dkSez : : : : : : Don Kahle's blog

Quips, queries, and querulous quibbles from the quirky mind of Don Kahle

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April 13th, 2007 by dk

On this day before the annual tax deadline, appreciation is less on people’s minds than depreciation. But they are related, aren’t they? Whatever is being appreciated today may well be depreciated tomorrow and the day after that. Do you sometimes fear you’ll be used up, worn out, and eventually written off and forgotten?
Then think with me about esteem: where it comes from and where it goes.
Activity, Identity, Ontology.
Some of us draw our worth from what we do. Our activity is what we know that others value. But those activities will change over time, and for most of us they will diminish. Eventually we won’t be willing or able to do what we do today. If we draw our value from how we busy ourselves, we create a beast that must constantly be fed. We’re always a day or a week or a month away from “What have you done for me lately?”
What we do flows from who we are. Our character, our talents and gifts — these lie beneath our activities. And they change much less than our daily doings, so they form a more solid foundation for our esteem. It seems most of life is spent trying to understand that most people can’t be trusted to tell us why we matter, least of all the earnest ones. Productivity is overrated. Most of it is the necessary outflow of whatever endowment we were given to begin with.
But beneath what we began with is the fact that we began at all. If our activity rests on our identity, then it must be acknowledged that identity requires ontology. Whoever it is that we are assumes first that we are at all! The fact that we exist is the first foundation for the esteem we hope to build. This revelation invites us into the “First Mover” quandary that philosophers and saints have contemplated for millennia, but there really is no getting around it.
Our esteem in the end (no — at its beginning!) must rely on something unchangeable, and that is that we were chosen — be it by some deity or a system of natural selection or pure unmitigated luck. We could not be, but instead we are. Gratitude for that immutable fact is where we must begin. It may not make the field testing for its veracity any less painful, but it makes it more intellectually honest. We cannot be appreciated unless we first appreciate.
I’ve used three vowels from where esteem comes from: Activity, Identity, Ontology. That leaves E and U and sometimes Y for where it goes. I have some ideas, but maybe you have some that are better. Post a comment if you do.

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