Maintenance, Part 2

This is the second in my series on maintenance, which is from my book The Love Diet.

By Terry Plotkin.

Back to the beginning.  Most of us find out at a young age that we are not the center of the universe.   Perhaps that is the bitterness behind the terrible twos.  Those who somehow did not get this message may seem to get more than their share of the pie, but their share of happiness will show a deficit.  One cannot live a lie indefinitely without paying a price.

My mother bore four boys in five years.  I was number three in that line. The fourth son was only eleven months younger than me.  Being the center of anyone’s universe was not an option for me.  I’m not sure how my mother found enough time to look after the four of us, but a friend who had two-year-old twins and a newborn explained that caring for the three children took her about the same amount of time as it did to raise one child––all of it.  Given my place in the birth order, I realized almost from day one that I was a member of the world, not the center of it.  The only path open to me was to get along, take care of myself, and not complain.

Our society teaches its members to mold themselves into the community. This is one of the hidden agendas of school. We temper our lives to find our place socially, spiritually, and economically. We compromise to survive.  In one of the Star Trek movies, Spock dies of a lethal dose of radiation when he voluntarily runs into a contaminated space to save the ship.  As Spock is dying, he talks to Captain Kirk, explaining his solution to the problem of how a member of society (the crew) must behave.  Spock, the epitome of logic, says, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one.”  Kirk thought Spock’s interpretation of our relationship to each other stank (no need to grieve, Spock returns from the dead).  Star Trek’s world of technological and scientific fiction implied you could always find a way to have it all.  One of the strange American myths.

Therese said to me once that that the problem of civilization is that in order to get the benefits of membership, you have to pay a price.  We receive comfort, predictability, food, clothing, shelter, family, luxuries and community for joining.  In return, civilization will ask the individual not to be too independent, to cooperate and compromise and be loyal to the system. Above all, it will demand of your time.  A society is much more concerned with its own perpetuation than it is about any citizen’s particular desires and dreams.  An acquaintance once said that only four things are important in life: family, friends, career and our primary relationship––and you can only manage two of them well.     If we are to be somewhat free, sufficiently so to self-actualize, we will have to find ways to minimize our compromise, gain control over our lives and make decisions that will offer us a chance at self expression and real happiness. This is the crux of human liberation.

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