Note: This is long, rambly, and self-reflective. It takes a really long time for me to get to the point, and it’s probably not a point worth getting to for anyone other than myself. But you’re welcome to read it if you like.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately. Which is indistinct from any other time, as my brain rarely shuts up. About the only time I’m not mulling something over is if my brain is preoccupied with something else, like playing a game, perhaps. That’s probably part of the reason that I like them.
One of the thoughts that entered my head recently was this idea that throughout my life there have been different versions of me, and I am in a very literal sense a different person than I was many years ago. It seems to me to be true in both a physical sense and a mental sense. Now, scientifically speaking, ones cells are dying and being replaced by new ones all the time. According to some folks (a quick google search tells me it’s dubious) every 7 to 10 years you’re a whole new mess of cells than you had been 7 to 10 years earlier. So by that logic (I’ll go with the 10 year span), sitting in front of this computer right now is Jason 4.0.
(If that seems off to you, remember, you’re version 1.0 when you’re born, so at 10 you are 2.0, etc.)
Then throughout life you have all sorts of experiences and meet and interact with all kinds of people. Those people have all sorts of experiences of their own, some of which intermingle with yours. They have a bunch of different ideas about things too, and often they’ll tell you about them. Some of those things might seem to you quite interesting or compelling. Some may seem foolish. Sometimes, given more time and experience, a thing that seemed foolish may later seem compelling, or the reverse.
The people that you are friends with are also very likely to shape you in any given moment. Who they are and what they believe is not insignificant in shaping you (“as iron sharpens iron”, as a certain book says.) This is more and more true the closer you are to the person. Your best friend, a girlfriend (or perhaps boyfriend, depending on who you are), or spouse most of all.
One may also just choose to place emphasis on something that they had never placed emphasis on before. Quite likely it’s not a conscious choice, it’s just a thing that happens.
So, as it turns out the versions of myself that I would identify don’t really fit into 10 year windows – but I can certainly identify what I see are major divisions of my life in which I think there was a fundamental shift in who I am as a person – (admittedly it was a little more gradual than it will be written here – I’m identifying it by major milestones):
- Child – from about when I started having memories to 5th grade, when I switched to a Christian school
- Pre-teen/Teen – Really just all of middle and high school – I didn’t change much in all of that time.
- College – Probably extended a couple years beyond college… maybe 6 or 7 years of this – I’d call this a period of reinvention.
- Married – This is definitely the shortest one, in no small part because of the shortness of one of the defining characteristics (and namesake) of this period
- Divorced – Obviously barring becoming remarried to a person (lest you think otherwise, something that will never happen) once you are divorced from them you always will be. That said, I’m past the point of it defining me. But for probably a good 4 or 5 years, it did in many ways.
- Dreamer – This one actually overlaps with the only before and the one after, perhaps never existing entirely on its own.
- Philosopher – I can’t think of a better way to put it. This is where I feel I am now, and it’s marked by exploring philosophical ideas, culture, theology, history, etc.
When I write it all out and really think about it I can see the seeds of later versions of me being in place in earlier versions. I can also easily pinpoint the single largest shift in who I was (that divorce thing will do it to ya).
One of the things that happened in the marriage period that has sort of stuck with my and grown is an interest in politics. I didn’t really care about it much before that. Late in college I thought about it a bit, but it was mostly characterized by things that I knew I didn’t agree with – and there were plenty of things in both the political parties that I didn’t like (note that at the time I wasn’t really aware that you could be anything but a Republican or a Democrat). I didn’t vote in the 2004 election, which was the first election I was eligible to vote in, because I just couldn’t decide – it might surprise many to learn some of the things I felt I leaned left on at the time.
In this era we had Ron Paul make 2 runs in the Republican party and as a result I discovered libertarianism, which was pretty important for me if I was going to feel like I had a place in politics – whatever I agreed with or disagreed with the Republicans or Democrats on, neither seemed like something I felt compelled to be a part of. Prior to this discovery, politics were simply not important to me, and I wouldn’t have cared what you believed politically about almost anything (one or two exceptions I can think of).
Since then, I’ve started to follow politics quite extensively. I think it is a part of the “philosopher” mentality – political theory certainly ties into philosophy and culture and all or that. I’ve had plenty of discussions with people about it – it’s especially easy to get me talking about it if I’ve got a few beers in me and you bring up anything political at all. I definitely think it’s interesting, and, like most things, I’ve arrived at some outside-the-box conclusions about stuff. It puts me in a rather small camp. And so I’m pretty used to voting for people who don’t win (and never had a chance of winning) and pining for policies (or lack of them) that will never come to pass.
Then in recent years, things just got crazy – and when I say that I’m talking about both of those big parties. If you think only one is the problem, allow me to suggest you should pay more attention to the one you think isn’t a problem. People are super divisive, and if you disagree with someone their perception seems to be that it’s because you are somehow malicious, rather than a person who perhaps sees the same problem and has a different solution. That latter position is a perfectly fair one to take, and is how I saw Bernie Sanders in the 2016 campaign. I thought he identified a lot of problems very well – I just thought all of his solutions were terrible. But, that doesn’t make him evil or malicious.
I have a few friends who post on Facebook about politics almost incessantly. And it’s always negative. One of the things that I realized a few months after the 2016 election was that I didn’t want to post about politics constantly. It’s kind of just annoying. No one is going to change their mind, and you don’t accomplish anything by doing it. You just kind of frustrate yourself. So I went from posting about it fairly often to not doing so very much. Since then I’ve curbed Facebook use in general as well. I’ll often go a whole month and only post anything at all once or twice.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with people posting political commentary on Facebook. However, I do think they’re probably making themselves unhappy and accomplishing nothing of value. I believe that was the case for me. Especially if the things being posted are super negative all the time. We still have a long way to go to achieve a perfect society to be sure, but we live in objectively the best period of time ever – and I think we would do well to remember that from time to time, rather than always being angry that things aren’t perfect – much of the time I find I’m in agreement with people when they say that something is a problem, but their solution seems to be “tell people to stop doing bad thing x”. If only it were so simple.
So here’s what I’ve found. I can get super frustrated at people when the political ideas they throw out there don’t seem to me to be logical or really make any sense at all. But often those same people I think are perfectly nice and cool to be around. And I can easily interact with them without thinking even a bit about what their political ideas are.
So I wonder how often discussing politics is really valuable. One’s ability to shape politics is pretty miniscule – no matter what I think about anything, I have virtually no say in the matter (one way to put it is, in the event that it is otherwise a tie, you get to decide… otherwise you vote doesn’t matter). Where you really make headway is in changing people’s minds about things, and I really don’t think you do that by talking about politics directly. I think you do that by talking more about culture, and by simply being friends with people, sharing your way of thinking about the world with them. I won’t say there’s never a place for a political conversation, but I think we’d all do well to disengage politically for a bit from time to time, and really to focus WAY less on it in our day to day lives. We’re way too fixated on it right now.
For me, I’ve decided to take some time off from following politics. It’s actually a bit hard, because my youtube subscriptions and twitter and facebook are all full of all kinds of political stuff. But I just want to not engage for awhile. Part of me thinks maybe I should become a “post-political” version of myself. I think I’d be happier that way.
If you read all the way to the end here, I’m sorry. That had to have been painful. I’ll try to write something less rambly and more coherent next time around.