanted to change? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.