While skimming through my favorite old philosophy textbook, I had the pleasure of discovering these comments in the book’s preface:
There are great multitudes of good and decent people out there in the world who belong to the category of creators rather than destroyers. But they are not the ones who are most visible or most audible, not the ones who talk mindlessly and endlessly on television, not the ones who have a judgmental reaction to everything that differs from their way of seeing. They make up a beautiful though silent community. But they are there.
While my wife, Lori, and I were lunching in a restaurant one day, she said to me, “How can you not feel alive if you are creating?” And Bergson once wrote, “Where joy is, creation has been.” This may be, for many of us, as near the answer to the meaning of life as we will find in this life. You’re alive as long as you’re creating. Ray Bradbury insists that it matters not what happens in the world; your moral obligation is keep on creating. It is the greatest of privileges to strive to belong to the community of creators.
Ask yourself, Do you strive to be a member of the Community of Creators? I would like to think I do, even if my membership is in need of constant renewal.
There is no shortage of people calling for more “deregulation” or for the dismantling (“the doing away with”) of entire government agencies. There is always a natural agitation to clear away rules and governing oversight, any “fence” that stands in our way.
But most laws, rules & regulations, and institutions of government come into existence after years, sometimes decades, of experience and debate. There is usually a good reason. There is a history that outlines why we have them. We need to know the exact history of why we have these institutions, laws or regulations, and the implications of not having them, before we tear them down. It may be that doing away with the fence doesn’t free the lambs so much as it fattens the wolves.
And so anytime we hear calls for reforming or removing any law, rule, regulation, or government institution we’d be wise to consider the principle of [G.K.] Chesterton’s Fence:
“In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, ‘I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.’ To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: ‘If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.'”
Like many of you I hear the new year’s resolutions at every new year’s eve party. Very few people end up keeping those resolutions. Our resolve to lose weight, to work out more, to save more money, to do so many things we feel we need to do, falls victim to our lack of discipline and an easy retreat into settled habits.
It’s just pathetic.
In the January 1, 1863, edition of the Territorial Enterprise, the Virginia City, Nevada, newspaper that Mark Twain worked for, he wrote the following about the useless institution of new year’s eve resolutions:
Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual. Yesterday, everybody smoked his last cigar, took his last drink, and swore his last oath. To-day, we are a pious and exemplary community. Thirty days from now, we shall have cast our reformation to the winds and gone to cutting our ancient short comings considerably shorter than ever. We shall also reflect pleasantly upon how we did the same old thing last year about this time. However, go in, community. New Year’s is a harmless annual institution, of no particular use to anybody save as a scapegoat for promiscuous drunks, and friendly calls, and humbug resolutions, and we wish you to enjoy it with a looseness suited to the greatness of the occasion.