Romantics and Pragmatists: Chapter two - What's the point of living?

Costa Mesa, California                                                                                                                                (c) Lea Winkler
Chapter two takes a look at the discipline of some Americans, with the author even acknowledging that many Americans are more disciplined than he is. But questioning whether discipline does not cause you to sacrifice life.

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I like to relax. I’m not going to deny it, even if the people around me are different. I like to slouch on the sofa, sleep late, hang out with my partner, friends, even family. I understand that I will not be any great success. I won’t achieve anything impressive or be praised by society or the media. Even worse, many of the people closest to me will be somewhat critical, especially since my behavior is at odds with the accepted norm in urban Euro-American circles.

Before I defend my attitude, let me imagine that the exact opposite is possible for me to achieve. Blinding success. In the best possible way. Here is what I perceive to be an idealized career. I go to graduate school in a field of the arts in a large city. After meeting influential future talents and graduating, I begin to work for a small-to-midsized company in this field of the arts. I do a good job of networking, marry another high potential, and steadily rise up the ranks of what is a growing company due to my connections and innovative ideas. Thanks to my successful maneuvering, the company becomes basically an opinion maker in the field of the arts, defining taste, the avant-garde, anointing the next generation of creators, etc.

Another idealized career path could be in technology or any other field. The process will largely be the same, but the outcome would be CEO or something of that sort with lots of wealth.
Make no mistake about it. People who follow these paths are very ambitious, motivated, driven, talented, interesting, etc. I do not want to belittle or make fun of them in any way. Talking with them can be a great pleasure (as long as they are not too tired to think). They are usually polite and engaged. They do not have a lot of time, but when you meet them in a social setting, they are very friendly and ready to listen.

I do not belong to this group. That does not make be a bad person. It does not make me uninteresting. It does not make me, in all cases, the exact opposite of what I have described above in relation to this type of person.

One issue I take with this is the assumption that the individual can shape the course of history, the development of mankind, improve the future. Another is the question whether the point of life for most of us is this career trajectory or something else. If it is something else, what is it and what are its comparable merits? 

(to be continued)

Yuri Smirnov
April 2014

Further reading
Yuri Smirnov. How a Russian Sees America. February 24.
Yuri Smirnov. A Russian's View of America: What Do You Have That We Don't? March 4.
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