Saturday, March 20, 2010

Priorities in life for me and some students

From here, I have cut and paste the following. It is written by a philosopher for his children -- deathbed advice in a way.

The Most Important Person

One of the stupidest songs I ever heard on TV was the theme song of a kids' show of the seventies, "The Electric Company." It said: "The most important person in the whole wide world is – you!" Implied message: be a self-centered little spoiled brat. You're number one, everyone else is number two.

Here is an alternative philosophy:

  1. The most important person is God. This is as necessarily true as 2 + 2 = 4. It is true whether you know it or not, whether you like it or not, whether you believe it or not. So you'd better learn to know it and like it and believe it.

  2. The second most important person in the world is the person you marry. Nobody else comes even close. That's what marriage is. If you don't know that, you're not really married.

  3. Next come your kids.

  4. Then comes yourself. Take care of yourself before taking care of anyone else except your kids, your spouse, and your God. Because if you don't inflate your own oxygen mask first, you won't be able to help others inflate theirs.

  5. Then comes your friends. Never betray a friend.

  6. Then comes everyone else you know, your neighbors.

  7. Then comes the rest of the world.

  8. Then comes things, any and all things: money, the things money can buy – houses, cars, and vacations. Stuff (Remember George Carlin's routine about "stuff.") Always, people before things. Use things and love people, not vice versa.

  9. Finally, abstractions: ideas, causes, organizations, political parties, etc. They are means to the rest as ends. By the way, the Church is not an "organization," it's a family. I never saw "organized religion," only disorganized religion, like Noah's ark.

I am completely "on board" with this list, as the expression goes.
However, there is an oversight which was pointed out to me when I presented the list to my students in a recent Speakers Corner. Many of the students said that their parents were more important than their wives. One student quoted the joke about who you should save if your wife and mother are drowning -- you should save your mother because you could replace your wife. The students, of course, had to ask where parents ranked on this list. Presenting the list from memory, I thought that maybe I had forgotten where parents were on the list, but as you can see parents aren't mentioned. Why should this be? I could only speculate that because this was an advice from a self-effacing father to his children, the father decided to make no mention of himself or attributed whatever role he played in his children's life to God -- not as God.
Many of the student scoffed at the listing of God as number one on the list -- as, I am sure, many rare AKIC readers would scoff. To this, I could only say "whatever!"
Another aspect of the list the students objected to was the ranking of one's spouse ahead of one's children. In practice, I have to admit that I have been acting as if I agree with these students. After all, why isn't there a Wuxi Jenny Update Series? So that list chides me, which is why I like the list because it lay outs to me that my priorities are wrong or misguided -- I do forget about how important Jenny is to me.
Point number nine also "arrests" me. Though I don't show it on the blog much lately, I do spend a lot of mental time thinking about politics. I do sometimes tell myself this political obsession is a fruitless thing to do. What I think and how I would vote don't make any difference to the grand scheme of things. The grand scheme of things is, after all, what it is.
Best to do right by Jenny, Tony, and my family.

No comments: