Some call it wisdom. But is it really just trying to game a system that is inherently random?
First off, a big thanks to my new friend Malika, for inspiring this post!
Throughout life, without even thinking about it we are crunching the loss/kiss ratio and applying it to every element of our lives. We record and categorise every experience with emotional consequence labels such as bad, or ‘loss,’ and good, or ‘kiss.’ And then, equally without thinking, we do whatever we can to cast ourselves sin the path of the kisses while avoiding the losses. A life of wisdom is unconsciously thought of as one where you successfully shift the loss/kiss ratio in favour of more kisses to losses. But can we really do that?
First of all, few would argue that many of life’s losses are so random and unpredictable as to be unavoidable. And some kisses are so unimaginably wonderful that, likewise, we couldn’t plan them if we tried.
I’ve got a ton of examples where ignoring the loss/kiss ratio entirely can be very unwise indeed. Many people have told me, after the loss of Kipuka that this was a loss outside of my control. While certainly I have not the power to start or stop volcanic eruptions, it was certainly me who decided to buy and develop a property, using the bulk of my savings, on the side of an active volcano. I gambled against the house one might say. Likewise, Lari ate a healthy diet, exercised regularly and still managed to die of cancer at 52. And on the flipside, a chance encounter through a mutual acquaintance let to our meeting in 2004. We could have just as easily done something else that day.
But perhaps the biggest hurdle to making this kind of wisdom work with any accuracy is this – how do you quantify a first kiss, the loss of a job or a loved one. How much is the feeling worth that first time a possible future mate puts their hand in yours? And is that feeling worth more than the loss of being sacked?
Wisdom is a sticky business. Yes there are many things one can do to stay on the right side of the loss/kiss ratio – look both ways before crossing, get your annual health checkups, make sure those you love know this every single day. So yes, at a certain level, one can influence the field, but how much? From my perspective, the randomness of life will always trump our best intensions.
Is this cause to abandon wisdom? No. but for me, it is a wisdom in itself, to temper our own, to give us necessary humility. And imagine what a bit of that could do in our lives as individuals and as societies?