Efforts and rewards – personal reality


An American aid worker (a woman named “Marla”) died last weekend in Iraq (roadside bomb). She was probably in many ways an ordinary woman – as ordinary a person as most of us. What was extraordinary about her was her value for a certain community of people who are trapped in a primitive struggle for survival. What was extraordinary about her was her willingness to lose her life for this struggle.


I am, believe it or not, developing sensitivity to the correlation between my efforts and reward in terms of the work I do at home. I mean, I’ve been working on certain projects for how long? That has brought in how much money? And exactly how many people have read what I write? And it does not help that any day now my bicycle is going to deconstruct into ten different parts on the way to the train station, or that my TV’s sound is still screwed up, or that my computer is getting slower by the day, or that I still haven’t been to the dentist … but you remain standing as long as you don’t fall, and the struggle is a daily one. And to complain about such nonsense is after all middle class.


Walter Reuther (1907-1970), American labour leader: “There is no greater calling than to serve your fellow man. There is no greater contribution than to help the weak. There is no greater satisfaction than to have done it well.”



The question is not whether or not each one of us is a fool; the question is what we do with our lives in spite of the fact.

The question is also not whether or not each one of us is going to die …


For centuries philosophers have been contemplating the question of what reality is – what is real, and what is not.

To a large extent I accept the material world as it appears to me. If I see something I recognise from experience as a “table”, I accept the object before my eyes as indeed a table. I also accept the validity of the sounds related to that specific object.

My own interest lay more with the individual “self”. I accept that statements like, “I know who I am” and “I believe in myself,” and terms such as “self-confidence” only have relative value – that is, relative to the environment in which the person finds himself. Make a radical shift to another habitat, or radically change the environment, and suddenly the person may not “know” quite so clearly who he is; he might also not be so sure of himself, and his so-called “confidence” will probably shrink with his self-knowledge and associated self-belief.

What is true for the person regarding his own self, this is what keeps my attention, not so much whether a table or a telephone or a slice of toast is really real.

I know smarter people can argue that there is a connection – and I believe there is, philosophically speaking. However, because of limited time I choose to focus on what is real for the individual person, about him- or herself.

[The probability is strong that I misunderstand what philosophers have been searching for over the centuries.]


Time spent in any place is worth the proverbial effort if you have used the time to achieve positive results. The idea that you could also have achieved similar results in a different place is of passing interest and maybe not even worth noting. What is important is the process, the goal, the end result. The place is either conducive, or not conducive, and should be judged according to this measure.