The Occasional Crisis of Values – Philosophy by Limerick

Good morning readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read this morning.

Eavesdropping on a conversation between young adults at a nearby table in a restaurant Thursday led me into a lot of pondering afterward.  All these rosy-cheeked youngsters believed they had long lives ahead of them, believed a human life can be lived performing occupations and activities to give it value and meaning.   They wanted this for themselves and were searching the databases of wisdom available among the young for answers to where it might be found.

They didn’t want to waste their lives, as they believed their parents, other older folks they observed, were doing and have done.  They examined and discarded dozens of avenues of human endeavor as meaningless, having no worth. 

Buying and selling almost anything from automobiles to insurance to consumer products found no home with them.  Lawyering, law enforcement, engineering, health care, drew closer examination, but were found wanting.  They’d had been damned by close observation of these fields as manifested in their own homes and the homes of acquaintances.  

They’d seen the inside of the lives of people who spent their days doing these things, experienced their interactions with their children and other family members.  Judged the professions to be worthless as a way of passing time because the dysfunctional home lives of so many served as a testimony no relationship existed between earning an affluent lifestyle and anything admirable in personal behavior outside work environments. 

But underlying the entire conversation was the assumption some profession, some job, some means of earning a living, could provide value to their lives in ways they’d be able to recognize afterward.  The unspoken determination that when they reached, say, the age of that old cowboy-looking guy over there reading a book, they’d be able to look backward with confidence and satisfaction their lives had been worth the effort of living.

A few years from now they won’t be thinking of those things anymore, most likely.  They’ll become involved in trying to scratch out a living, satisfy a mate’s desire for a new car, trips to Europe, big house.  Keep kids in new clothing and whatever else people buy for their kids these days.  There’ll be no place left, no niche of yearning they’ll be able to allow.  The value of the lives they’re living will be manifested in the cars they drive.  The homes they sleep and entertain themselves inside.

By the time they arrive at the age of that old cowboy-looking guy over there they’ll be so far removed from concepts of life being worth living the default position will be a habit of thinking assigning it intrinsic value.  Worth prolonging at any cost, no matter how it’s been spent, how it’s currently being spent.

They’ll mercifully be spared asking themselves whether they’ve wasted their lives doing things that didn’t need doing, might well have left the world a better place if they hadn’t been done.

What’s important in life is official
Sign-painters declare, and initial,
“Portfolio sums
When we die, keep the bums
From the ponderous and superficial.”

Old Jules

24 responses to “The Occasional Crisis of Values – Philosophy by Limerick

  1. Well said and true beyond a shadow of a doubt.

  2. One has to wonder, the curriculum in school today, anything is ok as long as you don’t get caught attitude, I deserve what you have and I shouldn’t have to work for it – I want it now, the throw away society everything is disposable even humans, where will the world be when these happy go lucky children are adults. Only God knows.

    • Investigator: These were young college and university people home for the summer. I didn’t get the impression they wanted to avoid work, get anything free, nothing of the sort. My take on what they were saying is that they wanted to live their lives doing things they’d afterward consider worthy of the trouble. Weren’t having a lot of success finding anything that fit their concepts of value. Thanks for the visit. J

  3. Hi Jules! This is a fantastic post! I found myself nodding in affirmation as I read your words. Once upon a time, I too was one of those young people. I looked at my mother and thought, what a wasted life. I yearned to make something of myself. To reject the materialistic life that she so coveted and to do things that meant my life had some meaning. Sadly, and as you pointed out, life catches up and before you know it, your idealistic views are out the window faster than the blink of an eye and you’re left competing in the rat race. And much like a hamster on a wheel, it’s hard to get off once you’re on. Fortunately, with age comes maturity and wisdom and once again, we’re provided with the opportunity to aspire to living a life that is worthy of us. All I can say is, thank goodness for that. 🙂

    • Hi Bella: Thanks for coming by. Yeah, I was also one of them once, longer than most, probably. I honestly don’t know what living would be worthy of us, but I suspect if one exists it isn’t likely to be found among all the usual suspects. I wish them luck. Gracias, J

  4. Having noticed a bit more than their patents, maybe these kids will stay higher in the water, actually change Life a bit for themselves and others. Can only try. Good post.

    • Hi Kristin: Maybe they will. I’d point out, however, that in their day their parents and grandparents noticed more than their parents during that phase of their lives. The tanglefoots of modern survival have a way of over-riding what is noticed, generally, and the autopilot takes control of things. Gracias, J

  5. I’m holding out hope for these kids, Jules. When I think back to some of the moronic things I said when I was a kid (as opposed to the moronic things I said this morning) I get embarrassed, even if no one else remembers. Today, because they can, kids mature (as in “take responsibility”) much more slowly than in the past, I think.

