Choosing our problems with care.

There is a notion put forward by Mark Rowlands in his excellent book “The Philosopher and the Wolf“; that simians and humans are the only animals to manufacture weakness in others, rather than just exploit it.

It’s a disturbing thought, and one I’m trying to find exceptions to, but can’t so far.

It’s led to a parallel observation. Listening to the news and social media, as well as advertising, that we seem to concentrate far more on marketing problems than we do solutions. There were a couple of them this morning, noticed at random. The first was around the effects of our apparently increased alcohol consumption on the return to work after lockdown, and the second a statement by a charity that unless the government replaced income lost during shutdown, the UK would not be the first to make the next major step forward in treating cancer.

Both statements may be true, but that’s not the point – it’s the intent. Both organisations were started with laudable intent, but seem to have lapsed into promoting rather than addressing the problem. I’m not sure how much it matters, other than for ego, if the next major step in cancer treatment comes from the UK, as long as it arrives as quickly as possible and is widely available. (I do remember a conversation with a charity executive who observed that it is not in the charity’s interest to find a cure for cancer, as their reason for being would disappear). Equally the concern on alcohol. If we spend a lot of time, effort and money projecting problems on to people, we are more sure of a market for our services, whether they actually have a problem or not.

If we focus on the problems we have, real or imaginary, the less likely we are not to move forward, but spend more time trying not to go backwards. The end result is that they spend more time just where we are. Stuck at a moment in time.

What is happening now is both scary and exciting. Leaving the decaying behind as fresh opportunity appears. Spring is a great metaphor.

There are lots of problems available if we look for them, even more if we listen to those in whose self interest it is for us to engage with them.

Spring doesn’t go around being scared of winter.

Neither should we. We can choose the problems, and opportunities we engage with. We have a remarkably short period in which we get to choose. We would do well to pay attention to how we spend it.

Opportunity moves us forward, problems keep us stuck.

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