The Answer Paradigm

You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.

~Albert Camus

For me, there is a certain comfort in believing that there are right answers in life and some grand meaning to the universe. It aligns with my feeling of having a purpose in life. I know that I’m not the only person who feels this way. Just as I mentioned in my previous post about perfection (The Perfection Predicament), things are easier to codify and comprehend in binary. Moreover, you can accurately judge how well you are doing in comparison to others. This is equivalent to grading yourself in school, and therein lies the rub.As children, we are raised to compare ourselves no only to our classmates, but to some unwavering rubric created by our teachers. As a child, I don’t remember caring as much about grades. I read and learned because I wanted to. But when I started intermediate school, and I started caring about how others perceived me, grades became a way for me to know that I had worth, because I could see how I stacked up against the system. When there was a clearly defined bar, that grade became an indicator of success; it meant that I had value and purpose. It was a way to identify myself. This is not the same for everyone, of course. Others find different ways to establish identity, including rebelling against the education system. I was lucky to have the strong, solid education that I had. I thank my passionate and caring teachers.

As an educator I saw the system from the inside, and I saw how polluted it was becoming. Under the guise of process, the system has become procedural and boring. Rather than there being one goal, there are many smaller goals and a rubric for each one. In my opinion, this only means more focus on “the grade” and attempts to create an army of results-oriented drones. The natural response of most students in a situation like that is to “check out” and distance themselves from learning. This is exacerbated by parents who lack involvement in their child’s education, except when their grades are poor. Parents then complain to teachers. Teachers that are already inundated with rigid structure from above, forcing many of them to either give up their principles in the name of the grade or fight an endless struggle. Many have opted to bow out of the fight.

While the methodology of “many small goals” is commendable and can help productivity, this GTD (getting things done) society puts us at risk of losing our humanity. Life becomes a list of tasks, and it is easy to lose sight of the big picture. It is already within human nature to compare ourselves to each other… why must we fuel the fire? It is so easy to define ourselves by numbers and determine who has led the better life. We have made learning a rigorous and lifeless process. Look at the world today and see how many people are trying to circumvent that rigidity. On TV, look at the people who are trying to become famous and successful by getting exposure. Throngs of people trying to showcase their natural talent, coming from unassuming backgrounds. We envy them for their talent, presuming that they have always had it. There is danger in this as not all of them have the training necessary for demands that might be put on them by cheating the system. People, especially the younger generation, also use the Internet to find a place to belong. On the surface, we see people expressing themselves and sharing their talents, but numbers still lie at the root of it all… Likes, shares, followers. We’re back to numbers… quantifying the quality of life.

There are no grades in life; numbers eventually amount to nothing. There are so many things that you cannot quantify. How can you truly put a number on a person’s value? How do you rate someone’s beauty? Talent? Compassion? We try, we definitely try. But it is so subjective. There are far too many factors that contribute to who a person is as a human being. There is nothing as unscientific as the life of a person. People will like you; people will hate you. It’s a struggle for people to be objective. Let’s free ourselves of these shackles; I know I am trying hard to do so. As a person who has lived most of my life striving for the right answer and seeking the certainty of my worth in this life, it is an enormous challenge.

I am working toward the belief that you don’t need to work hard to have worth. Just being here, alive, is quite an amazing feat. Think of all the people that value your presence and include you in their lives. Rather than comparing ourselves to others, we should be looking at how much we have grown since yesterday.

As I start on this journey as a performer, I realize it’s very hard to not take things personally. Because you are essentially selling yourself in every audition, every “no” can break you apart and make you feel that you are not worthy. Each audition results in an answer, and a majority of them will be no. I am trying to change my thought process and just be excited to share me and everything that I bring to the table. They may not like it, or they might but realize that I am better suited to another project. Their reasons for not liking me could be as fickle as looking like their ex-husband. There is no reason to get caught up on the answer, but enjoy the process and the fact that I get to ply my craft every time I put myself out there.

Life is an amazing journey. Don’t get caught up in trying to find the answer, because you won’t find it. Revel in the path and the steps you take each day… Live, learn, and enjoy.

Pedro Kaʻawaloa
Pedro Kaʻawaloa

Pedro Kaʻawaloa has a BA in Music from Harvard University. He is a professional performer and music director, as well as a choir conductor, pianist, musician, teacher, and composer. Pedro is also a fitness and mindfulness enthusiast.

Articles: 9


    • I’d be honored, Bernaldo! These posts have been good for me to work on my writing, and get some thoughts off my mind. If they can be inspirational and thought-provoking for others, I would love to hear what responses people have.
      I hope all is well with you and yours at home. I hope one day we can meet up again… and I can hear you sing too!

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