ADVICE ON ADULTHOOD
Hint: Avoid ancient bromides
TOO LOOSE THOUGHTS
The perils of punditry
I read an article in one of this week's Sunday newspapers entitled "How to Become and Adult" by Will Durant. In it the writer offered "sound advice for those about to graduate into life this month."
(Notice that phrase "graduate into life." I wish to inform the general public that almost all of my friends who have not yet graduated are quite alive, probably more so than they will be after they "graduate into life" if they intend to take Dr. Durant's advice. The school is not the gently rocking cradle that some seem to think it is.)
After reading the article I found that I would hesitate to take the author's advice. The title, I think, should have been "How to Become a Complacent and Apathetic Unit of Society."
Dr. Durant first speaks of sex, calling it a "flame in the blood." He accuses our society of unwisely stimulating sexual impulses, which our ancestors wisely played it [sic] down. I wonder about their wisdom. A Victorian gentleman could become quite excited over the sight of a shapely ankle. We live today in the land of the miniskirt, where, ankle, calf, knee, and even thigh fail to elicit such a great response. We are becoming conditioned. We are immune to most of the stimulation that would have knocked great grandfather off his feet.
The great sexual revolution on campus that we hear so much about seems to be only a temporary fad; as sex replaced booze as the big craze, so drugs are replacing sex. Our big "problem" is publicity. We are more vocal, and perhaps more honest about the situation than our ancestors were.
However, Dr. Durant does offer a solution (?) for our sexual urges in his article. I quote: "Marry as soon as you can (to) keep the wolf from the door. You will be too young to choose wisely, but you won't be much wiser in these matters at 40."
Someone once told me something about marriage being sacred. Something to do with love, I believe. At any rate, marriage and parenthood are responsibilities too great to be entered into to "keep the wolf from the door." They present the opportunity to wreck a few lives besides your own; an opportunity I wouldn't welcome simply to save myself from the "tyranny of sex."
The author goes on to speak of the value of good health. Here I cannot disagree -- being healthy is a benefit that cannot be overestimated. As the second most important virtue after health, he cites character. This too seems fine, but he makes a mistake which is common to our Anglo Saxon heritage -- he displays character as opposed to intellect. Our classical literature is full of craftily intelligent villians [sic] and big hearted, though somewhat dumb, heroes.
Even today, the general public seems to have a mistrust of the intellectual establishment, as demonstrated by the recurrent success of the "jus' plain folks" political approach. They, as well as the author, forget that intellectuals can be of the finest character, and that the intellectual mind is one that must continually examine itself and its motives. It is those who cater to this public fear of intelligence who I mistrust.
Throughout the rest of the article, Dr. Durant seems to fill space with words typical of those a society feeds to its idealistically rebellious segments. A few quotes:
"Nothing is often a good thing to do, and always a clever thing to say ..."
"Don't take your politics too seriously ... Corruption is natural in government because it is natural in man ..."
"Don't be frightened by the international situation; it is normal ... Peace is war by other means ... the balance of terror is making for peace."
He tells us to beware of newness. He tells us not to judge old ways. He tells us to be satisfied with the status quo. He tells us to accept the inequalities of life because they are natural. In essence he tells us to shut our eyes, block our ears, and keep out mouths closed. Don't rock the boat. Don't make waves. And if you happen to wake up one night to look out your window and witness a murder, go back to bed.
The advice is really very simple to take. In growing to adulthood most of the people do take it, whether they realize it or not. Those who don't usually end up either in jail or in the history books.
Perhaps in Will and wife Ariel Durant's own history books: The Story of Civilization -- 12 volumes, 10,000 page, an "encyclopedic survey of all civilization, ancient and modern, Occidental and Oriental" (I'm quoting the Barnes & Noble website; it's there for $400 US -- now 63% off!).
Maybe bromides make good doorstops. Will was then 81 years old; he'd live to be 96.
The Class of 1967 has now graduated so as a student I am now -- at least temporarily -- unemployed, if one may put it that way. Not that my two week absence from this paper is totally inexcusable; I have been keeping very busy earning a little cash so that I may re-employ myself this fall.
