Well, that was a good trip: two interesting conferences, some fun in between, family and friends along the way. I loved most of the places we visited, both cities and wilder areas.
Try as I might to feel otherwise, the landscape of this part of the eastern US is just never going to make me feel the way that the west does.
Itâ€™s an old, old observation, but this is one of the bigger kick in the teeth you can give to liberal or contractual ideas about personhood, or to conventional formulations of rational choice theory, even the â€œbounded rationalitiesâ€ form. At 22, I knew some of the general things I needed to know about my own personality and preferences. So I chose to pursue graduate study: that was a pretty sound choice, a good understanding of my own nature and likely skills. I didnâ€™t understand how graduate school actually was, but in the longer term academia, with all its faults, has been as good a place as any for me. I understood enough about my relationship with my wife to commit to her, and that too has been a great choice. Though even there, a good relationship thrives not because the two people in it stay the same as they were when they first met, but because they change in relationship to one another.
But there are things you canâ€™t know. You canâ€™t know how some choices unforeseeably preclude others, or how the stars of your desire are going to align. Your younger self makes choices for your older self, even when theyâ€™re choices the older self wouldnâ€™t necessarily make. This is not a big deal when it comes to being in a mild state of middle-aged funk while roaming around the mountains of Oregon or in a Portland neighborhood, comparing your own lived environment unfavorably to them, and knowing that the comparison is one that youâ€™re powerless to do anything about. Itâ€™s worth a mumble or two and then back to the everyday business of a satisfying life. (But: while I agree with some of the comments in an earlier thread that Philadelphia has good farmer’s markets, really, the big farmer’s market in the old ferry building near the Embarcadero in San Francisco puts them all to shame.)
However, it is a big deal when weâ€™re talking about living wills or other profound statements we make about the disposition of our lives: this was one of the legitimate subsurface questions that burbled up during the Schiavo fracas. Then you really have to acknowledge that our conception of a continuous individual is a powerful but possibly untrustworthy fiction in some ways.