People engage in a lot of education but for many of us we never learn how to learn and consequently many never learn how to live…
At age five (or six) we enter kindergarten. Some people even start school younger than that. For 13 years we engage in a systematic educational journey that instructs us on what we “need to know”. Oddly enough though, we don’t use much of what we were taught when we are older. I don’t write in cursive anymore. I rarely speak Spanish. I never have used the Physics or Calculus that I learned since taking them. Regardless, we are systematically required to engage in schooling that shapes our social and intellectual development (or stunts it) and at the end of that process we are given a basic choice around age 18 (for most of us): Work or Go Back to School.
Anymore, 60+% of people in the United States go to college after high school. For many this means taking on debt, even if they are fortunate enough to scholarships. Many students go to college having no idea what they are going to major in. By age 22 most are faced with a same situation they faced four years before: Work or Go Back to School. So, if you don’t know what you want to be just yet then you specialize in the major that you had to choose in college in order to graduate and then you go to graduate school. The “CHOICE” then comes about again. Work or Go Back to School. By this time most people cannot afford more school so the choice is made for them.
Maybe this is a pessimistic view of our current situation but it is hard to deny that the system exists. Unfortunately, I don’t think that this path necessarily does us, as human beings, much good. It seems to me that by age 26 or 30 many of us are actually still functioning as adolescents or even children lacking the confidence or practical life experience that adults this age would normally have. The educational system is simply an extended incubator of sorts and by fifty (more than half of our average lifespan) many folks are just actually learning what it means to live as adults.
Add to this people like myself who actively try to plan out their lives in detail as they go and you build in an undeserved sense of failure and potential depression for individuals. One day you wake up and you are older than you think you should be for what you have “accomplished” in life and you wonder what you did wrong.
The thing is, YOU probably only did what the system told you that you should. How were you to know any different? Thus we get a society of juveniles who perpetuate conflict scenarios to cope with their feelings of depression and insignificance – just like Jr. High.
And even if you aren’t totally caught up in the conflict side of things you most likely are still caught up in the general system. I am reminded of an episode of The Wonder Years (Season1 Episode 3 on Netflix) where Kevin visits his father’s job and talks with him about what his dreams and ambitions were when he was a boy. His dad tells him that when he was Kevin’s age he wanted to be a captain of a ship – navigating by the stars at night. Kevin asks “How come you didn’t do it” to which his dad replies “Well you know, one thing leads to another, I went off to college, I met your mom and the next summer I got a job on a loading dock here… the rest is history.”
When Kevin essentially acknowledges that he is proud of his dad his father anyway his dad continues by saying: “You know… you can’t do every silly thing that you want to in life, you have to make your choices and try and be happy with them. I think we’ve done pretty well, don’t you?”
There is some wisdom in that quote….
For me, something that puts life into perspective is a belief in eternity. Once a person is no longer bound by the notion that they only have say 80 years to live, then they are freed to live in the now – freed from the time bound clutches of the social system. Anything outside of that just seems like a rat race with the prize at the end being a big cheese wheel of death.
It is also possible though that a person could still live eternally and still never know the joy of living. They could be so caught up in the rat race of the system that the race itself is all that they live for. But a constructed path with only one option for contrived success doesn’t seem like much of an option to me. I would personally call that Hell. Some of you might feel like you have resided there for some time now.
Fortunately, there are alternatives. You can still choose Joy. You can still choose Peace. You can still choose Life.
Personally, once I became free from the idea that I had to achieve in the system in order to be considered successful… then I was free to begin living my life. A belief in eternity created this freedom.
Instead of just learning because I was forced to – I began focusing on learning how to learn. I found teachers who would mentor me and stay with me over the years. I developed relationships with people from whom wisdom pours forth with every word and action. I pushed myself (and continue to) to do the things that are difficult, that I might not necessarily want to do, but I know deep down you should. I’ve tried to stop making excuses and actually make time to experience life, my family and my friends. I acknowledge what I don’t know and then humbly (hopefully) seek to live in the wonder and awe that comes with the exploration of this world that we live in. I found Joy in this.
The belief in eternity that I came to have was, for me, established through/in Jesus Christ. I believe that Christ established the church universal so that we could learn how to live. Conversely, one of the great disappointments in my life is to see how the church universal has failed in that proclamation to the people of the world. Yet, in spite of the church’s ineptitude, God has still given each one of us a claim to life that is beyond the limitations of the systems that we find ourselves in. And it was in that gift, a gift so clearly and distinctly designated for me in my circumstance, that I wooed and consequently fell in Love with the giver of it.
Brothers and Sisters I believe that YOU were meant for more than the rat race. The question is do you? Now, you have a choice to make…