How Opposites Converge

George Bernard Shaw, the British playwright, was talking to American financier William Randolph Hearst when he said: “You financiers are lucky that you can afford to worry about art. We artists must worry about money.” Rarely were truer words uttered, because creative people typically struggle with poverty, which routinely forces us to degrade our art; while those whose strength is amassing wealth end up with enough resources to relax about making ends meet and turn to higher principles, such as artistic quality. Or at least it used to be that way, in the days of patrons of the arts, such as the wealthy Italian families that underwrote the work of Leonardo da Vinci and Michaelangelo. These days, I find wealthy people to be much more mean-spirited and convinced that making money purely for the sake of money is the only worthwhile goal in life. If they give away money it’s only for a tax writeoff, because it’s especially important to them to screw the government even if they suffer financial losses they would have avoided from not screwing the government. But money is just a symbol for other things, sterile and unproductive in its own right. The real wealth behind the symbol of money still comes from those who actually create, whether through the creativity of ideas or through the genuine innovation of new technologies. In the end, the makers of wealth know they are sterile and depend on the fertility of indigent creators, and many resent it, which can explain the often psychopathic exploitation of creative people in the past 110 years.

There is a parallel within the legal profession, where I had an unaccredited supporting role for eight and a half years, ending about eight years ago. The senior partners, especially the superstars, have amassed enough wealth, prestige and pull that they can afford to be anal about integrity and proper conduct. For a support person they’re a pleasure to work with because they are staunchly well-mannered and pleasant. The young nobody lawyers who haven’t made their fortunes yet, however, must devote 95% of their time to finding loopholes within the rules of their profession in order to get an edge over opposing and competing lawyers. While they protect themselves from exposure and liability, they can’t afford to stand on a single ethical principle for a single second. For a support person they are generally a nightmare to provide services to because their exclusive focus is circumventing the rules. But it is those ethically iffy juniors who erect the structure underlying the power and freedom of the ethically steadfast senior partners. In the end, the honesty of the seniors depends on the dishonesty of a far larger number of juniors. That is something everyone within the legal profession is well aware of.

Then there is the big one, which is the zero-sum game between effectiveness and reflection. Effectiveness is needed in order to get things done. Reflection is a key component of what is needed in order to figure out what you should want to get done in the first place. Those two things cannot add up to more than 100%, although they can, and do, add up to far less. Those who prevail in life are those who are the most effective, which necessarily means the least reflective. The resuilt is a world ruled by people who are great at meeting their objectives but have no clue as to how to choose objectives wisely in the first place. Meanwhile, those who are best at choosing objectives wisely are completely useless at achieving them. This is just the way the universe is structured and nothing can be done about it. But our species used to deal with it by having the effective people consult the reflective people from time to time and get their input on what their next goals should be. Today, however, effective people consider themselves self-sufficient and look upon reflective people with contempt, considering them useless because they are not effective. The result is a kind of whimsical self-worship among the true leaders of the world, who actually worship their own perspectives, pursuing every whim that pops into their heads out of an unconsidered presupposition that they have a natural right to get everything they want. And there is a trickle-down effect, with more and more other people imitating them in the hopes of achieving similar levels of success. Except that the whims of effective people are ultimately second-hand. They come from the blood and sweat of the reflective people, who are not even acknowledged as human but around whose unappreciated thoughts the world still revolves.

tl;dr all opposites converge in the end, and we are one.

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