Banished, Part 2

G.D. left this comment on the previous post:

> There are many brave people who just pick up and go for their dreams…is that the secret to achieve greatness??…Fearless belief in one’s dreams?

Not that I actually know anything about the mysteries of living, but yeah, that’s the secret. There’s more to it, though.We all get to roll the dice in life. We are not limited by the rules as to how many times we can roll them, but we have to live with the results each time. So let’s say you’re Bill Gates and you and your buddy Paul purchase the rights to a computer operating system (DOS) for $10,000, because they love working with computers and software. Paul geeks around with it in his garage for a while, and you go to IBM to see if maybe they’d like to license it for their new “personal computer.” Turns out they not only want to license it, but they decide they will not restrict the patents on their machine, thus allowing everybody and his Dutch uncle to build PC clones, all of which need a copy of your operating system. Millions of machines in just a few years, and you are getting thirty bucks for every one of them. Whatever you (Bill) had to do to get that initial ten grand, your roll of the dice has paid off.

But if any number of lucky things had not happened, Bill and Paul would simply be out ten thousand dollars. They would be free to try again, of course, as many times as they wanted, but each time the money would be harder to get, and they would have a little less youthful exuberance. Maybe one of their rolls would work out, and maybe not. You can see that doing what they love to do is no guarantee of success. In this case IBM had to cooperate big time.

We all get the same opportunity to roll. Some are better prepared or bankrolled by their parents, or they happen to try something that they are really good at, or they’re just plain lucky. Some roll craps the first time out, and have to roll again. Some roll craps enough times that they have no heart, no money and no time left to roll again.

Often they have taken on more responsibilities in their lives. They have a car payment, rent or mortgage, maybe some kids to feed and care for. If the dice haven’t been breaking for them, at some point they simply must stop thinking about whatever the fuck it is they love to do, and get a job with a steady paycheck. You know what we all think of those who don’t, right? We think they are lazy, stupid, cheating bums.

Trouble is, these steady paychecks usually are not attached to dream careers. Most of the time they are not careers at all, even though you end up doing them for the rest of your life. They are just useless, boring time-wasters, functions that must be done in order for some store or restaurant or office or landfill to stay in business. Not everybody in these jobs is a dull schlump, either, so don’t go jumping to that conclusion. You’ll often find fine, creative folks doing crummy jobs, because they can’t bring themselves to keep dreaming up new lifequests and rolling again and again, because they can no longer afford to take the chances they could when they were just starting out, because others are depending on them now, or because they simply can’t put together a head of steam to make another run, or because they have been burned once too often, and they need to play it safe.

Fearless belief in your dreams is the main ingredient. It makes you willing to do anything to see them fulfilled. But you gotta be lucky with the dice, too.

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32 Replies to “Banished, Part 2”

  1. Larry, you should charge an entrance fee…this blog is sometimes that good.

    Don’t think I haven’t noticed…First you create a major political debate on my blog (“we” need you back BTW), a socio-cultural one at Aydree’s and now another one here. Hmmm…Is this the beginning of THE revolution we’ve been speaking of?? If so, I’m all over it and I got the queue. If not, this better not be the beginning of some meme. Damn the memes!!

    I like how you brought a certain je ne sais quoi to the “useless, boring, time-wasters” of the world. I will never look at those mindless fucks the same way again.

    Seriously and at the risk of being stoned off my soapbox, I’m one of those sick people that thinks that I am here to be challenged…constantly. This is how we grow, endure and eventually, succeed. These burnout dreamers that you speak of, yes, lets all be nice to them. They’ve had a hard life and after all, they gave it a try. However, one could argue (for the sake of discussion), that perhaps they didn’t want their dreams bad enough. That maybe they went at it “half-ass”…several times. OK, maybe they were just unlucky, but I’m not convinced. Their frustration and isolation is the product of humanity.

    I think billions of people are living below their potential; becoming servers of the system. Perhaps that’s why people cling on to faith so blindly, hoping that a merciful ghost hands them a set of “spiritual cohones”, so that they may overcome their obstacles. But prayer should be accompanied by action…Maybe if they showed mercy to others. Helping others achieve their dreams; making sure others are safe and nurtured so that they can get a roll at the dice too. Like a social infection of kindness. You help me with my dream and I’ll help you with yours. “You have no food…how could you go at your dream that way?…Here have some of mine”. We could all reach our dreams that way. But I mustn’t digress.

    I have seen and read about a rare breed of dreamers that go at it, time and time again, one fall after the next, eventually getting there. Their struggle and unwillingness to give up, make their climb to the peak ever so sweet.

    Personally, I rather be a mindless fuck, out there, basking in the glory of mediocrity and ignorance, than a burned out dreamer that’s given up.

