Saturday, February 11, 2012

Growing Up Absurd

Last night I went to see a documentary/biography of Paul Goodman entitled "Paul Goodman Changed My Life". It was quite an interesting film to be sure and I'd certainly recommend watching it. Seeing the film was my first exposure to Paul Goodman and his most famous work, "Growing Up Absurd"- a book about the problems of disaffected youth in relation to society. Since the film was the first I'd ever heard of either Paul Goodman or the book, I've obviously not read the work, though it is certainly in my plans to do so.

The director of the film was at the Dryden last night and was on hand to take questions and discuss the film. We couldn't stay for all of the discussion but if we could have, I'd have asked if the director, or anyone who had read the book, saw any correlation between the youth of the mid-late 60's (the book was released in 1968) and the youth/young people of today. Obviously, the late 60's was an extremely volatile time. It's quite understandable that the youth of that generation would feel disaffected, disconnected from their country/government, angry, feeling they had been sold a lie, perhaps. I suppose I ask the question because I notice a similar disaffectation among young people today.

I'd say it's safe to believe that we, too, have been sold a lie, albeit a different lie from that of the 50's and 60's. We were told from the beginning that we could do anything, be anything we wanted. From an early age the idea that the world is completely open for our taking, we are capable of anything-any profession is within our reach if we want it. This idea is great for opening up one's imagination and for creating dreamers, which is necessary, otherwise you'd never have any invention or forward progress. But this idea, however, is a lie. We can't be and do whatever we want. No matter what you believe about creation/evolution, each person is programmed with specific skill sets. This is necessary to propel life forward. Everyone has a job and a place within society/community to keep it flowing. This is true among the animals, too. A worker bee in a hive cannot be the queen. He wasn't made for that job, he was programmed for a different, yet equally important task. No one told him he could be the queen bee if he wanted it badly enough. That's absurd! So I believe it's true in human society as well. I cannot be an astronaut. My brain simply isn't wired to understand all that is necessary to understand in order to navigate space. Do I find space and space travel absolutely fascinating? Yes indeedy. But I'm incapable of the responsibilities of that job.

I believe that this lie has created apathy, laziness and a feeling of disconnect and lack of purpose among people of my generation and younger-those in their mid-late twenties. When the world is your oyster, it's difficult to choose what to do. This is the same reason why it takes my patients an hour to choose a prize after their dental work. There are simply too many choices. The pressure is really piled on starting around junior year of high school to start looking at colleges and really think about what you want to do. Of course, college is practically mandated so you have to go, and you have to choose a major at some point if not in the first year or so. Because we've been told we can do/be anything the likelihood of choosing something that befits our strengths is not always high. And if we've chosen poorly, failure to succeed is almost guaranteed. This creates an enormous stress. No one likes to be or feel like a failure. Plus you can just add on the stress of wasted money, either yours but more likely your parents, who are also disappointed. Hookah hookah hookah, disaffectation!! This is apparently a word I've just made up because it keeps giving me the little red squiggly underneath.

Anyway, I pointed out in the beginning that I've not read the book. I'd like to read it and revisit this idea and see for myself what correlations there may be. As a parent, I feel it's an important thing to consider. How will I raise the girls to find their place in society without them feeling like a cog or that they've been stripped of the ability to dream and imagine. That's what makes us human and individual. Yes, we all have our place and purpose in contribution to society, but I kind of agree with Ayn Rand, that our entire purpose is not to morph into the greater good of all society to the point that the individual is lost. The individual is vastly important. But that is a post for another time. This one is already long enough!

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Stroky Beard Talk

I take issue with the idea that one would choose against Christianity, or any religion as far as that goes, on the sole basis that there are poor examples of Christianity/those who profess affiliation with a religion in the world. Please note that I do not take offense, rather, noting that this has been a topic of discussion in a few different settings over the last month or so.

I'd start by saying simply that I have no personal opinion on what religion, or lack thereof, people decide to associate with. I do not walk around trying to win the world for Christ, nor do I feel it's my job to rescue people from the jaws of hell, and my own "brand " of understanding Christianity is pretty minimalist. Therefore, I feel relatively unemotionally attached to the discussion beyond simply enjoying the conversation.

That said, I'd really like to engage this idea of rejecting a system of belief because it's members are just bad examples of it. As a sole basis for rejection, I think it's lazy. Every single one of us is guilty of not practicing what we preach as the saying goes. For instance, as a hygienist, I constantly drive into my patients not to drink pop because it's really harmful to your teeth. And almost every day, I'll go home and drink a big fat can of Coke. And I rarely brush before bed. I've set a bad example. For one to look at my behavior and subsequently judge that dentistry is categorically horrid and refuse to participate is silly.

Now I realize that that metaphor can only apply to an extent and that I've grossly simplified the problem. But, in a sense it is that simple. The problem with this rationale is that it grants other people a ridiculous amount of power that they simply shouldn't have. As adults we are all fully capable of making decisions for ourselves. To allow others the power to make our decisions for us is irresponsible and does not allow for growth.

I rather think that bad examples of Christians are actually just bad examples of humanity in general. It would be ridiculous to say one rejects humanity because there are humans who are behaving poorly. Humans will always behave poorly in some respect or another. I recognize that it's more apparent when some humans who are behaving poorly are also riding the high horse of religious morality. I also recognize that was a super clunky sentence but I don't care enough to go back and rewrite it.

I've not turned a blind eye to some very real situations and hardships that lead people away from a system of belief. There are some very public religious folk who, behind closed doors lead a very different life. Some of those folk are in positions of power and take advantage of others. Some of those people are responsible for a great deal of hurt. I've been on the wrong end of a church lynch mob. It sucks and it hurts and in some respects I'm still dealing with the fallout of that some 8 years later. I believe I'll always carry a little of it around with me, if nothing more than to remember how not to be. Having come out on the other side, though, I waded through all the bullshit and looked at all the people who behaved grossly out of turn and still found something worth pursuing a little. That's my story, though. I take no issue with people having an honest look and deciding not to look any further. That's their story. And we can be friends and coexist peacefully, each living our stories in the way that makes the best sense. I see no reason why others living their lives differently need be threatening.

I guess my point is that it's irresponsible to ourselves to decide against a way of life simply because some other people who ascribe to that way have behaved poorly. People will always find a way to fuck it up. That's life. We can only be responsible for ourselves and cannot choose other's actions for them. While other's actions sometimes do have an effect on our lives, it's only up to us to decide how much power that has over us.