Thursday, August 26, 2010
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
This week The New York Times published a titanic article about the a new category in developmental psychology entitled "emerging adulthood." They go on to characterize this population as people who return to live with parents, go through jobs quickly, are not in committed relationships, and are generally unstable. The writer, Robin Henig, concludes that though there is no desire to coddle this group of people, they clearly need some additional help.
Of course, I feel particularly compelled to comment on this trend because it describes me relatively well. I've dodged the bullet of living with my parents, but I'm not in a relationship, I've gone through several jobs, and I have a bachelors degree. What strikes me as so odd about this article is that there is no mention of the great things we were doing as teenagers. People had a lot of hope in our generation. Just a few years ago we were breaking records for community service and being characterized as overachievers academically and athletically. We were ready to be a force in our world.
And now we are being characterized as a group that has been looking for itself so long that its been lost. It seems so unfair. Not to mention, it sounds like a little projection from the Boomers.
Clearly something else is going on here. For myself, I can say that I'm educated and looked long and hard for a position that was well-aligned with my career goals. Instead I work harder than I ever have in my life and make pennies above minimum wage. I'm not terribly bitter about it anymore. I really like my job and I'm getting used to the fact that the effort me and my family put into my education just didn't have an obvious, immediate impact on my value in the work place. So many of the people I graduated with are in similar places doing landscaping, working retail, waiting tables. These are labor intensive jobs. Hard work that doesn't facilitate constant floundering or flakiness, even if it is at worst transitional work.
I've never understood economics, but it seems that is the only missing piece of the puzzle. My generation isn't diseased with extended adolescence. We've worked hard while we've been on this planet. We were the first people to grow up with a concept of sustainability and consumerism. Instead, we are suffering the consequences of a misguided, grown-up, "me generation."
Monday, August 23, 2010
I was hoping to like Marilynne Robinson's book Home as much as I liked Gilead. Gilead is unforgivingly sentimental and not at all cynical. Every sentence is perfectly crafted. Not a single word is dispensasbile. This beauty and purposefulness is particularly graceful as it is the memoir of dying Rev. John Ames for his young son.
Home follows the story of Ames' friend Rev. Robert Boughton; Ames' namesake, Jack Boughton; and his sister Glory Boughton.
Jack has returned home after twenty years. His youth was fraught with petty theft, alcohol, and miscellaneous mischief and he has no doubt followed that road to its natural extension.
Ames seems to brim with goodness, thoughtfulness, grace. The goal is of his missive would certainly communicate these sentiments. Jack is equally sympathetic, its the peripheral characters I have a harder time understanding. He is perpetually trying to spare people from his life, rarely passing up an opportunity to be kind, and is ultimately crushed by the guilt of his past and compelled to drink. But no one, not even his sister Glory who has set her goal on knowing and loving her brother, helps him forgive himself. Forgiveness is such an important theme that it seems unnatural to have such an omission. Poor Jack is so busy getting forgiveness from everyone else, seeing himself from everyone else's eyes, that he is incapable of expecting anything but the worst from himself and therefore living in perdition.
What most naturally appeals to me about Robinson is her ability to seamlessly interject important pieces of philosophy and theology into her text. I was compelled to look up the proper definition of "perdition." Home poses a Calvinistic question regarding the existence of predestination. Jack has never been successful at much of anything. His idea of of himself combines fate and personal accountability, creating a life of hopeful, lofty expectations and, consequentially, failure. Jack constantly questions whether it was his fate to live among the dregs of society. Unfortunately, Jack's guilt is so blinding that he undoubtedly believes it is fate, only Glory will discover the truth of Jack's life and its ultimate goodness. Like so much of life, additional feedback is required to take better stock of our lives. Hopefully,by the grace of Christ, the goodness of the event will find him metaphysically, karmically.
There is a goodness that radiates from these books. A sense of love and peace that leaps from the page. In Gilead much of that was because of the century of family history and back story. It is much easier to achieve sympathy when the whole story is conveyed. Who knows why this grace was granted to a character who has lived a more or less "good" life rather than a "bad" one.
Monday, August 16, 2010
I have some relatively strange reasons for choosing veganism. I've always wanted to be a vegetarian and have dabbled in it here and there. Veganism always sounded entirely too extreme. Factory farming aside, its not like it hurts a cow to get milked or a chicken to give an egg.
My life has been pretty crazy lately and all of a sudden I'm faced with more options than I've ever had. I've gotten rid of most possessions and got out of a relationship. Intentionally or otherwise I've lost so many things. Suddenly I could do anything I've ever wanted. A friend gave me some existentialist advice. "Freedom enslaves you because there are too many choices and you are solely responsible for them." I had to start with just one choice. Something I would have to deal with every day that would limit my options.
The result is something I'm very proud of. Even when I am most hard on myself, I know I am doing something that is good for the world and for myself. This month I've probably spent less than $80 on food. I've lost a good bit of weight. This definitely wasn't the goal, but I do feel better. I have more energy to deal with this $h!t storm.
I'm hoping that over the next thirty days I'll have some more substantial reasons. Perhaps this process will make me more conscientious about every aspect of my life, my connection to the world, and everything in it.