Posted by : Halima Khait Thursday, October 11, 2012

Lately, I've been contemplating the point at which wanting better becomes detrimental.  While I don't have a foolproof formula to identify that point, I have identified three situations that illustrate it.

The first is very straightforward.  It's destructive when a person wants better simply to feel like they're winning a competition with their peers, or worse, wants better because it's what society dictates they should want or lastly, uses better to substitute for a deficiency elsewhere in their lives.  I don't think I need to go into too much more detail here because pop culture is laden with examples.

The second is when what's technically better goes against what's intuitively right.  The best illustration I have of this comes from the novel I'm currently readingIshmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit

When the population of any species outstrips its food resources, that population declines until it's once again in balance with its resources.  Mother Culture says that humans should be exempt from that process, so when she finds a population that has outstripped its resources, she rushes in food from the outside, thus making it a certainty that there will be even more of them to starve in the next generation.  Because the population is never allowed to decline to the point at which it can be supported by its own resources, famine becomes a chronic feature of their lives.
What this is saying philosophically it's better to let people starve because it's nature's way of realigning the population with what it's able to provide for.  That by trying to help, we're actually not only prolonging the inevitable, but also making it worse.  That it's better to let everything take care of itself.  But it comes at the expensive of human lives.  Furthermore, it goes against most of our instincts to let others suffer when many of us are living in excess by some standards.  So, where do we draw the line for what's better in this situation??

The last situation I could come up with was when people are convinced that something ordinary is better than it really is.  I was going to cite the beauty industry or Hollywood illusions here, but I came up with something more monumental - literally.  The Leaning Tower of Pisa.  I've always looked at it as a tribute to the beauty of human error and thought it was amazing because it never fell.  But I never really took the time to research it or even really examine it that closely for that matter.  Today, I did.  Looking at the architecture, it's pretty, but there's nothing really unique about the columns and arches that constitute it.  I guess that's because it was designed to be a bell tower.  And to my dismay, it's not still standing by some divine intervention; the Italian government installed anchors and counterweights to keep it from falling because it didn't want to lose the tourism revenue the tower attracted.  I'm not railing against this historical landmark or even the Italian government, all I'm saying is, you don't have to accept something as better than it really is because of how the majority views it. 

And in the broader scheme, the only way to keep from taking better too far is by making a personal decision about what's best for you.

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