On Living Deeply

I’ve often seen this quote used as an inspiring motivator:

“Life is not a journey to the grave with intentions of arriving safely in a pretty well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out and loudly proclaiming … WOW! What a ride!”

Most people would probably interpret that as, “Do a lot of what you want and have as much fun as possible.”  Not me.

I like the sentiment, but I like it because I hope to see myself ending like that as a result of achieving goals, serving others, and leaving a positive mark on the world: stuff that requires sacrifice and consistent hard work.

It reminds me of this quote from Thoreau: “I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately, I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, To put to rout all that was not life and not when I had come to die discover that I had not lived.”

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(Don’t) Be Yourself

In an episode of The Simpsons, Lisa tries to warn Homer about becoming obsessed with revenge on an animal, citing Moby Dick as an illustration of such a foolish course of action.  “Oh, Lisa,” Homer breezily corrects her.  “The point of Moby Dick was ‘be yourself.'” 

The joke is based on Homer’s character–a lazy, entitled idiot who swallows whole everything Hollywood feeds him (remember his movie-addled mindset in “Homer Goes to College?”) and, therefore, thinks the world revolves around him.  Homer thinks the point of everything is “be yourself.”

Many a Simpsons episode has poked fun at our tendency to accept ourselves as we are, conveniently declaring that our natural state is good enough.  For example:

  • “Bart’s Inner Child”–After being suckered by a self-help guru, Springfield puts on a feel-good festival which nobody prepared properly because they felt their automatic impulses should be validated, i.e. nobody wanted to work and nobody should judge them for it.  The festival is a chaotic disaster.
  • “Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala(Annoyed Grunt)cious”–After suffering a nervous breakdown from stress, Marge hires a Mary Poppins-like servant to help the family.  Despite her magical powers and inspirational attitude, the Simpsons persist in dysfunction, until the nanny gives up and tells them just to do what’s natural, suggesting (for instance), sweeping garbage around the house under the rug, because, “It’s the American way!”
  • “Homer’s Enemy”–After a life of suffering, sacrifice, and hard work, the new guy at the power plant can’t believe how successful Homer is despite his total incompetence, which nobody else seems to care about.  At the episode’s end, he goes insane and dies; at his funeral, Homer is childish and oblivious, and everybody laughs with him.  My favorite episode. 

These jokes work for the simple, obvious reason that our culture is awash in the message that we’re entitled to high self esteem, that the American Dream now encompasses self-realization and total, universal acceptance.  Continue reading

Obama’s Education Speech Gets An A+

I’m no fan of Barack Obama’s platforms or policies, and I admit that I had reservations about his plan to address American school children live, but his speech was a flawless home run.  I don’t say this as a teacher or as a parent, but as a conservative.

I did not show the speech in my class–I had a lesson to teach and the students had work to do–but I hope they looked up the text later on in the day, like I did.

Listening to the radio yesterday afternoon and checking out a few news sites just made me sick that so many on the right would indulge in such petty vitriol over the speech after the fact.  Bottom line, a Republican could have given that speech and it still would have been great.  Be willing to give credit where it’s due. 

One complaint that surprised me yesterday is that the speech will do no good.  Well, maybe not.  But Barrack Obama is the world’s biggest celebrity, a bona fide pop icon, and if he wants to use his status to try to sell kids on hard work, responsibility, and good old fashioned duty, then I say, more power to him.  Continue reading