A graduation is a strange phenomenon. It is one of those experiences in life which one looks forward to while not really knowing what to expect from it. I had attended two or three before my own. Everything then seemed so special, so terribly important -- to sit on that stage and be part of the glorious pageantry was the goal that all underclassmen hoped to realize. Yet when I did reach it I was more confused than elated at the ultimate victory.
The traditional proceedings seemed almost pointless when viewed from on stage. Of course, youth is notorious for being impatient with tradition, but that didn't seem to be the root of it. One rather expects a graduation to be like the end of a symphony -- a climatic [sic], resounding drum roll followed by that last terrific crash of the cymbals -- then an audible silence. Instead it, and the whole last week of school, seemed more like a wet firecracker which fizzed for a while and then ended itself with a faint pop. It seemed a classic anti climax, reminding me of T. S. Elliot's line, "This is the way the world ends / Not with a bang but a whimper."
Perhaps in some future year I will look back and in retrospect see the whimper as a bang, but for now all I can say is, "Big deal. What's next?"
There was, of course, the traditional graduation party afterwards, and as usual, the first thing that everybody did after being officially released into the big adult world was to start acting like a goofy kid. But I shouldn't judge. Being able to count on one hand the enjoyable parities which I have attended, I rate myself (not happily) as an A-1 wet blanket. My idea of a good time differs from that of most people, but to each his own. Everyone seemed to have a lot of fun, so I suppose I should keep quiet.
The sixty-hour war in the Middle East is over, and Israel has proved that she is quite capable of taking care of herself. It is interesting to note than on the Israeli Jordanian front both sides were using weapons labeled "Made in USA." Though this incident seems strange, it is not an isolated case. When India and Pakistan went to war not too long ago, both were armed with American weaponry. When Greek and Turkish factions battled on Cyprus each faced US made hardware which they received via NATO. During the civil strife in the Congo the story was the same.
In a world where every brushfire incident could be the spark which ignites a major war, it seems very foolish of us to hand out military machinery so indiscriminately that it often ends up on both sides of the front. I don't think that our peaceful intentions are questionable, but our wisdom certainly is.
Congress this week debated on legislation to punish those who desecrate the flag. As if often the case, some of our finer Southern statesmen enraptured the assembly with their expressions of thoughtful wisdom. Example: "Let's deal with these buzzards. Nothing's too strong for them." L. Mendel Rivers of South Carolina.
Example: "...let 'em swim to some country whose flag they respect." James Haley of Florida, after suggesting that flag burners be taken 200 miles out to sea with stones tied around their necks.
Example: "A flag burner is an enemy of this country and should be treated as an enemy." Maston O'Neal of Georgia.
After listening to this wonderfully inspiring oratory, the House passed the bill by a majority of 269 votes. It gives me great security to know that our legislators are influenced by such wonderfully logical statements as these. I am so pleased that such wonderful people as Representatives Rivers, Haley, and O'Neal are in our very wise Congress ... I hope you get the point. [Really, Ricky: thud thud thud.]
An open note to Shirley correspondent Mrs. Nancy Bull: Concerning last week's column -- I'm with you. Tell you what. If you can somehow qualify as a student, I could slip some of your more aesthetic material in here someplace. All for a minimal fee, of course ...
An open note to Mr. McMaster: Concerning the above note to Mrs. Bull -- Maybe you could pretend you didn't see it.
Ah the perils of punditry! You have to find something to fill space or time, arms dealing (if I seem to have ignored the dealing) given the same weight as party ennui (and I'm still a notorious wet blanket); finally cute chatter among correspondents. I don't recall what Mrs Bull was on about (Mr McMaster our editor), only that she was mother to Senior Class president and AHS "Most Popular" boy, Chip.
I'm not sure this was my last "Student Viewpoint." I very much hope so.
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February 2001 / Last revised: October 5, 2001
Rick Bébout © 2001 / email@example.com