    • Smaktakula: Probably true in most instances. Nothing wrong, though, in starting out with some utopianism and idealism. Not having those to fade into oblivion might make for a lot lousier starting place ending up somewhere I wouldn’t care to wish on anyone. Gracias, J

  6. Good morning~ wonderful post. As I read it seemed you might be trying to point out that it isn’t the career, necessarily, that imbues meaning to a life’s work, but what the person brings to it, and that these young people were missing that point. I was heartened, really, that buying and selling things didn’t appeal to them. Maybe our country is growing up.

    • hi melissablue: I can’t see any evidence the country is growing up in anything I’ve observed, but maybe it is. I suppose what I was saying had to do with a whole range of ideas and values most of us never think enough about to question. Something about a lowest common denominator of socially acceptable greed, something else about whether careers and jobs with high pay but only peripheral influence on whether civilization works mightn’t be less-than-admirable to aspire to.

      They read their stock pages and rant
      “Juan, down at the sewer plant
      Got a five percent raise
      From the taxes I pays
      On my TVs and Pizzas and grants!”

      But mainly I think I was just pointing out life’s a strange place to spend a lifetime and anything anytime during it we believe we can be certain of probably won’t be the same in a decade. Gracias, Jules

  7. Yes, a very good post and you hit that nail directly on the head.

  8. I like that optimism Kristin. I wish I could embrace it now that I am this far along on the trip.

    Jules, Lot’s of good comments on this. I find that I am in agreement with the Lady Bella there. I began adulthood believing in finding work that was a hobby; work that never asked me to compromise my principles and work that was important.
    My wife and I struggled to get ahead; never did; and life snuck up so fast.
    but you know what they say; “Life is what happens while you’re waiting for your ship to come in.”
    It is so true. If I could advise kids of anything it would be to beg, borrow, or steal as much time as you can to enjoy the life you have while you have it because that dream of a meaningful career is of another world not this one. For most of us anyway. But hey give it a shot.
    If you are going to try it though; I would not choose the corporate path.
    Perhaps acadamia; perhaps entrepenuership; perhaps pure science; I don’t know. But get on top of it fast. Don’t wait. If you put your dreams off until you can afford them………

    • angrymanspeaks: I spent two careers doing work I eventually decided didn’t need doing and could, by hindsight, be a cause for regret and self-accusation if I indulged in regrets and self-accusations. But during those careers I was a hard-driving, true believer full of certainties I was doing good things, worthy things, performing deeds worthy of me. I’ve got nothing in my head sufficiently wise to tell anyone what’s worth doing and what isn’t. About all I could advise anyone would be, “Don’t be too sure of yourself and what you’ve chosen to believe. Try not to do any harm.” Thanks for the visit. Jules

  9. Laughing over the limerick!

  10. Yep! I remember when I thought I knew something, and that I knew more than my elders. I hope they find what they are looking for, but it doesn’t sound like much has changed in the last three decades or so. I just wish I could remember what I thought I knew in my twenties in case I was a genius back then!

    • Hi Steve: I remember well enough what I thought back then. I was wrong in thinking I was a genius, but no further off track on most other issues than the elders of the time. By hindsight I can’t see where, young or old, much wisdom managed to float to the surface and be identified. Gracias, J

  11. Hey, Jules, Stop by at Colltales every once in a while. Haven’t ‘seen’ you around and I often write stuff with you (and few other people) in mind. All the best. Wesley

    • Hi colltales: I’m glad you came by. Yeah, I’ve been remiss about reading your blog and others. Got serious problems with my dialup… spent several hours just trying to get online this morning, for instance. But I promise myself and promise you I’ll get over there. Soon. Gracias, J

  12. I think I’m a young person like the ones you were watching. I’m also the kind that would have written a post about the guy in the cowboy hat across the way reading a book. Finding meaning in the bare and brutal necessity of subsistence is a luxury that’s become an expectation for the privileged (myself included) of my generation. But the real heroes are the folk who can keep their minds beautiful and alive while repairing tyres, serving burgers and manning a factory line. Thanks Old Jules, for reminding me.

    also, what were you reading?

    • Kate Ferguson: Hi there. I wasn’t doing much reading, just pretending to read

        The Field

      by Lynne McTaggart at the time. Someone sent it to me with a strong recommendation, thinking some of it might apply to a particular project I’ve been working on for several years. Glad you came by for a read. Gracias, J

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