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“The secret of happiness is freedom. The secret of freedom is courage.”
— Thucydides

“A civilization that feels guilty for everything it is and does will lack the energy and conviction to defend itself.”
— Jean-François Revel

"The Lost Generation"

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I have a bad habit of responding to e-mails that I should probably just let slide, as I did again yesterday when this YouTube video was enthusiastically recommended by a relative as “brilliant”. Below is my [diplomatic but fairly direct] reply. Is it just me, or does the tone of this thing bother anyone else?

Thought-provoking video!

I like the clever trick of reversing the words, but it’s hard for me to know what to make of the content, since it seems deeply cynical about the way things are now, and the priorities it appears to disparage are in many ways my own. Both work, as a means of achieving and striving to advance one’s art, and family life are important to me, in balance. Do I have to choose only one? (Interesting that the narrator’s voice sounds female; I wonder, would some object to the seeming implication that she should choose family life over work as the approved-of right thing?) Further, does choosing to focus my considerable efforts on my own life’s aspirations and my family’s well-being and happiness, instead of in some public sector endeavor (is that the implication of “changing the world”?), really make me “apathetic” and “lethargic”? I do not feel “lost” at all, but very much in my element doing exactly what I want and need to be doing, and what is also most likely to contribute something useful to the world.

Money isn’t the most important thing, but it’s a useful means of exchange, and a seemingly indispensible means to an end of achieving the life one wants. Maybe put differently, it certainly isn’t the most important thing … until one doesn’t have enough of it — then it can of course become painfully important. Family comes before money for money’s sake, to be sure, but it would hard to raise a family and realize one’s hopes for them without some measure of it.

I also think we can become better caretakers of the planet without having to beat ourselves up excessively over the things we do and the resources we use to do them. (Seems almost like the ideas of original sin, guilt, and the need to atone for our perceived offenses are deeply embedded in the human mind, even when not expressed in a religious context?) I like the aspiration to do things better and more wisely and efficiently, but that kind of gloomy approach always bothers me.

I do generally agree, and have said so before myself, that many of the essential ingredients of true happiness come from within. Maybe that is the key take-home point that I’m missing in getting hung up on all the rest leading up to it? If nothing else, hearing another’s perspective articulated can help to clarify things one takes for granted about one’s own. Thanks for the interesting video!

I think there’s more troublesome stuff in this that I missed commenting on too. The implication of “work”, for example, seems to be of something that takes unreasonably from one without giving back, rather than being an opportunity to pursue genuinely worthwhile goals and ambitions that produce reward (monetary, spiritual, and in my field technological) for yourself and others.

Guess I’m just glad I’m nowhere near that cynical?

Update: I just noticed that the creator of this clip is apparently still in college, so presumably hasn’t experienced having a career of any kind yet, let alone a fulfilling one. Maybe that explains the focus on money issues instead of achievement and fulfillment?