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Noblesse oblige (1) - My Little Journal of Positivity

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noblesse oblige [féminin]

1. Quiconque prétend être noble doit
se conduire noblement.
2. On doit agir en conformité
avec la situation qu’on occupe,
avec la réputation qu’on s’est acquise.

Dictionnaire de l’Académie française
    So I've been pondering this concept a lot recently.

    On Noblesse Oblige, or, Having An Inner Uncle Ben

    I've always prided myself that I would take on any job
    which I felt I had some skill or talent for, and would
    do my best at it. I also pride myself on having advanced
    through life via a combination of applied intelligence,
    efficient social engineering, and, well, sheer dumb luck.

    (Don't knock luck. Or it is likely to knock you back!)

    Recently, I have been feeling rather overwhelmed by
    the number and types of my various commitments, and
    considering my own... peculiar versions of the common
    fantasy where one just "gets away from it all". Even
    in this I'm too darn practical; I don't dream of taking
    up painting and South Sea islands, nor do I envision
    some sort of neverending resort stay with good servants,
    fine cuisine, and cost-free shopping. No, I am nothing
    if not an extreme balancer. My dream job right now is
    to be...

    ... a bus driver at Lisbon International Airport.
    Or a delivery courier, traveling around Japan.
    Or a backroom clerk at a store in southern France.

    Or several other such things, but essentially
    something that includes immersion in (relative)
    cultural isolation while performing a useful (but
    reasonably routine) job which leaves me some room for
    other (undefined yet, but hopefully enjoyable) things.

    Hmm. I'm not a grand traveller and I bore easily,
    so why does this seem an attractive alternative?

    Just then, a little voice inside my head said:

    "You're not allowed to take a lesser job just because
    you want to."

    Huh? Where did *that* come from?
Noblesse oblige in modern English parlance is a
broad literary concept. It suggests that anyone
who possesses special talents or gifts is required
by society to make the best use of those gifts;
that he or she is duty-bound to do his or her best.

David R. Murray

    Where I Come From (No, Not From France)

    I'm from somewhere southeast of the middle of nowhere,
    as white-bread American as you can get and still read a lot.
    I didn't grow up miles from anyone else, but many times
    I might as well have been. I semble normal, but I never
    quite fit -- except with my dad, who is better than I am.
    (And from whom I get my love for words and of language,
    be they foreign or native.)

    My forebears raised themselves up from tenant-farming and
    railroads and uncertain heritage to become businessmen
    and teachers and solid members of their local communities.
    I never questioned that.

    It wasn't expected that I would go to a fancy college. But
    there was an unspoken assumption that I should go to college.
    I never questioned that.

    It wasn't expected that I would marry Prince Charming. If
    anything, it was clear I was supposed to be my own rescuer.
    I never questioned that.

    I made decisions that put me financially on my own at 19, and
    I worked a number of part-time student jobs to make ends meet.
    I never regretted that.

    I started at a bottom rung on a ladder. Worked my way up some,
    went to grad school, then jumped to a different ladder. Worked
    my way up some more, wandered sideways some through my interests
    and my skill set, then jumped to another ladder. Worked my way
    up some more, had a lot of help, gave some of that help back,
    and jumped to a different ladder. Worked with brilliant mentors,
    learned a lot (including more about what all I didn't know yet),
    but found I needed some security and stability at that point,
    and so jumped back to a similar rung on a similar -- but perhaps
    narrower -- ladder.

    Which brings me to where I hang on today, in a skin that does not
    fit me ill for now... but feels more uncomfortable than usual.

I was brought up to believe that
the only thing worth doing was to add
to the sum of accurate information
in the world.

-Margaret Mead

    Life: The Ultimate Reality Competition?

    I've been incredibly lucky that the kind of things
    I do well are important and valued in today's world.
    At the same time, I've tried to take good advantage
    of opportunities... without taking advantage of people.

    I'm very competitive. If I actually do something,
    I want to win... but not at someone else's expense.
    So I would rather cooperate and contribute to overall
    success, while defining my own "victory conditions".

    I honestly don't think of myself as very ambitious.
    I'm not much excited by a grander title, a fancier
    office, or shiny but ultimately uncomfortable shoes.

