Friday, September 07, 2007

Dotry

An interlude, while I work on continuing a theme:

Try Not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.

Quoting Yoda here—meaning someone who doesn't exist—meaning the guy who wrote those words—meaning George Lucas, of course. Funny though how people quote 'Yoda', isn't it?

Still, George Lucas, despite his many flaws as a film-maker was still a damn good story-teller; and that's what counts here. So I'm quite happy saying 'Quoting Yoda here', the wise one, the John Campbell part of Goerge Lucas.

I was reminded of the try-not-do thing during a discussion with a friend who, when I noted that something wasn't being done, commented that people 'were trying' and that really and sensibly I couldn't expect anything more than that, and even less that there was going to me much more than the 'try'.

And this is, of course, where Yoda's dictum comes into it. Because it's kind-of deeper than the whole pop-culture thingie that goes with it. I wonder if Lucas is aware of that—or was aware when he penned it. Like did he think it through, and what it meant and how many layers of meaning it actually has? Did he sit back and ponder the words he placed into his little green elf's mouth and told himself "Wow; now how did I come up with this?"

Makes you wonder, don't it? Well, it makes me wonder, not least because every now and then some of my characters say something and it's like "Hmff, that's very interesting. Wonder what s/he meant by that?" And then I wonder if the character actually knew what s/he meant. And that leads to other things, and so on.

But that wasn't what I wanted to say at all. For much more interesting—and ignoring who said it and why—is the meta-meaning of Yoda's dictum; he thing that pop-culture tends to gloss over. That they do is evidenced by precisely the situation said pop-culture—expanded into official and Politically Correct culture—has gotten itself into.

The thing is this: if you 'try', then what you 'do' is 'try'. Your intention is the 'trying' of the thing, not the doing of it. You do-try.

When kids grow up we're inclined to encourage them doing stuff by encouraging them to try it. Either that, or we are of the opposite inclination, which berates 'failure to succeed'. But, by and large in the paternalistic nanny-state nations, the "You tried!" is the general response. "Give yourself full marks for trying."

And there's nothing wrong with that per se. Because for children—up to a certain point—the things we make them 'try', that is we make them do-try, are difficult. From a child's perspective they are possibly un-doable. Hence the need to get started doing them anyway, despite all that: a process usually referred to as 'trying'.

The equivalent for an adult would be trying something that s/he knows is incredibly difficult, may never have been done before, might be considered impossible by one's peers and so on. But it's got to be done—for whatever reason—and hence, despite the near-quixotic nature one gets off one's ass and tries to do it anyway. Here the do-try again has merit; it requires the exercise of courage; the capacity to make a decision to do-try despite the overwhelming odds of a successful outcome. The Dotry—here's the neologism for you, and it isn't spoken like 'dottry' but like 'do-try'—is an existential action, if you will; not a cop-out.

All that is nice and good, but this is not the way it is in practice. For the "but you tried" and "full marks for trying" has become a phrase so overused, abused and over-applied that it has generated and is continuing to generate generation of children who, as they grow older and capable of assuming a greater perspective on their life's problems and the issues confrinting them, actually end up incapable of understanding the difference between 'do' and 'dotry'.

Remember that earlier I had inserted an important proviso for the use of the dotry. It's purpose is to serve as an existential choice when the prospects of an actual 'do' resulting in a positive outcome are minimal. But, for the average adult in their life-situations, such situations are rare. Most of them will not get themselves into situations—motivationally speaking, and even less practically—that require the dotry. That's because we tend to build up around ourselves and in our lives, through doing and doing-not, contexts that do not require dotrys.

Or shouldn't!

But the way things are going here these days—and I'm saying 'these days' because it is 'these days' and in the kinds of societies, 'here', most of my blog readers live in—what's really happened is that we have taught our children to become dotryers as they grow into adulthood. (Yep, next neologism.) Meaning, of course, they never become the kinds of adults that children tended to become—and still do become—in social contexts where this kind of thing was not encouraged; and if it was, where it was progressively less encouraged as they grew up.

I think it's not overstating the case if one were to label most western urbanized societies as 'dotry' (the adjective to the noun). The problem is, they dotry on just about everything. The actual things that are being tried have become secondary. The dotry is the thing du jour. The totally pointless dotry.

I'm trying to...

  • be a good person
  • lose weight
  • give up smoking
  • making my marriage work
  • write a novel
  • be honest
  • meet the deadline
  • help people
  • learn more about X
  • do my best
I'm trying!

The last one's the worst: "I'm trying to do my best!"

So what are you actually doing? Your best? Or just trying? How can you even conceive of such an absurdity? You either do your currently-deemed-best by definition or else you're not. How can you possibly be 'trying' to do this? What is that?

OK, then. So you're trying to do...anything whatsoever.

And what if it doesn't work?

Well, I'll try something else. Gotta try, right?

See how this works? Ever caught yourself in this kind of dotry situation? Where the thing you're actually trying becomes unimportant when compared to the fact that you dotried? Do you lurch from dotry to dotry and never get anything done?

It's easy, you know. Very easy. The dotry mentality not only encourages excusism—another neologism; shit, I'm on a roll here!—but creates, nurtures and spreads it through one's mind like HIV, attacking the very systems that are meant to protect us from such folly. Nothing ever really gets done, for all energy is expended on the dotry and not the thing that needs to be done.

The dotry is an energy-sink! Any 'do' is an energy-sink; requiring the expenditure of energy to accomplish something. Elementary thermodynamics. A dotry is energy expended on...what?

"But I tried!"

OK, so you did. But did you dotry? And if you did, is the thing you dotried really in the category of the 'near impossible to achieve', quixotic tilting-at-windmills, etc, etc? Because if it isn't—and, let's face it, what part about losing weight; giving up filthy habits like smoking and getting drunk; making a relationship that can work, work; writing a novel...which one about those things really belongs into those dire categories?—then, if you do lurch from dotry to dotry, you're right on the way of doing this to the end of your life, and in the end you've done nothing of the things that matter, because you've lost sight of them in your paroxysms of dotrying. And if you dotry to give up dotrying, you may find that by the time you do, if ever, it's too late for so many things you should have done instead of dotrying.

Sound familiar? Wanna have a look in the mirror sometime?

Still, this is the kind of human being most of urbanized western societies are creating, nurturing, holding up as having 'done' something—when in truth all these poor blighters, kept in a state of Peter Pan like never-grown-up-hood, know of 'doing' is 'dotrying'.

So, Yoda's right. I wonder if GL knew how right when he penned those words.

There is no 'try'. From an existentialist point of view there is only 'dotry'. Decisions are decisions to 'do' or 'dotry'. 'Try' itself is nothing but a transitional phase of the 'do' process: what happens between the decision to do and the action of doing it. 'Try' is a state like 'the present': an imaginary moving line in time and the space of human action, separating intention from action. Said 'action' may or may not be successful, but to equate the action itself—the 'do'—with the 'try' is a severe category mistake.

There is no try.

Do.

Or do not.

Or dotry.

But think of what a dotry-life is really like. A wasteland of doing nothing at all—except dotrying. What a total f....g waste.

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