Monday, January 15, 2007

Cultural ennui

Long, long ago, back when I was a junior at Boston University, I had a professor, Joseph Boskin, who made me rethink pretty much everything around me.

(photo on left by Boston University)

"Let's talk about the gap between expectations and reality."

Doing a background search on Boskin today, I really had no idea whose class I was taking or getting into.
He touched on the sheer fact that from little on as Americans we're taught a John Wayne swagger-- that "anything is possible if you set your mind to it"; that "if you build it, they will come"; "go for your dreams, shoot for the stars," and you shall receive what you're "worth."

In fact, there's a lot behind that "worth"-- worth, meaning "self-worth," "self-esteem," "self-confidence," and "self-reliance" that are huge factors.

But cultural, economical and societal factors are huge obstacles to the above.

In fact, they're in continuous battle.

Who will win out in the end?
The scrappy, pull-yourself-out-of-poverty gladiator or the nepotismal beneficiary?

I wonder this each and every day.

More often than not we've all been sold in life the idealism of the Wayne philosophy.

Unfortunately, I'm not one easily won over.

He'd always say, "Do you honestly believe the kid in the projects will not be angry once he reaches 18 and finds out he's NOT going to be President of the United States like he's been told!?"

Of course Boskin himself subscribes to the "Mel Brooks" philosophy.
Meaning, a kind of cultural and societal lip biting, a wink-wink, a nod; a "hummina-hummina"; a supposed "cultural and societal bitterness" supplanted only by a sarcastic bent that's truly unattainable by most unless circumstances have warranted its creation in its owner.

Alas, perhaps I've been Boskinized.

Or Professor James Johnsonized. (lost my religion and much more with "19th Century Intellectual History")

Or Saul Bellowized... (love you, old guy)
Or Elie Wieselized.

Or 3-day Chabad House Jewish seminarized (Another way to lose one's religion and be angry at a new one-- "so you don't WANT me to convert even if I WANT TO?")

Maybe after seeing John Silber pounding a parking meter with his one good arm in 1993 made me rethink life.
Or maybe it was looking across Boskin's 12-student table to the Brazilian playboy who would talk proudly of how his friend's family had paid off the mother of an unplanned pregnancy and how he found Americans "trivial, uneducated, uncultured," and generally worthless.

Yes, or perhaps it was the $350 champagne bottles being sent to my 19-year-old 112 pound fashion show table-- and seeing the "oohs and aahs" from my cohorts, yet feeling so removed from it all.

Perhaps it was the rock star rolling over on the couch in front of me at age 19-- the poster on my wall come to life-- desperately petting a dog and speaking to someone who would listen-- anyone who would listen-- having everything, yet needing so much more.

In fact, the worst ennui for me has always been the gap between my own personal expectations and the eventual reality of situations-- The frailty of being; the lack of meaning behind words or even actions.
That when all is said and done, your last moment or breath is truly alone-- no matter how many things, people, places or experiences have accompanied you along the way.
Thought I'd get a bit philosophical today.
At this point in life I was supposed to have been by now...

1. An astronaut
2. A tennis pro
3. A tennis coach
4. A model
5. An investigative journalist
6. A screenwriter
7. A singer/rockstar
8. An artist
9. A writer
10. A partner with a fellow partner
11. A homeowner; a dogowner; a friend; a family member; a lover

But that's what happens when you've been Boskined.
In fact, Boskin's own account of how we lie to children continuously has made me rethink so many things.
You take into account the "Blazing Saddles"-ness of life; that things are ridiculous, for no reason; that life isn't what it's cracked up to be; that there's disappointment throughout-- and finding the humor in THAT is what makes you a true crackpot of the best degree.

So bring on Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Slim Pickens, Presidential Aspirations, wealth and prosperity, 1950s domestic perfection, Dr. Strangelove, Snow White, or Young Frankenstein; they're better than reality.


Anonymous said...

If a person Like George W can be president why shouldn't we think anyone can? OK he came from money, but did you ever hear of that mediocre Austrian painter who no one really took seriously because he had an odd mustache, talked all crazy and wore funny looking pants?

George said...

Hey wait a minute, do you mean Hitler?

Oly said...

Germans don't count with United States-based "cultural ennui."

I mean, they like the Hoff, so all bets are off on this topic.


mom said...

Expectations vs. reality. You saw yourself a writer, a family member. You remain both. Robert Brooks always told me, the problem is that women don't make their expectations clear from the start with men. His advice seems to say to me, your reality will improve once your expectations rise. I think this bike thief I told you about is going to find my expectations of him are going to work some self improvement, depending on whether or not he shows up to do yard work tomorrow morning. I met him on his bike this time, while I was on mine, he said he didn't need mine, he already had one. I told him, good thing his buddies didn't see him on a girl's bike, they might have made fun of him. Last night I had to see Men in Trees to catch that handsome guy who seems to love more than one woman at a time. At the end, the star bemused over Thoreaus' idea to build your castles in the air first, then build the foundation (reality) beneathe to support those airy dreams. So keep hope alive, I am going to be very clear about expectations from now on. Nothing is wrong with having Great Expectations. It's only the culture that readily offers diversions from what your dreams and expectations need to be. Focus is everything. Even Dan seems to have found his when he is being a good roommate, at least.