Philosophically Speaking: Out With the Old and in With the New

Keith Renninson

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A good friend of mine, that will remain nameless for the purposes of this article, lest I get in a lot of trouble, recently spent many days cleaning through years of accumulation to make room in her garage for a storage facility to house the sales material for her business. A few years ago, I too, moved my office into my home and found the experience one of massive shock.

You really don’t know how much “stuff” you have in your life until you have to move or consolidate it. Every once in a while I think we all should go through a phase of simplification. This house cleaning phenomenon can apply to many areas of your life: relationships, animals, failed businesses, old shoes, hand-me-downs, old tools, cars, photos, etc.

In relationships it’s called baggage, in everything else it’s called junk.

I don’t quite know where it all started, I mean, I didn’t plan to have this much junk/baggage in my life, as I’m sure my friend didn’t either. We just accumulate it. Maybe we feel better surrounding ourselves with the new item/relationship of the moment, but when that moment has passed, all that’s left is the item, or heartache. To quote B. B. King, all of a sudden: “The thrill is gone. ”

Oddly, this scenario is repeated over and over during different phases of our lives. Why don’t we get it in the first place? Or aren’t we meant to?

The process would be okay if it were “out with the old and in with the new”, but instead it’s “in with the new and store the old. ” Have you noticed all of the public storage businesses cropping up like weeds everywhere? Maybe I need to look into purchasing their stock. . . hmm.

Well, anyway, as you may have surmised, the problem has to be one of philosophy.

With the two prevailing schools of philosophical thought theorizing that either the universe is controlling your every move through cause and effect (determinist theory) or that you have the ability to do pretty much as you wish (free will theory) leaves us in a bit of a conundrum, i. e. , feel good about your accumulation of junk, because it’s out of your control to begin with and rent a big storage space, or, feel guilty about your excesses and frequently load up the van for a trip to Goodwill, ARC or St. Vincent de Paul.

In my way of thinking, a mixture of these philosophies might be just what the gods have in mind, which is to say, everything in moderation. A modicum of free will thrown in with a dose of determinist values and whala you have a happy human who's not being too controlled, and yet still has the freedom to gleefully clutter up the garage or their life.

Now, if this mass accumulation is the result of too much free will, more than likely the end result comes from boredom, stress or poor financial planning. If it were just a matter of decorating, re-arranging, re-modeling that would be fine, and we would see free will at work.

From the other point of view, I’d hate to think that we’re under the controlling thumb of the gods, and they are just trying to satisfy their own need to splurge and we are the currency. There is nothing creative or fun in being used, is there? Could they really be that selfish? Nah.

The whole question of whether we humans actually have free will or we are quietly being led through life by the nose has haunted mankind for centuries. Free will has such attractiveness to it, and determinist seems so negative and underhanded that I can’t help but feel we do have a combination of free will and outside control in our lives.

It would make sense that we learn important lessons based on our own decisions, and be controlled when it would make things turn out the way the gods want, right?

But, how will we ever experience the thrill of success or the anguish of failure if we never make a decision that either hurts or enhances our lives?

Another aspect to the flow of our lives is the fundamental need for change. I know many people who hate change, or at least that’s what they tell me. But, down deep, I think that change makes life interesting.

Take for instance, changing homes, offices, mates, cars, clothes, toilet paper, or brands of dental floss; we all need to try new things in new ways. It is in this variety that we stay interested in daily life.

These kinds of change, and many more, bring me full circle in my free will debate. How much more mundane can a decision be than changing brands of toilet paper? So, how can the universe be involved in our every movement with the more pressing issues of famine, disasters and disease screaming for attention?

As I make changes in my life, like the recent one to return to college, can they be anything but my choice? Of course, they may fit in the overall scheme of future world events and maybe not. If not, was the choice purely mine? I hope so.

After all, I’m just one of four billion or so humans on the planet, how important can my educational decisions be? Or when contemplating the next trip to Goodwill to assist in a personal cleansing, does the universe really care? Will we ever know? Maybe. Maybe not.

Any way that you look at it it’s fun to ponder.

Keith E. Renninson is a motivational speaker and co-author of the popular parenting tool and illustrated storybook “Zooch the Pooch, My Best Friend". Through the 1990's with much self-examination, academic study, bicycle racing, and mountain climbing, he discovered a renewed zest of life, which included a love of metaphysics, philosophy, humor, and writing and speaking. As Keith says, “Some days you're the pigeon and some days you're the statue. . . it's all in what you make of it. " You can read more about “Zooch the Pooch" or contact Keith to speak at: Keith and his co-author Michael Conrad Kelley speak to teens and adults on “The Seven Simple Steps to a More Fulfilling Life. " This course focuses on how to build a Life Philosophy that works.


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