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Getting Older

July 31, 2013

After waking up this morning, I found myself thinking about something I’ve noticed as I’ve grown older.  There are people who invest in “life” and there are others who do not, and as time goes on, a huge gap develops between those who do and those who do not.

I’ve come to admire those who do things with themselves.  Take a musician for example.  By the time a person has reached my age (in their 30s), if they’ve seriously dedicated themselves, they’re a wonder to behold.  You hear them play the guitar and watch their hand go up and down the neck doing all these complicated motions, their other hand strumming as they sing.  They make it look so easy, but believe me, it’s not!

Others become expert craftsmen and can take a block of wood, or a piece of steel, and shape it into anything you ask.  They can fix anything that breaks.

Some are intellectuals who have spent their lives studying different things and their expertise just glows.  They may be scientists, engineers, philosophers, or whoever.  They can design cars, lecture on ancient history, or design an economic plan which would fix our healthcare system.

I even admire people who have taken care of their bodies.  They’ve taken the time to learn how to cook healthy meals and they have the discipline to spend some time each day to work out.

I admire people who care about this world.  Who care about life.  Who put effort into making it a better place.  Who contribute to it.

It’s not necessarily about money, or good looks, or fame.  I admire the people who make things happen in the world.  I’m not necessarily even talking about the leaders of our nations.  I’m referring to talented people who make things happen.

It’s a real shame that an everyday man or woman who lives their life with integrity, who did their job and their part, aren’t able to earn any real respect.  Unless they were a “leader”, a CEO, the founder or some huge movement, or whatever, then their life didn’t matter.

But think of it this way.  Immanuel Kant once asked us to imagine what would happen if everyone acted in the same way we did.  In his wording, act in a such a way that our actions are a universal maxim.  What if everyone wanted to be a leader?  Who would follow and do all the work?  We admire the head and neglect the body.  Heads can’t exist in isolation.

I saw an article in Arts and Letters Daily, talking about young people.  So many were dissatisfied with their lives, living in a typical suburban home, with a typical wife and family.  They felt they didn’t accomplish anything.  Isn’t that ridiculous? Our culture is sick.

“Leadership” is overrated.  Sometimes I’ll play a video game and think to myself, “Who composed this musical score?  Who created all these 3D character models?  Who designed these elaborate cities?”  Then once I complete the game, I’ll see this long list of people and it keeps scrolling and scrolling for ten minutes.  I’m glad all those people are alive.  They’re awesome.

I admire architects, I admire painters, I even admire skilled tradesmen, like plumbers or car mechanics.  I like to walk around town and think, “Who designed these buildings?  These bridges?  The air conditioning systems within the buildings?  The computer networks?”  And on and on.

I’ve heard people say things like, “All humans care about is having sex and eating.” Really?  That’s all you’ve ever noticed people doing in the world?  That’s more a reflection of you, not real people.  We humans have a rather simple sort of mind which always wants to reduce things to something simpler than they are.  Humans indeed like to have sex and eat, but we’re much more complicated, intricate beings.

Have you ever had something go wrong with your car and think, “Geez, this is bad.  It’s making some weird noises.”  Then you take it to the shop and there’s this guy back in the garage, he fires up your car and listens, revs the engine a bit, looks at some belts and says, “Your problem is your [blah, blah, blah].”  I’m glad that guy is around.  Considering he (or she) saves us from having to buy an entirely new car, to me, he’s a very valuable human being.

Since I’ve been reading Noam Chomsky’s books lately, I also have been seeing some of his videos on Youtube.  He was giving a lecture years ago in some university and a student was asking him about IQ and intelligence.  Chomsky told him that whatever IQ may measure, if anything at all, it has little to do with real human intelligence.

A lot of people consider people like me, theoretical physicists, like we’re geniuses or something.  It’s true, I could help design a rocket engine, write complicated software, do really neat mathematics, and other things.  But you know, there’s also people who are amazing cooks and I’m not sure why they’re not held to the same level of prestige we physicists are.  They really should be.  I always admired my grandma at work making a delicious roast and potatoes.

I was watching some construction workers build an apartment building just the other day.  This team of guys had their saws cutting boards, and other guys were taking the boards to construct the building’s skeletal structure.  Others were putting in the insulation.  Later I came by and saw electrical crews putting in wiring.  I’m glad all those people know how to do that stuff because I sure don’t.

The more I reflect on it all, I realize how small a part I am, and how important it is that we structure society in a way that we all can earn a good living, and that we’re all valued.  That’s why I spend so much time studying economics and politics.  There are scumbags sabotaging our economic system and destroying the ability of everyday men and women to earn a good living, all in their pursuit of short-term profits.  Somebody has to care enough to understand the world, all the lies, and all the scams, speak out about it, and help usher in changes.

Then again, don’t misunderstand me.  I struggle with a a totally different streak which runs within me.  Some people in this world invest in “life” and become really good at their “thing”, whatever that may be, but there are so many people who never do anything with themselves.  So many people spend their time in front of a television screen, watching reality shows.  They’re stupid, boring, and contribute little to the world.

I almost feel bad saying this, but over the years I’ve spent a lot of time reading books and studying things.  Other people who haven’t done the same can be so boring, and well, stupid.  You’ll be with them in the restaurant or wherever, and they’ll be arguing the dumbest things you’ve ever heard in full bravado.  They’ll be going on and on about how President Obama’s a Muslim socialist wanting to set up death panels for our healthcare system.  They have no idea what “Obamacare” is, what’s really in it, or what it will or will not do to their premiums.

The more intelligent you become, the more lonely you feel because most people are not very smart.  That sounds like a contradiction to what I was saying earlier, but I’m talking about a certain type of intelligence.  They may be a brilliant artist, a skilled technician in some field, or a very handy mechanic, and all of that is very wonderful, but they don’t understand politics, science,  history, economics, philosophy, or any of those sorts of things at all.

They have terrible ideas about what’s wrong with the country and we have things like Fox News and talk radio to blame for that.  It’s really sad.  Corporations pay big money in advertising to these networks who work tirelessly to spread ideas which benefit the few at the expense of the many.

Democracy can’t function if people only have knowledge related to their trade.  They have to better understand how we come together as a society, how it all works, and what’s going on.

I was about to say that people too often vote against their interests, but I wouldn’t necessarily say that’s even true.  Our parties today are two sides of the same corporate coin, and our political debate is caged in this narrowly accepted spectrum of ideas.

People today are too atomized.  The only political muscle they exercise is going to the voting booth every couple years to vote for two parties which have long since abandoned their interests.  But you know, in general, people aren’t as dumb as you may think.  If you look at Gallup polls, the majority of people are deeply concerned about what we’re doing to the environment, they want to see banking reforms, they want universal healthcare, they want the wars to end, they want us to stop policing the world, and so on.  Problem is, there’s little legitimacy in our democracy anymore.   The corporations are in power and they do what they want and what they want is to earn more profit.  The more I learn about it all, the more disgusted I am.

 

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