  2. Well said, Larry. You’ve just sown up a few loose end doubts I’ve had.

    Everyday I come in to my job and I read the emails and watch as the company asks and takes more from me without giving me back anything more for the aggravation and I think, “Hey, I can do this. This is safe and I take what they give me and I go home.” But this is not really safe.

    Nothing is ever really safe.

    Look at HP and Kodak’s thousands of job cuts. How many of them thought, “Hey, I could do this. This is safe…”

    I’m going to roll the dice while I can still afford to.

    And I think as long as you’ve got life in you, you should roll the dice, LArry. Everyday is another chance to get it right, do it better.

    Your angst makes for wonderful posts.

  3. I just realized that I misread one of the lines on your post. You said “They are just useless, boring time-wasters, functions”. I read…”useless, boring, time-wasters”…missed “functions”. LOL. So, I take back my “mindless fucks”. Although…they are out there, you know. I just want to make sure you know that I’m not calling you a mindless fuck. Phew!

  4. Only partly because I’m a contrarian, I’m going to pick a small fight with G.D.; just a small one, though. A few quibbles:

    Wanting one’s dreams “badly enough” is not a sufficient condition, and I’m not entirely sure it’s a necessary condition. It can be helpful, of course, and I completely get the point about continuing to (re)invent oneself (and I have a ton of experience at that one).

    I agree that billions of people are living below their potential–I think capitalism (but not only capitalism) requres that they do so, and, in fact, requires that they not recognize they’re doing so. Further, I think the conditions of uncertainty that surround many Americans’ lives–regarding health insurance and health care, for example–further sap what potential exists. Open your own business if you want, but you’d better find a spouse with health insurance first. So, really, digress all you want!

    Finally, and this isn’t really a quibble, merely another quesiton in the whole equation, G.D. says and Larry implies that there is such a thing as “success,” a “peak” that one reaches and knows one has reached, or, conversely, that one realizes one will never reach so one goes elsewhere. I think that whole understanding and evaluation of “success” is very muddy, but it needs clarification of we’re going to proceed very far.

  5. G.D. – Either interpretation of “useless, boring time-wasters” is OK with me. However you discuss it, we can learn.

    G.D./Adreeyin/Goldie – I am boggled by your insights. So much to think about. I’ll be trying to sort out my thoughts in the next days.

    Goldie – Some have said the journey and the destination are the same. I think you, too, believe that there is such a thing as “success.” Why are we reluctant (all of us) to define the word? Because once it’s defined our lives can be measured and judged?

  6. Hi Emma, I see you are slinging the first stone. Ouch! 😉

    Wanting the dream “bad enough” is perhaps another way of me saying that we must commit to our personal development as much as we commit to paying the bills, health insurance and the lease on the “must-have” SUV. Re-invention is part of the development process. Great to hear that you promote your own evolution.

    Ah…yes. Blame it on capitalism. True…a very real culprit. I own a business, so I can totally relate to your comment, however, we all have the potential and ability (sometimes by enduring much sacrifice) of making financial and business choices that do not compromise our ideals and that promote social reform. It is our duty as world citizens to do so. Anything else, in my opinion, is an excuse. There are real victims of the system out there, with very few options available. Should we blame their fate on the system? Who puts this system in power? We do….by making choices. So, do we sit back and allow for the injustice to continue? Or do we create opportunities for social change? Again, this would require much self-sacrifice, which is a concept almost impossible to digest in this capitalist society. We must take responsibility. That is the bottom line.

    One of my broad definitions of success is to reach a point where you can look back at the body of work that is your life, and feel complete satisfaction. When it comes to our specific dream(s), success could be measured by the person’s resolve to fully commit to utilize all of his/her own skills, determination and resources to reach a specific personal goal. Sometimes the climb to that peak (personal goal) takes a lifetime, some of us might never reach the peak, but every step towards that personal summit, is, in my opinion, success.

  7. G.D., I think I’m in love. (Don’t tell Larry.) I completely agree that we must take responsibility–I preach that constantly, and try to live it constantly as well. Excuses make we want to dope-slap someone, though the no-hitting rule prevents me from acting on that wish. When I have my own business (toward which I currently aspire) I have every intention of creating opportunities for social change.

