Monday, July 24, 2006

mad world

mad world

No, this isn't just the title of one of my favorite songs (the original and the Gary Jules version), it also happens to be how I feel at the moment.

Ive been struggling to figure out how and what to write about all that has happened in the news over the past week.
The best Ive been able to come up with is,
"Its bad."

I was hoping that a return to my trusty desk in midtown would stimulate focus and produce words that, until now, have escaped me.
It hasnt.

I am still overwhelmingly saddened and frustrated by the state of things.
Syria, Isreal, Lebanon, the US, the EU. It's a discouraging mess to say the least.
I dont even want to read the news anymore.
I do, but I dont want to.
Maybe this afternoon inspiration will flow and Ill find myself replete with words again, but its too soon to tell.

I'm better at speaking on smaller, more personal points of reflection anyway.

That being said, I have a friend who just got back from a trip to the far reaches of Mongolia.
This friend happens to be one of the smartest people I know. He attended two top Ivy League colleges, graduating from the first as a doctor specializing in neuroscience, and the second as a lawyer specializing in corporate law. He currently works at one of the leading firms in the nation, has a great Manhattan apartment, gets three hours of sleep a night, and is, as he puts it, his client's "bitch."

Over coffee yesterday, I got a peek into his world via his Blackberry:
"We need you here at 8pm tonight to go over the new draft,"
"Where are you?"
"I called your home, your office, and your cell."
"Why arent you picking up?"
"Get back to me immediately."
"We're going to need you earlier than we thought."
"Pick up your phone."

Coming from a poor immigrant family, my friend is, on paper at least, living the American dream.
He is successful and accomplished; a self-made man who has worked hard to get where he is.
He is also 34, single, and miserable: his own words.

All he really wants to do is be a playwright.
He reveres the works of Ionesco, Beckett, and Albee.
The fact that he gravitates towards authors representitive of the theater of the absurd is, i think, quite telling.

As he is currently not a professional playwright, he finds relief from his day to day existence by escaping to regions of the world that have voluntarily resisted the systems and ideologies of capitalism that have dominated the mental, spiritual, and physical landscape of his life up to this point.
Mongolia, he tells me, maintains a refreshing flavor of its communist roots, and the people there seem genuinely happy just to be and live as they are with what they have.

All this leads me to again consider our lives here in this country.
For a place that values freedom and democracy to the point of feeling the need to impose it on other nations, America is remarkably mute on the topic of what exactly freedom is.

Is freedom being chained to an all-consuming job so that one can pay off the formidable debt accrued in the process of acquiring an education- an education that the government supports and funds minimally (they just raised interest rates to an unprecedentedly high 6.8%)- in order that we may one day retire, close to debt-free, without surplus funds or the benefit of a government that will take care of us in our old age?
Is freedom the ravenous hunger of greed and discontent?
Is freedom blind competition at the expense of most of mankind?

Im all for the pioneering spirit that this country was founded on, and has embodied since its inception.
I only feel that that spirit needs refocusing.
We need to comprehensively redefine freedom as a hopefully positive force of universally beneficial change, not a narrowly self-centered force of destruction.
As they said in the 80s, we need to think big-
A whole lot bigger than we're thinking now.

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“Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.” -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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