Living Backwards

It happens a lot. The boss retires and puts his son in charge. Changes are made. They don't work. A new manager is brought in. The son is kicked upstairs. He has become a charity case. It is a success story in reverse: instead of getting off the dole by taking a lowly job, and then working his way up, this guy started at the top and worked his way to the dole.

Remember that TV actor who made such a hit in that series, but later was only in bit parts? No, you don't. Instead of going from obscurity to fame, he went from fame to obscurity. He lived his life backwards.

On their own scale, many people live backwards. They do it by thinking backwards.

Thinking starts with observation. You see, hear, touch, taste, or smell something. Then you compare this observation with others, so you can classify it and see its relationship to other observations, and to you. You end by coming to a conclusion about what you observed.

Unless you start with the conclusion. In that case, you do it backwards. You try to figure out what logic would result in that conclusion, and what observations would support that logic. Then you try to make those observations, or accept them as made. You do this because you want to feel certain about the conclusion. But you remain in doubt, because for all you really know, uncensored observation and honest reasoning might have led you to some other conclusion.

A child can observe people being nice to one another, and being nasty. Which course of action is better? The conclusion could be that nice is better, but nasty is sometimes necessary.

Or, the child can be taught that being nice is a rule not to be questioned. "But how come I get yelled at when I mess up? I'm supposed to be nice, but others get to be nasty! It seems upside down."

That's the penalty for trying to live backwards: life seems upside down. Your mental time is spent trying to justify things, instead of trying to understand things. Instead of observing reality and figuring out what you should do about it, you start with should, and try to make reality conform. You find that living backwards is precarious and frustrating.

"People should take care of one another." That's a conclusion you start with. But how does that compare to another conclusion: that people should cooperate so each can take care of himself? Well, you can try some observations. Don't look at that couple who squabble all the time, or that woman who seems to hate the grown son she takes care of, or that official who bosses everyone around "for their own good." Don't make just any observations; make the correct observations. Watch what you see. That's freedom — in an upside down world.

To set your world upright, don't start with conclusions. When someone tells you their conclusion, find out how they got there. It is their conclusion, not your conclusion. Knowing how they got there can help you get there, as long as you start with observation. Or, you might notice where they made a mistake. When you start with what you see and touch, your conclusions can have certainty. You live in forward gear, rather than in reverse.

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