Monday, January 08, 2007

The quest

CAR, this one's for you. And for you, DQ.

I don't claim to have any answers. This post may be too academic and even unrelated to what is going on in your lives. But I hope it offers some food for thought.

I read David Brooks' delightful social commentary/satire book "Bobos in Paradise" a couple of weeks back. Bobos is 'BOurgeois BOhemians' and describes today's elite - people who have gotten their wealth from their intellect. This class is different from the wealthy classes (the Bourgeois) and the intellectuals (the Bohemians) of the past. Back then, money was inherited, and intellect didn't bring in any. Today, the number of smart people raking in money is high, and has resulted in the formation of an elite which still struggles to retain bohemian values and reconcile it with an increasingly bourgeois lifestyle.

Expounding on bobo behavior, Brooks pokes fun at bobo behavior in various spheres of social life - consumption, work, play and how bobos bring their unique world view into all this.
However, the most illuminating passages of the book come up when he talks about bobo views on beliefs and their spirituality:

"These people talk about tradition, roots and community, but they are just paying lip service to these virtues. When push comes to shove, they always choose personal choice over other commitments. They move out of communities when a better job comes along. They abandon traditions and rules they find tiresome. They divorce when their marriages become unpleasant. They leave their company when they get bored. ...

... And this is self defeating, because at the end of all this movement and freedom and self-exploration, they find they have nothing deep and lasting to hold on to."

It's something I've wondered about in the past too. As we increasingly try to fit in an individualist society, are we losing track of what matters? Do we as a generation have anything to ground us, or are so many of us increasingly adrift?

I personally see quarter-life crisis as a first, early manifestation of these questions. You are at a point where you are trying to define meaning for your life, away from the insane goal-oriented pressure of college and grad school. Once you settle into a job, meeting career goals becomes your day job and you need to make a life outside of it. Answers are not easy to come by. Finding something to latch on to is a challenge. Religion may cut it for some people, while not for others. Being an immigrant probably makes it harder as your life is even more individual than you probably prefer it to be.

Of course I don't have all the answers, but I've found the simple things that make my life work better. I can still see how CAR's post defined what I felt a couple of years back really well. I can't say the same anymore.

Maybe there's something about adding those candles to your birthday cake. Maybe it's just that I discovered a greater willingness to push for and find something that would give me clarity.

Maybe I'm clueless and have no idea about what I'm talking about :-).


thedq said...

Thanks Ajay for the post. I just got around to read it. I think many (like my mom for example) mistake this unhappiness as something born out of dissatisfaction because of merely not doing your duty. I think to a point its right, but the problem is: I am trained to do something else, so why must i do this? I feel forced.
I think CAR feels he deserves much much better. My problem here was that I am succumbing to peer and parental pressure (i wont elaborate but i think you can guess).
Thanks for the post anyway :-)

Ajay said...

This was at least partially a response to CAR's post. He doesn't talk only about work (I think your challenge is primarily that), but life in general. Ennui a couple of years into working isn't uncommon, and a quest for meaning is lifelong, even if work is satisfying. Ask me.

CAR said...

heheh. Thanks Ajay for the post. It amazing how we are progressing towards a social network based entirely on the net. Whether that is good or bad I do not know. To be honest, I dont really care to know.

I liked your post. It seemed precise, well accounted for and mostly non preachy. As serious as my post was, it wasnt meant to be entirely gloomy.

As a capricorn I am cursed to be eternally discontent. And at 25 I really do think one needs to a reality check. If he or she is not going where he/she wants to then 25 is about the age where you can make amends.

Sure it is not supposed to be anything and i have seen people turning a new leaf at 50 or later. But I have always maintained that one should not base philosophies on exceptions.

I am only glad that you made it across and that you are happy. I am aware you also mentioned on how it gets worse before it gets better but my problem is that its not really bad at all. Its just not excellent.

Ajay said...

Happy is probably too upbeat a word. I now understand that this discontent is a given and you have to keep plugging away to reduce it.

"I'm more at peace with my present" is probably a very Zen way of putting it.