    As for the success thing, I really am less convinced about knowing what it is than I probably appear to be. Am I a “success” because I managed to get a doctorate? Am I a “failure” because I couldn’t find a job as a professor? How about the fact that I was willing to look for such a job for only a few years–and was unwilling to be an adjunct, because I thought, and think, it’s a way of creating and perpetuating one’s own oppression? Does that make me a success or a failure? Thanks to my yoga practice, I’ve gained a great deal of flexibility (for me it’s a lot, anyway), and I’ve even learned to do a headstand at my advanced age, though I still use a wall for support–does that make me a success? I still can’t do a handstand without assistance getting upside down, though–does that make me a failure? I’m not trying to be a pain here, either; I think it’s pretty fluid in many ways, and that our own views of our and others’ lives are a process rather than an event or a final judgment. It’s true that I work hard, and that I think that there’s something intrinsically good about doing a job well (I’ve promised one of my blogreaders a post on that this week but haven’t written it yet), but I’m not so sure about the peaks thing. I’m not saying you guys are wrong, I’m really just saying I don’t know–maybe I add up the tokens differently (or don’t add them up much at all? hard to say).

  8. Goldie – I have a few disagreements about some of your points.

    There are plenty of things we have today that were created and sold to each of us that is a part of this capitalist system. I don’t think capitalism requires people to live below their potential, but I do believe that the rich would not be quite so rich and powerful if more people attempted to live more socially and economically responsible lives.

    Socially responsibilities include the fair treatment of all people. Economical responsibilities include watching who we give our money to and how we save for the future.

    Every decision involving careers, money, and even love involves risk and reward. Should I work at this new, strange job and risk being happier? Should I try to be my own boss and risk independence? Should I ask this beautiful person out on a date and risk falling in love?

    I feel that success cannot be measured in material goods, but in hindsight as a result of accomplishments and decisions and will and luck. But to be successful we first have to risk a chance at being a success.

    As for changing a corrupt, yet functioning system, we have to risk becoming a part of the system without comprormising our beliefs before we can change the system.

    To change the system, one must hack it and affect change from within. But to affect change, we must first take responsibility for ourselves and change how we do things. If we can’t change ourselves, how can we expect to change the world?

  9. Goldie – revision99 is strongly in favor of love, being in love and sharing the love in general – and hot girl-on-girl action in particular. However, I must insist that you and G.D. continue to seek areas of disagreement, for it is in dispute and synthesis that we gain enlightenment. Anyway, the success/failure thing. You could think you’re a success at the same time as others think you’re a failure. You could sacrifice your humanity and gain power or money – success or failure? You could succeed at some things and fail at others. You could make a successful movie followed by a clinker. How can we ever know?

    Adreeyin – It may be that capitalism requires most people (in the 99% range) to live below their potential. Certainly the distribution of wealth in the first world (as we arrogantly think of it) is that way – 99 to 1. Not that money is the sole yardstick, but if we are all to have abundance, can anybody have 50 billion dollars?

  10. Oh, and I forgot to mention “working from within.” This is a scary prospect, as it is your human nature for your way of thinking to follow your way of behaving. That is, in order to be “within” (so you can effect change from there), you have to dress, talk and act like “one of them.” It is then very likely that you will one day simply start thinking like those you are blending in with, and forget to work for change. You want the Jaguar, you want the Jaguar, you want the Jaguar, you want the Jaguar, you want the Jaguar, you want the Jaguar, you want the Jaguar, and then one day you have the Jaguar, and life is sweet, and what was it about those poor people again?

  11. My “dream job” turned out to be a nightmare so I grabbed a “time-waster” because I have too many responsibilities. Now I’m climbing the walls from bordom. So, now what? Another dream? Which one?

    As it happens, I made an appointment with my Director tomorrow afternoon. We need to come up with something interesting and productive for me to do before I tunnel my escape route out of the building. Either he will agree with my plan, or he will think me arrogant and send me packing at the first available opportunity.

    It’s one thing to feel stuck because, due to your circumstances you don’t have many options. It’s another thing to feel stuck because you have so many opportunities and so much potential that you could be successful at nearly anything you choose.

  12. Theresa – I’ve had a couple of dream jobs, or at least from where I stand now they look like dream jobs. At the time I might not have appreciated them fully, and maybe they seemed burdensome. But now that I think about it, they were great gigs: I was my own boss, doing something creative and challenging, and nobody was getting hurt. Oh, now I remember – nobody was getting paid, either.

    Good luck in your meeting. I’ll bet the director of your department will be flummoxed to hear from an employee who wants to do something more productive…

  13. Your painiting a real Vonnegut Mother Night picture for me, Larry.

    I’ve met some of these people in the wealth world and most of them I detest. Utterly fucking detest. But like I learned from the Godfather movies, keep your friends close and keep your enemies closer.

    Asskissers only get so far in life. The people who are successful are the polite yet strong willed people. Those are the ones who people follow and that’s who I keep on planning to be.

    And I do not want the Jaguar, Larry, nor could I live with myself if I intentionally wronged some poor person

    Anyway, I’m going for a nice hybrid.

