December 20, 2004

Two Tragic Things

I think the two most tragic things in this world are: One who doesn't meet his human needs because he is unaware of them, and one who rejects his fate because he doesn't value it.

By tragic I mean tragic in the classic sense: the stuff of legends, drama - the ever-present truth, to greater or lesser degree, of all of our lives. (Mere horror does not make tragedy - I know there are worse ways to suffer.) If I were to choose one thing that I most value about Judaism, it would likely be this: At least in comparison to the alternatives that I am aware of, Judaism teaches a way of life, and a paradigm of our nature, which informs us of our human needs, while doing a better job of directing us to embrace our fates.

I have spoken often on this blog of the first tragedy: of our tribal needs, of our needs for identity, meaning, connection, communication, etc. Most Americans are only vaguely aware of them, if at all, and seem to have little notion as to how to meet them. Ironically, it seems to me that the ones who suffer most from this tragedy are those apparently most capable of avoiding it: the rational, and the intellectual. In the rational category, I put a large number of highly intelligent people who, I would think, would use their prodigious reasoning abilities to analyze their needs in order to meet them. But instead, they have a strong tendency to dismiss their needs as illogical, and ignore them. In the intellectual category, I put an even larger number of highly-intelligent people who dismiss our human needs as primitive, animalistic, or wrong, and instead of leveraging them for good purpose, make every effort to deny them.

The second tragedy is one I see often, but which I, at least, have a harder time educating myself to avoid in the general sense. (I think I've done a fairly good job in my own life, thankfully.) I see it all around me: people who are cut out for one thing, but pursue another because they don't value what they were made to do. This category doesn't include people who are forced, due to economics, to pursue second, third, or fourth choices of careers - but people who ignore their most valuable assets because their society doesn't recognize them, or undervalues them, or tells them that some secondary asset is really most important. A person should do what they love. Sometimes, because of the laws of supply and demand, they can't. But when they can, and don't - that's tragic.

Posted by David Boxenhorn at December 20, 2004 03:56 PM
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"I put an even larger number of highly-intelligent people who dismiss our human needs as primitive, animalistic, or wrong, and instead of leveraging them for good purpose, make every effort to deny them."

And, I would add, intend others to deny them as well.

"... people who are cut out for one thing, but pursue another because they don't value what they were made to do."

Could you give me a concrete example? Offhand I can't think of any person in my life who fits this profile.

Posted by: Amritas at December 21, 2004 06:58 AM Permalink

Ego sometimes prevents us from selecting roles that we are best suited for. Many want to be the hero and not the sidekick.

Posted by: Jack at December 21, 2004 08:37 AM Permalink

Amritas: Where I grew up, certain professions were highly esteemed: doctors, lawyers, professors, journalists, for example; while others were poorly esteemed: salesmen, businessmen, especially small business proprietors. I know quite a lot of people who insisted on banging their heads against the wall to do the former, when they were better cut out for the latter, and would not only be more successful, but enjoy life more.

I once had a conversation with someone in the garment manufacturing business who said that it was an easy business to make money in because smart people didn't want to do it - they'd rather work in finance.

Then there are the millions who seek life-satisfaction through their career, when what would really make them happy is a family.

Posted by: David Boxenhorn at December 21, 2004 09:53 AM Permalink

OK, ok, I get it, David. :)
I'm a connector but I really want to be a connectee! Like always-- *sigh*.
Beautifully reasoned, beautifully expressed.

Posted by: jinnderella at December 21, 2004 08:12 PM Permalink

I would make a great newspaper editor, especially because Stephen Denbeste taught me the hidden details behind the War on Terror that most newspapers don't seem to know anything about. However...there are no conservative institutions set up to help guys like me get into positions of media influence in the brief time periods that we are between high-paying managerial jobs. I am between jobs now...and I tried to write to a few conservative think tanks about my situation...but they ignored my emails while great companies have now asked to interview me for management positions. Thus, the left wing losers will end up taking the low paying media jobs and assistant professorships...and continue to wreak havoc on the minds of young people and the electorate at large.

Posted by: Allen MacDonald at December 21, 2004 11:25 PM Permalink

As an example of how the world (or at least, me) has profited by someone going into a "secondary" line of work, consider Robert Heinlein. As a graduate of th Naval Academy, he was set to pursue a career as a Naval officer. Tuberculosis forced him to find an different line of work. He ended up writing. As a result, we have "Starship Troopers" and "Stranger in a Strange Land".

The biggest problem I have with most Christian denominations is they refuse to understand the necessity of living life according to God's rules, as outlined in the Old Testament. We'd all be a lot happier if we at least gave them a try!

Posted by: Old Patriot at December 22, 2004 12:15 AM Permalink

Thanks for answering my question, David.

I can think of someone who sort of fits that profile, but I just realized that more people I know suffer from yet another tragedy: not knowing what they're cut out for. They do what they do not because they or anyone else thinks it's best, but because they don't know what else to do.

Posted by: Amritas at December 22, 2004 08:34 AM Permalink

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