Keeping the Faith – The Millions’ Michael Bourne goes to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and leaves with a reaffirmed sense of purpose.
Will do! Thank you for the recommendation!
Instead of trying to directly challenge American colleges—a daunting proposition, given the political power and public subsidies they possess—the new breed of tech start-ups will likely start by working in the unregulated private sector, where they’ll build what amounts to a parallel higher education universe. A few weeks after returning from the West Coast, I watched Eren Bali spend two hours in a Washington, D.C.-area conference room listening to government officials, regulators, and representatives of for-profit higher education corporations discuss the morass of accreditation rules and federal regulations that make it hard for entrepreneurs to compete directly with traditional schools. Finally, Bali raised his hand and politely said, in effect, I don’t understand why any of this matters. I can go online right now and get everything I need to learn—courses, textbooks, videos, other students to study with—for free. And if I need to know what someone else has learned, I can look at their Linked-In profile or their blog to find out.
At a certain point, probably before this decade is out, that parallel universe will reach a point of sophistication and credibility where the degrees—or whatever new word is invented to mean “evidence of your skills and knowledge”—it grants are taken seriously by employers.” —The Siege of Academe – Kevin Carey on breaching the walls of higher education (via explore-blog)
Envy, content, and sufficient champagne.” —Dorothy Parker (via voxsart)
How do I accept that I won’t ever be great or outstanding? I always thought I had talent, and maybe I’m not bad, but a great many people are far better. I can’t stop thinking this and it’s causing me great anxiety.
Kill your ego, because nothing you do will ever matter. That’s okay, though. It’s not just you. It’s all of us. It’s taken 100,000 years for our species to hump and grunt its way into momentary dominance on this pale blue dot, but nothing we’ve accomplished is all that outstanding when you consider that a Mall of America-sized asteroid is all it would take to turn humanity into the next thin layer of fossil fuels.
Greatness is nothing but the surface tension on the spit bubble of human endeavor. On a geological time scale, our measurable effect on the planet is a greasy burp. We are seven billion tiny flecks of talking meat stuck to an unremarkable mud ball hurtling through space in an unimaginably vast universe for no particular reason. There is no difference between kings and cripples, my friend. We’re all the same hodgepodge of primordial goo, and the pursuit of greatness is a fool’s errand.
Pursue happiness instead. Find peace in your insignificance, and just let your anxiety go. Learn to savor the likely truth that the sum total of human achievement won’t even register in the grand scheme, so you might as well just enjoy whatever talents you have. Use them to make yourself and others happy, and set aside any desire to be great or outstanding.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t do your best. You should. If you’re talented, by all means, exploit that talent to the fullest extent possible. Just don’t do it for the sake of greatness. Do it for the sake of happiness. If the distinction is a little hazy, that’s because your ego is doing its best to get in the way. Your ego wants to put you on a pedestal at the center of the universe. It wants to convince you of silly things like jealous gods and life after death. Your ego would never allow you to believe that you are anything other than a special snowflake, which is why you have to kill it.
Annihilating your ego is the quickest way to happiness. Embracing your insignificance will make your anxiety suddenly seem ridiculous. You’ll recognize petty emotions like schadenfreude and envy for the childish tantrums that they are. You’ll stop comparing your talents to others, and you’ll be able to enjoy being good at something without the need to be great.
How do you know so much about what happens after death? You sound like an elite liberal who knows everything whether they do or not.
Take a deep breath. Relax. This is not a fight. I am not a threat to you.
I get it. You’re terrified of death, and like most people, you have a core belief system of antiquated myths you’ve carried with you your entire life as a defense mechanism against that final and horrifying inevitability.
It’s perfectly understandable, as is your reaction to someone like me.
My world view is different than yours. You want to stick me in a little box labeled “wrong,” and so you call me “an elite liberal,” because that’s what Fox News has trained you to call me.
It doesn’t matter whether I’m elite or liberal. That label doesn’t have any actual meaning to you. It’s just a thought terminating cliché that you use to summarily dismiss anything that might threaten your belief system.
So once again, let me be clear. I am not a threat to you. I don’t know any more about what happens after death than you do. That would be impossible.
There’s no need to worry, because you are absolutely, positively, without-a-doubt convinced that there is a god in a heaven where you will spend an everlasting life, right?
Of course, you’re sure of it. You have to be sure of it. Otherwise, your whole identity would be shattered, and that’s a fate worse than death.
So take another deep breath. Relax. I promise, by the time you start your work week, those little pangs of existential angst you felt while reading my column will have faded away.
Because this is not a fight, and I am not a threat to you.
I’m in love with Coquette.