The Right Thing

November 3rd, 2019

The right thing fuzzes into being for most people sometime during childhood through some episode or other of a previously unperceived wrong going punished, and describing the right by its difference. Later in adolescence the struggle for the right thing often enough leads to blood and blows, or maybe experimentation with drugs, or running away from home, or what have you. The right thing rules life complete for the adult (not that all that many people mature into adulthood). There's no period of life aside from natality, and no state aside from sloth, exempt from the right thing's dominion --making awareness of the same an arguably decent prerequisite for being actually alive, or human, if you like.

Any familiarity with the Republic makes one likely to load a particular meaning for the right thing; the variety speak points to Republican separation from pretenders who came before, and who (fail to) coexist now, accepting to make their wine with some percentage of shit, to compromise integrity for convenience, and to stand behind nothing but a false-toothed grin. The right thing has often enough been summoned in discussion when ironing out the particularities of a piece of software or the branches and leaves of a system, but its practical and present use in no way cordons it off from its true scope, which is: everything.

Everything, terrifying as that may be. There is always a right thing, though it may not always be known or even approachable. What is anxiety, after all, other than the experience of a human mind confronting the uncaring vastness of the possibility of correct and incorrect? What is philosophy, other than the attempt to codify correct and incorrect, whether from the understanding of the universe, or of man within it, or of god above it, or whatever other angle?

And yet it's not merely the vastness of the right thing that lends to its horror; it is its separateness from us, its objectivity, that makes for who knows how many sleepless nights spent on this spinning globe. The right thing has no connection to what you'd prefer to be the right thing. No influence, no possibility of meaningful exchange, nothing. Neither is it subject to your conceptions, conscious or not, of what could possibly be the right thing, or whether or not you'd be capable of doing or even choosing it. It does not love you. It will never even know your name. Love of the right thing is the quintissential unrequited love; there's just nothing there.

But you love it anyway, because that's who you are --good for you. You're now welcome to spend every waking moment obsessing over which of the paths before you are right, from when and how and why to brush your teeth to which and whether and why not way to climb the stairs and so on and so forth. You're welcome to waste your life (can it be wasted on the right thing? better figure that out before the next question comes!) spending every moment looking for possibilities and choosing amongst them meaningfully and with confidence. Inasmuch as the potential rate of personally experienced phenomena is quite a great deal faster than your fly-brain moving through real time, you're in fact welcome to inevitably fail. Aww. And all you wanted was to do a good job, wasn't it?

A great secret of life, or perhaps it's not a secret and that's merely my personal collection of inadequacies fronting for the past lack of its obviousness to me, is that pretty much everything comes with, and is best described in terms of, two or more data points. You know, you bought fifty litres of gas, and gas is four euros a litre, the sort of details that allow you to get through the practical movements of life with some sense of what you're doing, and why, and how. Living with a solitary data point is the culprit of most states of ignorance and indigence. The same holds true for the right thing, conceptually; it's not just about whether a given thing is the correct one. It's also about whether it matters.

Holy shit, twenty-year old me is ranting furiously in the corner, tearing up bits of the phone book and frothing at the mouth, "what do you mean WHETHER it matters?! It always matters, what the fuck, just that question belies total traitorhood omfg where's the Captain Morgan?!"

For most of my post-pubescent life I held that the most important, sometimes the only important thing, was to always do the right thing. I also held that this wasn't actually possible, but the key benefit of time has been the realization that this impossibility is inherent in the system, and it is not a fundamental flaw of humanity that it cannot physically keep up. Rather, most people lack a way to determine when the right thing matters, and when it doesn't, so much; and manifest in either slovenly stupidity on one end of the spectrum or manic insanity on the other, most people fail at obtaining this second data point.

I'll dare to say now what I've been suspecting for a while, and what would've frightened me ideologically not even so long ago: those that fail at obtaining this second data point, and therefore at doing the right thing appreciably, have fairly clean crossover with those who fail to understand the role of management (or sovereignty, or whatever other mask you care to put on it). Because this is what management is for: to observe your struggle with doing the right thing, and to determine where you're faltering in applying your dedication to it. As a fanatic, you're naturally inclined to find management's determinations arbitrary and punitive. The true task before you is to decide, and to necessarily stand by your decision, as to whether or not the management available to you is sane1. If you're lucky, both the truth of the matter and your determination will be positive. If you're unlucky, one or both will come out with a dull thud.

Ideally, management should need only speak to you its findings to affect your course. Naturally, such smoothness is incredibly rare. How much of historical conflict is the result of the professedly managed needing more than a word to adapt to the determinations of the management? Other than particularities of the "professions" therein, it's necessarily one hundred percent.

I'm not entirely sure where to end here except to state that taking on the burden of both data points is an Atlassian task to which the vast, vast majority of people born on this planet will never be equal. The prayers, the wailings in the night, the starved children, the mangled, stray dogs, the incredible potential of sadness and ruin is but testament to the natural inadequacy of most to provide themselves, and their rings of people, with both data points. There's nothing bad or good about this; it's just the way it is, but I'd hope demonstrably so, for anyone who's had a look around. Be fucking humble, and keep your wits about you, when you encounter those who've assumed such terrible responsibility. The latter, because a great portion of even these will be bad; and the former, because there's nothing worthier of your time and your blood than those who are great.

  1. Yes, this means at some point T before the shit's hitting the fans so fast you're not advised to "decide" much of anything, just keep mopping. And yes, you are held to verify this decision now and again, as a regular part of your self-hygiene --but as a regular part, not as a reaction to managerial determinations you don't like. []

One Response to “The Right Thing”

  1. Diana Coman says:

    You know, just a few hours ago I found myself telling the kid that figuring out what matters and what doesn't is the *most important thing* (and so he asked: "in the world?" to which I could not but answer: "in the world, yes"). And looking back at it, in one form or another it keeps popping up because yes, I grew up with a boatload of unspoken and unacknowledged and possibly even unknown to those afflicted but otherwise quite obvious in retrospect "all is equally important". It was a huge burden and one that I couldn't even fully begin to comprehend the weight of until I had put enough distance between myself and the house I grew up in.

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