Life at a Distance

When tots first see a television picture, some think there are little people inside the box. Adults know better, but here's the irony: many live like little people inside a box. To them, life is small, distant, and constrained.

Life at a distance is lived as if it were taking place over there across the room. Reality seems overwhelming, so it is kept at arm's length, like a picture on the wall. The mind is not focused on gaining values, but on escaping dangers. Instead of embracing pleasure, one avoids pain.

People who feel boxed-in tend to distance themselves emotionally from their own lives, in an attempt to see what's wrong. They think that strong feelings obscure reality, so the way to see truth is to look from a distance. The real method is to look closer, but keep the context.

Imagine two people in angry argument. What's next? Well, if they are worst enemies, watch out for violence. If they are best friends, expect reconciliation. If they are senators, wait for the vote. If they are lawyers, ask the judge. To understand what's happening, you must listen up close to what's being said, while at the same time keeping in mind the context in which it is said.

The mistake of the alienated life is thinking that one must choose between the close, strongly felt approach and the distant, dry perspective. Conceptual thought does both at once by giving equal importance to what the facts are, and how they relate to other facts.

When you understand how a concept covers a range of similars, and how a definition shows where the concept fits in all knowledge, then you see how easily you can keep the wider perspective in mind while examining the smallest details. You can be right there in the thick of life, without losing your place in the big picture.

To see if you live a life right here or a life over there, ask yourself a question: what is my relation to reality? Do I see facts in relation to all other facts, or only in relation to me? Am I a spectator of the world, or a participant in the world? Is my life a quest for value, or is my life a story I tell myself?

Life can be lived as an adventure, or as an achievement. If all you want is an adventure story, or the sight of an achievement, then you can pretend that TV is real life. Are you outside of that little box, or inside it?

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