Monday, July 31, 2006

More On Alternate Paths

I've been mulling over the question which I raised earlier, about the possibility of alternatives to the standard "house, wife, kids" lifestyle which my cohort has fallen into. Apart from minor variations ("house, wife, dog", "house, husband, kids", etc.) this really seems to be the only game in town. I'm not entirely sure I understand why this is, but I've initial ideas. I recall thinking about this same thing in college. I had an inkling of this issue back then; I felt that I could see the broad outlines of my future vis-a-vis wife, kids, mortgage, etc. with relative certainty. At that point I thought that the right thing to do might be to actively reject all of that on the grounds that it was simply too easy, that I was allowing myself to be led by society rather than making an active choice on my own. But the notion just seemed too radical to me at the time, and I had no way of knowing if I was being foolish or if I was really on to something. So I ended up taking the easy path, to lead eventually to the aforementioned wife, kids, mortgage, etc.. I believe that a similar mechanism is at work in the rest of my cohort, as belied by my friend's comment about people we know having children almost by reflex. The crux of the issue is that, by the time we've reached the level of wisdom (for lack of a better word) required to recognize our situation its become awfully hard to extricate ourselves. I could divorce my wife and strike out on my own, but the social repercussions of that would be fairly severe. Nor would it be fair to my wife; we have an excellent marriage and I've no cause, moral, legal, or otherwise, to justify a divorce. Even if I were to undertake such drastic steps its not entirely clear that that would change anything. Even after liberating myself I'd still have to work for a living; its not like I'd suddenly be free to climb Mount Everest or take a year-long tour of the globe. Which seems to lead inevitably to the conclusion that there are certain, inescapable patterns in modern life. Barring exceptional circumstances you have to work for a living. Thought its certainly possible to have an interesting, unusual, and/or fulfilling job, I get the feeling that this is where people of my ilk get sidetracked. Jobs in IT, or the hard sciences, or mathematics, can be intellectually stimulating, but they're not "interesting" in the same sense as oh, say, being an ambassador or working for Doctors Without Borders. More to come later maybe.


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