On Problems

When I was much less mature, I was fond of bandying about with the phrase, ‘The reward for a job well done is a harder job.’ I used the cliché to signal that I wasn’t a sucker; that all the ways I ‘didn’t try’ were indicative of me ‘sticking it to the man/refusing to play his game’ as opposed to the more honest conclusion that I (often) didn’t give my all to ensure that I could dismiss any failure as not ‘real.’ Nowadays, I’m fond of reframing of the phrase. ‘The consequence of a problem well solved is a better/harder/more interesting problem.’ And that’s an outcome I’m actively working towards.

While I’m alive, there will never be an end to ‘problems’ and, most of the problems I/we have now are due to the solutions of the past. Trying to finish a book is a *much* better problem than figuring out how ingest enough calories so as not to starve (which had been largely ‘solved’ by my ancestors). Trying to figure out how to use my limited financial, political, and emotional resources to nudge my society towards being more just and humane is a *much* better problem than trying to figure out how to keep a larger animal from eating me and –again- my ancestors pretty much took care of that. But even though these are better problems… these are still problems.

Likewise, it’s helpful to remind myself that, as I raise my daughter, I can’t actually protect her from challenge; the *best* I can do is to suitably equip her to solve the problems of her life and (hopefully) give her better and more interesting problems than I myself had to deal with. I’ll give my all, and in so doing I’ll solve so many of problems (some with such completion that I’ll risk being able to even recall that the issue was once a problem for me) but the reward is *never* the cessation of growth and change and hardship – it is only the transmutation of these forces into a different form, possibly even one that would be unrecognizable by the standards of the past.

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