Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Running From Reality into the Arms of Fantasy

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to so desperate things.  Thoreau

For me, the most beneficial thing about reading is that eureka moment when something you previously read meshes with something you are currently reading and confirms the assumptions and suppositions you may have about a topic. Now, it’s true that we often look for self-fulfilling prophecies as a way of legitimizing our original thoughts, but when we challenge ourselves to find truth any progress is a goal accomplished. It’s easy to live in the make believe world. There’s no death and sadness, people never let you down, and we can shirk any self doubt that plagues us in the real world. The truth is: life is hard. Cornel West often quotes Plato and Malcolm X to make this point (The unexamined life is not worth living.-Plato) (The examined life is hard.- Malcolm X) As a society we try to put forth this outward image of strength that at times is a fallacy. I can bench press over 300 pounds, but that doesn't make me strong. I cry more now than I have since I was a toddler. I think compassion is a better indicator of strength than any physical feat. Philosophers and theologians have tried to define and articulate the meaning of life since the beginning of time. You would think that all of those brilliant minds could have come to some definitive conclusion, but that would be the farthest thing from the truth. Eventually we all have to look inside of ourselves for the answers. Our dogmas can steer us in the right direction, but ultimately we have to decide what is the meaning of "our" life. Having a career is one thing having a vocation is something different. If the fruit of your labor doesn't enrich the lives of those you come in contact with then your work is in vain. The truly blessed among us are those who are able to earn a living while fulfilling the duties of their calling. If we love people and allow that love to shape our decisions we are all successful. The bar has been moved for some time concerning success. The acquisition of wealth and material goods isn't success without virtue being at the center of your soul. There are and always will be a lot of wealthy tyrants, bigots, and thugs- the economically depressed don't have a monopoly on those negative attributes. Recently, I saw a statement from the CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch that he made some time back about the marketing campaign employed by their company. Basically they market to the "beautiful" people. They don't make women's clothing in plus sizes and won't employ anyone who is less than "attractive". I know this is a free country, but this is the kind of fantasy that we are sold everyday. These clothes are a symbol of success based on the criteria accepted by our distracted pop-culture. This company has a right to market their product anyway they want, but don't equate yourself with success when you've used sweatshops to make your clothes and have practiced blatant racism and classicism as an employment policy. I feel sorry for the kids who  are caught up in this kind of rhetoric. Some think the holey jeans they are wearing make them successful; meanwhile, some 15 or 16 year old girl finds herself on the outside of "success" looking in. This is just another example of the good life being falsely sold to us. I want to close this with a quote from Kant: Laziness and cowardice are the reasons why such a large part of mankind gladly remain minors all their lives, long after nature has freed them from external guidance. They are the reasons why it is so easy for others to set themselves up as guardians. It is so comfortable to be a minor. If I have a book that thinks for me, a pastor who acts as my conscience, a physician who prescribes my diet, and so on--then I have no need to exert myself. I have no need to think, if only I can pay; others will take care of that disagreeable business for me.