Confucius wasn’t confused. He knew that pumping all that blood while doing a halfhearted effort is a waste of energy. To say that, he obviously knew life must be enjoyed, whatever our circumstances, to be worth living. Life is torn with hopeless ruts that look like roads to our naïve eyes. We fall into them with hopes held high, only to find ourselves mired in a stew of steamy sweat that goes nowhere, in which we are forced to run in place to keep from drowning.
Most of us have no idea of what we want from life. If asked, we repeat the cultural mantra with no idea of what a mate, a family, a home will require us to give up. We rush into matrimony unprepared and it becomes our rut. We flail as with a shovel to dig ourselves out, and the rut becomes a hole beyond whose edges we can no longer see, out from which we cannot climb without abandoning the little all our efforts had gained.
It takes more than motivation to climb out from a rut. We who claim and can demonstrate at least moderate intelligence need something that goes beyond Amway meetings and inspirational success books. Inspiration is fine if it does more than find us new ruts to drop into. Too few of such resources go beyond motivation to give actual instruction about what to do once you feel motivated. The tape ends; you turn past the last page. You hear the player kick off; you stare at the ads for other products. The empty horror of disappointment, of hanging, of knowing there has to be more but that was the last tape. The page following the ads is blank. They left out the important part. “I am ready to go. But, to where?”
We get about halfway educated nowadays. Parents sent us to school for the relief that allowed them to go about their business without having to argue us into acceptable behavior. Unprepared for the shock of drastic overnight change, we are force-fed information portrayed in strange ciphers in books (and, now, on computer displays). If we don’t progress at a standard rate, we are kept after school to get us up to speed and that feels like punishment. Many of us get reprimanded at home for that. “Why dey call youse slow? Youse ain’t slow. Youse is just as smart as me. Get wit’ it, boy.”
School, the process of schooling children, seems designed to prepare them for life in an authoritarian society. Absent are lessons in creative thinking, critical thought, setting goals and priorities, developing relationships, recognizing and evaluating opportunities, and more, that should be sprinkled into the curriculum. Children should know, by high school, all about the incredible world that awaits their participation, what in all of it most attracts their interest, be well informed about entering into that field and as fully aware of the unglamorous routines as of the potential for glory. Most of all, children should, from as early on as possible, be informed of school not as something to endure, but as a place filled with valuable secrets that will make them smarter the more of them they learn, and, if they succeed, even more schools can show them how to get to do, for money, the things they find most interesting.
Amount of income makes for a poor and inaccurate way to measure success. Excess of money only enables unhappy people to attempt to replace the missing joy of living with things. The happy person immersed in involvement with a beloved occupation that provides life’s needs has by far outdone the one who only gained riches. Scoff if you must, but happiness must be admired.