    Nevertheless, here I am, at least somewhat "higher up"
    than where I started. Overall, I like who I am and
    what I am doing. I realize I am very fortunate, and
    I know others who are not. I do share what I can, but
    what can one share with me in return?

    Anyway. I think I need to get away some more. In ways
    which make sense for me, if maybe not for anyone else.
    I will acknowledge and accept help (if offered) -- but
    it's still me I'm first responsible for.

    How did making one's life easier become so complicated?

Starting [something new] has to work at this time
in your life.... Every decision to work on [the project]
is a decision to NOT do something else.For those of us
who have a life: family they enjoy, a house that needs repair,
cooking, washing dishes, etc., life is the real competition.
A single person eating take out in an apartment is a
better situation.

Stephen Turbek

    On Values, Being Fairly Valued, and Being Fair

    But meanwhile, that little voice is still pronouncing:

    "You're not allowed to take a lesser job just because
    you want to."

    Well, I'm not quite sure who that voice is, but I'm sure
    hearing it! Still trying to figure out what it means, but
    also if it really has my best interests at heart or not...

    Because not all the voices in one's head are good ones,
    you know.
    (to be continued...)

Happiness is that state of consciousness which
proceeds from the achievement of one's values.

-Ayn Rand
(seem to be a) verb: pending
Soundtrack: Prince - Condition of the Heart
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Date:May 21st, 2008 07:37 pm (UTC)
The best job in the world - and the one through which you'll make the most contribution to the world - is the one that gets you paid for doing what you love. s00j has this job; she really is a troubadour. "I don't perform, I die," she once told me. So that's what she does, full-time. She's not rich... if you're just counting money. She's got more friends than I can count in more places than I can count, and has more fun than some people think ought to be legal. :)

The second best job in the world is the one that *allows* you to do what you love, via a combination of free time and disposable income. This is vixyish. Mild-mannered office mouse by day, Pegasus-winning siren by night and weekend.

(I've managed to get somewhere in between; I like my job, though I don't love it, and I can do at least some of what I want to do, enough to keep me happy. It's a compromise, but I'm working on altering the bargain, gradually. :)

Final point: Once you leave home, and until and unless you have kids or a mortgage, *you* are the one that has to live with how your life turns out. You can listen to that voice that drives you to the capitalista idea of biggering and biggering until the last trufula tree falls, or you can choose to enjoy yourself some. I could've gone and put on a tie and rammed COBOL for a living and probably made a mint... and had a two-pack-a-day ROLAIDS habit and spent half that fortune on suits and ties and shoes and ... and probably never ended up out here where I'm *happy*. Nay, f*** that. So I'm making a decent dime, I don't work crazytalk hours, the boss is happy, I'm happy, I've got a social life, and the co-workers bring in the most wonderful toys and occasionally sell them to me.

I suppose where I do n.o. is that I do help folks set up Linux boxes, and I don't charge for it. So in that, I give back to the world... but I feel i no wise compelled to maximize that contribution at the risk of my sanity.
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Date:May 30th, 2008 12:36 am (UTC)
Tough questions with no easy answers. I'm kinda beat, so I hope this makes sense...

I think that what you said about cooperating and contributing to overall success is related to your questions about what people can share with you. More often that not, success is not zero-sum: there are ways for everyone to come away a little better off. The trouble is finding the path and getting people to go along with it. Selfishness can be a survival adaption, but too much of it hurts the overall purpose of improving life for all.

I ran across a phrase in my latest UU World magazine which I think makes a pretty good stab at what might be a good description of a good life. Some ministers were talking of the message of their congregations and it boiled down to "nurture the spirit and help heal the world. I think it describes the important aspects of purpose: that a job must both: 1) work for you as an individual and 2) must also have a higher purpose.

So, the voice might be talking on two levels: that you can't take a job that does not use your capabilities as an indivual, and it must also be linked to a goal of some worth. It can be all too easy to either slack off or find a job that keeps you in kibble even if it doesn't contribute much.

I know the problems with having Uncle B hanging out in the back of your skull. I remarked in a post that I thought "Addicted to Duty" would make a great title for my biography. A kinder (and more literary) friend suggested "Knight Errant" might be a better choice.

As I said, interesting question. I'm looking forward to going back into your lj. When I'm more awake, that is.
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