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How I Learned To Dance The New Street Waltz (or How I Found Principles By Which To Live)
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How I Learned to Dance The New Street Waltz (or How I Found Principles By Which to Live)

I recently took part in a process which had a very clear objective – to develop principles by which to live. I quickly noted that sometimes I see Principles as over-arching signposts, guiding me to my destination. However there was also a feeling that principles might be nothing more than directions, instructions or commands, pushing and pulling me to and fro and therefore more likely to cause me to resist than move forward. I felt that having to adopt principles caused an oppositional force, especially an emotionally charged oppositional force, which basically comes from feeling that my values are being compromised. I felt that the pursuit of principles might simply diminish my right to say yes and no, or declare that something is right or wrong. It was with this ‘fear’ shadowing it, that the process began.

Dishonesty was identified as being the number one problem for me; that I seldom was completely honest, especially about my feelings and moods. An example of this is the use of the word fine, often given in response to the oft asked question; how are you? I observed that if fine were mutated into an acronym – F.I.N.E., it could be said to stand for Frustrated, Insecure, Nervous and Emotional, which I can be.

I continued by trying to look at a major stressor in life; indecision; how my decisions could be made less stressful. I used following scenario to look into this stressor. I imagined that I was out for a walk and suddenly had the urge to buy an orange. There were two shops selling oranges. Both shops charged the same price and both were of equal distance from where I was. Which shop do I choose? It was not as easy a decision to make as I might have thought. All things seeming to be equal, there was a lack of surety about where to go. Ought I to merely flip a coin? But how lacking in responsibly is that? So I amended the scenario.

I now imagined that I was out for a walk and suddenly had the urge to buy an orange. There were two shops selling oranges. Both shops charged the same price and both were of equal distance from where I was - but one shop sold fair trade oranges, the other did not. Which shop do I choose? This was an easier decision to make. The inclusion of a sense of fairness helped me to choose the fair trade shop. Then I added another factor in.

I now imagined that I was out for a walk and suddenly had the urge to buy an orange. There were two shops selling oranges. Both shops charged the same price and both were of equal distance from where I was - but one shop sold fair trade oranges, the other did not. However the fair trade shop owner was a known criminal with a history of short changing customers. Now which shop do I choose? This allowed another dynamic of my decision making to emerge. It began to show how important concepts such as fairness and criminality, or legality were to my making decisions. There was a strange sense that equality might not be the same thing as fairness, and legitimacy was a powerful lever in decision making. Then things became interesting. I confured up another scenario.

Myself and one other person is stranded on a desert island. I collect two coconuts each day. Ought I give the second coconut to the other person, despite only me doing the collecting? It worked from the premise that we both could collect coconuts; the other person just let me do it. A conflict arose, which I believe is felt at one time or another by everyone. It was a conflict tapping in to my morality.

I wondered if should keep both coconuts as the other person was just being lazy. However if I did not give a coconut to them they would weaken and die, leaving me all alone – a negative state of affairs. A dangerous point in my decision making had been reached. What do I choose to do when both choices seem justifiably right to me?

Among the dangers I perceived in relation to my decision making were those of resentment, rage and anger, caused by having to give one choice preference over the other. The dangers I perceived were immediate and potentially long lasting. So what ought I to do? The stakes are theoretically high. They die or I am left alone and more likely to die. I asked myself three questions:

1. How do I decide?

2. How could I decide?

3. How should I decide?

The options to question 1 were:

Defensively, spontaneously, aggressively, violently, noisily and blindingly – tactics which would ensure ‘I get my own way’.

The options to question 2 were:

Maturely, calmly, passively, non-violently, quietly and by not trying to blind those opposing me so as to trick them. I felt passiveness and non-violence were not always healthy options as there are passive-aggressive people and non-violent, yet angry people. I eventually settling on reacting or responding appropriately (to each situation).

This brought me to an agreeable arrangement as regards question 3. How should I decide? The answers were:

Maturely, calmly, assertively, appropriately and fairly (no blinding or distracting). Yet what principles of behaviour could I elicit from this prescriptive way of thinking? The principles I settled on were:

Don’t react. Respond

Take a step back to see the bigger picture

No bullying or heckling

Situations ought to dictate appropriateness

Weigh thing up honestly – no dishonesty

The final step was how to remember these principles. It was here that an inner, quiet voice suggested that I take the first letters of the behaviours; DTNSW and build a Primary Principle. When I asked myself what this could be. The inner, quiet voice said “Dance The New Street Waltz.” Somehow, it just felt right. And that, Ladies and Gentlemen, is how I found a Principles by which to live. I learned to Dance The New Street Waltz.


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