Monday, October 11, 2010

Trophies Trophies Everywhere...

I've been wracking my brains trying to figure out the best way to respond to Kevin's really sharp comment on the second to last post. I think "sisyphean" is a great shorthand for our situation. The problems seem insurmountable. What I'm trying to figure out, then, is whether our purpose or (in more fatalistic terms) destiny can be something that is thrust upon us, as opposed to something we choose. We didn't choose to inherit the world with its ridiculous challenges. We didn't choose to be born when and where we did (how many of us would choose to be born in a different time or place if we could?). Yet of course here we are, staring down the barrel of a gun we don't even know who's holding, thus faced with the reality that the world's problems must become our problems or else. This idea is unsettling to me and to many of my generation (and I think Kevin articulates the unsettling nature of our position). But I think we're a generation that places an enormous amount of importance on personal choice. We like to think and believe that we are free and autonomous beings who have total control over our destiny. Of course, a moment's reflection reveals this isn't so, that we are bound in many ways, and that freedom becomes merely an exercise in choosing among the best of the many lesser or greater goods. So how can we be physically, emotionally, and spiritually invested in a cause that was not ours, but only became ours because if we don't address the myriad problems facing the global community, we will all be destroyed? Where does the motivation for investment come from in a pan-trophy world?
In a related vein, it's entirely possible that as a Calvinist I have an entirely too grim view of human nature, but I'm just not convinced that our generation is a global problem solving generation, that it really cares to reach out beyond itself and its micro-needs to become invested in macro-needs. I don't think it's because we aren't capable of caring; I just think that as Kevin and Duncan both alluded to, we have been inculcated from an early age to measure success in terms of micro (me-based) accomplishment instead of macro (us-based) accomplishment. And the problem for me is I just don't see where that turn happens, where that change happens, which I guess is what Kevin is saying - "how do we realize the change that we need?" I think it starts from a recognition, a REAL recognition, not just a scholarly and removed acknowledgement, that we need a change. It starts with the education system, with broadening the definion of success. Do we like trophies? Yes, of course. But it seems to me that the trophy at the end of the youth soccer season was always something cursory (perhaps this is because my soccer team lost almost every game every season). I guess I just had the good fortune, through the repeated defeats year after year, to disassociate the trophy with success. I didn't play the game for the trophy - it just happened along the way. Do we need trophies? From time to time, perhaps, so that we know we're on the right track. Should we strive for a trophy-less world? Maybe. But the motivators for success on an "us" basis always have to come from an understanding of the "us" and our role within it. Perhaps it is a lack of that understanding that causes the lostness. Sorry if that all seemed rather scattered, I'm still thinking through all this. Thoughts?

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