I was surprised to read a smart quote by an 18 year old graffiti artist that you may know as Borf:
Borf often finished his graffiti early in the morning, just in time to see a spectacle he despises — rush hour. “People all heading downtown,” he said. “Like, it’s ridiculous if you think about it. Like, Orwellian-ridiculous. And they do this with so-called free will.”
It is ridiculous (though maybe not as ridiculous as choosing property defacement as your means of enlightening the masses). Being raised in the American middle class leaves little room for a creative life. You go to high school, sit through student council meetings, attend college, have unprotected sex, and then eventually get a real job, until your body starts giving up on you in your sixties. A wise Turkish man once told me, “In America, you are supposed to work hard in your best years to have money for when you are old and half-dead.” He didn’t really understand why people accepted this model of living – the “American dream” – but it’s something that we all have accepted.
Columnist Mark Morford has it right:
Work hard and the world respects you. Work hard and you can have anything you want. Work really extra super hard and do nothing else but work and ignore your family and spend 14 hours a day at the office and make 300 grand a year that you never have time to spend, sublimate your soul to the corporate machine and enjoy a profound drinking problem and sporadic impotence and a nice 8BR mini-mansion you never spend any time in, and you and your shiny BMW 740i will get into heaven.
Is this guy jealous of successful people or does he see something that average people can not understand? One of my favorite bartenders recently left the city to be a bartender in Greece, living one day at a time with uncertainty in an unfamiliar place. I asked her why she was doing it and she just shrugged, “You only get one life.” It’s a romantic ideal that I’m sure many of us dream about, but one that none of us will actually do. Our molded brains start asking the obvious, practical questions: “How is she going to save for retirement? What is she going to do when she gets old and can’t bartend?” A person who doesn’t know what she’s doing in three months is unlikely to plan for old age, and while that may be crazy and stupid, it is what separates us from them.
As I get older I’m finding it impossible to shrug off my parents wisdom as mere old-people talk. Their life will mirror your life in some way, for after all they are you. I asked my dad what is point of our existence, what should I be doing to lead a fulfilling life, and how work fits into it all. He simply said, “Just enjoy the time you’re here.” It’s hard to really answer how much I’m enjoying this very moment as I sit in front of a computer screen, but that’s a question that I’m sure everyone can ask themselves.