Friday, August 24, 2012

A Little Self Examination

I believe it was Socrates who said that the unexamined life is not worth living. As is often the case with stuff Socrates said, this one rings true. We instinctively understand that the road to discovery and personal growth starts with an honest self-appraisal. Of course, too much of this sort of thing leads to narcissistic navel-gazing, so, moderation in all things, right? I say all of this because I have recently thought a lot about one of my odd personality traits. I know what some of you are thinking.."Which one? There are so many." Fair enough. Here it is...I hate being part of organizations. More specifically, I prefer at least the ideal of being an outsider, removed from the commitments and conspiracies that come with membership in associations. This trait manifests itself in countless ways in my life.

I have always been repulsed by large things, big things. I despise big government, big business, large labor unions. I am intrinsically suspicious of political parties with their organizing committees, and caucuses. Although I love baseball, I can't stand Major League Baseball, the organization, and it's commissioner. Closer to home, I never want anything to do with the local or national branches of the outfit that lobbies Washington on behalf of my profession. Even within the Broker-Dealer that I clear through, don't even ask me to serve on some advisory board, to be part of some inside circle of influence...it gives me the creeps just thinking about it. On a spiritual level, although I am a devoted believer and admirer of Jesus Christ, I remain a reluctant church member. Although I have been a member of Grove Avenue for over 25 years and have benefited from that association, it is a shaky thing, at best. The worst church experience of my life were the two years that I served as chairman of the finance committee. Never, in all of Christendom has there been a more ill-conceived match than me and that committee. I escaped with my faith hanging by a thread.

I clearly understand the benefits that can come from being part of a group. There is power in numbers after all. Being part of an organization of like-minded people trying to accomplish something together that can not be accomplished apart is what civilization is all about. So, why do I prefer hovering above things, why do I prefer the isolation of being on the outside, looking in? Why am I so devoted to Independence? This instinct is at the heart of why I ended up in the business I'm in. I have no boss, no board of directors, and no one telling me what to do. However, along with that freedom comes the unavoidable fact that I also have no one to blame for mistakes and failures. They are always mine alone.

Maybe it's a pride issue. Maybe I like Independence because I'm too prideful to accept criticism or discipline, too prideful to acknowledge my need for others. Whatever it is, all I know is, I have always been this way. What's different now and the reason I've been thinking more about it is that as I get older, I see more clearly the need of association. I understand the benefits of belonging to things. But how do you transform yourself from an eccentric loner type to a gregarious committee man? Maybe it's a process. I'm not quite ready though. Every time I get an invitation in the mail to join AARP, I grit my teeth, let out a little "grrrrrr" and take great delight in ripping the envelope to shreds. No...not ready yet.