Go with a smile!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Extra Curricular Extra Curricular Activity

I was looking back at my school record and I was wondering how I ever got the reputation for being a lazy person. Probably it was that I didn’t really work very hard all the time. I was a B student who everybody knows was capable of getting As. But there were a few things that I did outside of school. ECA wise, I was involved in a uniformed group and that took a lot of time and energy, and people were always talking about how tough the camps were. There was the math club, where I did train with the rest of the gang, but never really put in the effort to be nationally ranked. I was the undisputed champion of the B team, of course. In the school math competition, which the team was banned from participating in, I came in champions.

Funny thing was, even as I hardly liked to pay attention in class, I was fascinated by mass culture and the media. I made it a point to watch a TV series every week, and it culminated in me writing a play for the school. After school, I spent hours at the libraries and the book stores leafing through Rolling Stone magazine. Back then there was no internet to make all this stuff available so I had to do it old school way. And I was listening to ridiculous amounts of music, spending all my pocket money on cassettes. It paid off later… well maybe one day it’ll pay off. But I’m sitting on a stack of music that I have faith in. And I also participated in the Creative Arts program.

All this stuff is what I called the extra-curricular extra-curricular activity. Sometimes it’s stuff that people will not give credence to. It’s probably something that my parents would not really have approved of, although I do have a bone to pick with them on one hand. My mother was in the crazy position of wanting me to practice my piano over and over and do well at music, but at the same time she didn’t really want me to become a professional musician.

So if you added it up, studying at RI + scouts + maths club + my own private investigations into popular culture, I don’t think I was really lazy or idle. And even when I was daydreaming, there were plenty of ways to make my daydreaming productive.

Sometimes I wonder at what children these days have to go through. Plenty of cramming during school, and after that plenty of cramming after school. Unlike students in the past, they’re not allowed to slack through most of their days because they have a GPA to maintain. It’s not “school grades don’t really count, only the ‘O’s and the ‘A’s count”. It’s “you have to be on your toes all the fucking time so that they can force feed the fucking curriculum down your throat. “ Maybe I did not adapt well to such a system, because I bombed out during my freshman year in college later, and it took me a while to find my feet.

But I would not have liked to have gone through a more stern and rigorous system. It would not have been good for me. The one that I went through suited me fine, because it made the balance. There is a form of narcissism where the school system thinks that the student ought to revolve himself around the needs of the school, rather than the other way around. The old system wasn’t idle, but it wasn’t so all-encompassing that it didn’t allow the student to breathe. I cherished my ability to idle my afternoons in a public park, or in a nearby town square, without having it severely affect my future. Some of my most productive moments took place when I was daydreaming. There’s a lot a teenager can learn from partaking in the system, and there’s a lot a teenager can learn from sitting back and bitching about how fucking stupid the system is. I did plenty of both.

There will be regrets in life. But you can’t have everything because you can’t be everywhere at once. One glaring omission in what I did in school, though, is group activities. I was never very good at them. My choice of an ECECA was pretty solitary in nature. And to be honest, I could understand why my parents were bitching about me buying shitloads of music. And you know, it wouldn't make any sense at all unless... well I watched a lot of TV and it didn't make any sense at all until one day I won a playwriting competition. Then only in hindsight, all that watching TV was worth it. So in order for all my music appreciation club to be worth it, I'd have to be a rock star or something.


Sopranos and Existentialism

There was an episode of the Sopranos where AJ, Tony Soprano’s son starts quoting existential philosophy and ruminating on the essential emptiness of life. I was a bit like him when I was his age, always wondering about what the deeper meaning of life. When you were very young, as a child, you never questioned the authority or the sanctity of the establishment. However, once you started seeing the façade, and once the magic is gone, you will understand very well that the system is totally imperfect. And the question is what are you going to do about it? Some people would call it the absurdity of life. One school of thought, which is put forward by Nietzsche and Sartre would be to turn your back on tradition and conservative thought, and be answerable only to yourself. The message of existentialism would be unremittingly bleak. “One must choose between boredom and suffering”, says Meadow Soprano. The eye-rolling after Tony screams at her to go to her room is a wonderful piece of acting.

That was what I thought at first. But in my early twenties, I found a solution to the conundrum. I had just watched “American Beauty” and it resonated with me because of what I was feeling at that time. Life only has meaning because of what meaning you make out of it. Otherwise if you wanted to go on the bare facts, it would be brutal – you’d only live for so many years, and it’s bookended by babyhood and old age – periods of empty unproductivity where you can’t keep your shit in and you’re uncomprehending of what’s going on around you. But if you were to engage your emotions in the world, and if you simply decided, I’m going to be happy, and I’m happy enough being happy and content, it’s pretty good. There wouldn’t be any need for destruction, and there wouldn’t be a need to tear down the old structure whereby there was a God watching over you, and then complain bitterly that there is a God-shaped hole in your heart. In fact, if you were to think for it for a second, it’s fucking stupid to do that.

That’s why I never had any truck with the atheists. The big problem with the atheists is that they object to the notion that there is a metaphysical structure to the universe. But then at the same time they believe in humanism, which is itself a metaphysical structure to the universe. And then they do not realize that God is an attempt to answer the big questions of life, and instead persist on re-inventing the wheel when the wheel is for most intents and purposes good enough.

A lot of the humanists claim they are looking for the truth, and then they tear down a lot of good institutions solely on the basis that it is based on constructed meaning and is therefore flimsy. After a little bit of fucking around with books and ideas I came to the conclusion that all meaning in life was constructed and therefore flimsy in that way. If you were looking for some kind of meaning that wasn’t constructed, you are looking for a unicorn that does not exist, then you probably are stupid and need some education.

That’s the problem with existentialists. You tell them, listen to Jesus and the message of love. They’re like we don’t like that fluffy fairy tale stuff. OK. You tell them to get practical and go out into the real world and just live life simply and be happy. They’re like we’re too good for that. Then after that they’re like “boo hoo hoo life doesn’t have any meaning”. I’m like boo fucking hoo indeed.