  14. I say this as someone who understands the unhappiness of the working world (but who is fortunate enough to be working toward a dream career). So take it as you will.

    I sometimes attend dharma talks on Thursdays. A couple weeks ago, our Buddhst monk pointed out that Ghandi did not become a good person by having a wonderful job and taking vacations. We become good people when we get to practice compassion and wisdom in the face of suffering.

    Can a 9-to-5 (or 6 or 7) job qualify? Absolutely, I think! And now that I’m seeing my workday as another opportunity to pratice in search of enlightenment, well, I’m much happier during it.

  15. I think it’s possible to work not from within but from kind of right there nearby. I know better than to think that I could even GET in at this point (and I always sucked at it, only in part because I don’t share a lot of the fundamental Jaguar-based values), so I have to be careful not to sound like sour grapes. What I try to do is live my life according to my principles, and to be explicit about those principles. There are some things–like my atheism or my disinclination toward monogamy–that I won’t necessarily volunteer right away, or ever, if it’s not appropriate, but if someone asks, I’m straightforward about it. And part of the reason I want my own bakery is precisely so I can try to put more pieces of the whole thing into action. Can I do so? No idea, especially since I have no capital with which to start said bakery. But there’s a great line–from Network News, maybe, which I’ve never seen because Albert Brooks makes me really annoyed–where his character, I think, says that the devil won’t be all mean and evil, he’ll just subvert us all a little at a time. In case you were looking for an argument against wanting Jaguars.

  16. kStyle – Welcome to revision99. I’m glad you made it. Your thought is appropriate, and lovely. I hope I’m on some kind of path to being a good person.

    Goldie – Yes, a parallel universe, as it were. Maybe the only refuge for many of us. But I think it was verified in the 1950’s and -60’s: Separate is not equal.

    Sorry you don’t like Brooks. I think he possesses the main quality I like in a filmmaker: He makes serious movies about things he thinks are important. Maybe he doesn’t always succeed, but that he tries earns my admiration.

    Steph – C’mon, you’re an artist! Your neck is out there, babe.

  17. Yeah, I agree that separate isn’t completely the way to go, either–that’s why I don’t head for the hills, or a commune (I’d SOOOO suck at that) or something, or it’s part of why, anyway. People have a harder time changing, challenging the Jag mentality, if they don’t have any alternatives in front of them. (I know that I’ve served as such an alternative for a few people along the way.)

  18. That was a waste of time! I got the royal brush-off … and I had the nerve to push it even when I knew it was all over.

    Larry, you were right. He was flummoxed to the point of fidgeting with his cuffs and flipping through his calendar over and over again.

    Now he’ll feel awkward every time he sees me because he knows that I know he’s one of them. Time for me to get a new job. Crap! What a drag.

  19. Yes, I suppose you are right. But, in my same heart, I have a very active imagination. I naively imagined that it was possible for one person to be creative and thoughtful about solving complicated, long-term problems.

    Silly fussy-headed, idealistic me.

    Maybe I should have come to the meeting with cookies.

  20. Goldie – In our commune, I’d be glad to milk the cows and churn the butter, as long as you’d make the buttery, flaky pastries every morning. Is there a coffee roaster who’d like to join us?

  21. Larry: We can just get our coffee from Alterra (in Milwaukee), unless there’s someone out there who enjoys getting transdermal highs from doing their own roasting. And my pastry isn’t flaky yet, though it IS buttery (how could it be anything else, given the amount of butter we’re using?)

    Theresa, I wish I could give you my current boss (or my last one, for that matter). My current boss has been extremely supportive of my going half time so I can pursue a completely different career path, and he completely gets how wrong I am for what my job should be long-term. (Basically, it would involve managing paper, at which I suck and which bores me to tears.) We’ve been able to avoid crushing boredom mostly because we’re very small and everyone has to do a million different tasks, which is the kind of environment in which I thrive. Anyway, I’m sorry it worked out that way for you.

  22. Wow, there is so much to read in these posts today! I just want to add that I am currently in a job I enjoy very much, making a pretty decent living, but I got here by throwing caution to the wind, leaving my job and my house and moving across country to San Diego with no job and no prospects. It was scary and hard and somehow it has turned out to be the best thing I ever did. I dragged two kids, one dog, and one cat with me, and the kids agree that our lives are better for taking the risk. That was 14 years ago. My two cents. 🙂

  23. yeah, but it turns out I’m a risk-averse evenly right- and left-brained artist, so I’ll leave all the crazy-ass shenanigans to the musicians. Now they’re nuts.

  24. the key is to have a steady paycheck while pursuing your dreams outside your regular job, but then you just don’t have enough time for anything….

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