Saturday, December 19, 2009

You're my favorite book

Jimmy T. Hand, Mythmakers & Lawbreakers: Anarchist Writers on Fiction:

One thing I've been thinking about recently is fiction and ... not really anarchism, but about living your life fully. ... I still read fantasy books, sci-fi books, but I don't do it with the same sense of longing that I used to. Do you know what I mean? I used to read books like the MYTH Inc. series [by Robert Asprin], or even Lord of the Rings [by J.R.R. Tolkien]. Or the Borderlands books by Will Shetterly. I used to read those books and feel like I would give anything to live that way, to have some kind of motivation, to live in a time of fantasy and mystique. But then, when I ran away from home, I discovered that fantastic world, and it was the real world.

Intuitively, I must have always felt that school was a piss-poor way of acquiring an education about the real world. That is why I was much happier working in a menial capacity: as a course of study, it spoke to my interests. Schooling was ultimately oriented toward career, and career became an end in itself; it had nothing to say about anybody else. You paid a lot of money for the opportunity to impress people you frequently didn't like or had no respect for, because their values were not your own, but rather what you were advised to make your own. You went into debt for the benefit of your own alienation!

Like school, work could also seem like a prison sentence. But the conflict between the inmate and the institution was much less obscured. In school, one is free to believe whatever they want, because they are paying through the nose for it: You will have a respectable degree, social status, and meaningful work which conforms to your values, because you have done everything humanly possible to achieve it. The reality is very few people have work which conforms to their values, interests, and talents -- and they are acknowledged as being very lucky if they do. Generally speaking, work fails people in this regard, and that is why so many people are unhappy with it.

There is a lot at stake in the real world -- just as much, probably more, than in many of the most exciting fictional accounts. The conflicts inform our everyday experiences. To the degree that we understand them, we can play the role we would hope to see a protagonist play in our favorite narratives. One might say this is the very process of self-realization that is our purpose altogether. But that means looking everywhere and at every thing, including the places where we aren't supposed to see battles of enormous importance.

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