A few days ago, I wrote a blog on Memorial Day, and the bizarre way we celebrate it. I surely won’t belabor the point for you now, but I think from the comments, that my point got across. It is hard to think of Britain or France, or the Israelis celebrating their war dead in this way.
I do think it is highly understandable however, and therefore, I don’t find reason to beat upon the collective head of America for it’s insensitive treatment of a most solemn day.
The reason, is that we, as Americans almost overwhelmingly look forward to any day off from work the way a dog salivates, observing a steak mere centimeters from it’s jaws. We get giddy, we dance, we flat out want to celebrate. We call days various things based on how close or far they are from Saturday and Sunday. Mondays are black, ugly, miserable, the start of a long haul. Wednesdays are “hump” day. Thursday, the anticipation builds, and then it’s “TGIF!”
Not, “Oh wonderful it’s Friday,” or “Yippie, it’s Friday,” but THANK GOD!!!!, as if we might not survive if the work week went on one more day. And indeed perhaps we really come close to believing it. And the reason?
The reason is simply, we feel fortunate to work, to be able to make a living, to be able to pay the bills. Part of the worth ethic in this country has never been that we do a job we love, only that we do the job. We hunker down, we drag ourselves there, we honorably do the job we are assigned, and at the stroke of the hour, we pour out, sometimes even running to the car, the bus, the train, and get the hell away.
This is sad, but I would say, with no real actual stats, that probably 85% of us are at work because we need the paycheck. We may enjoy some aspects of our work, may not totally hate it, make like the folks we work with. But given our druthers, we would be some place else, and doing something else.
We may perceive that the wealthy or more well to do, can afford to take their time and determine what is their life’s love. They can travel the continent for a year, waste a couple of years in college, taking anything much that sounds interesting before buckling down to actually learn something.
The rest of us have no such luxury. If we were lucky enough to afford college, we were there for four years, and we were expected to come out with a saleable craft. Those of us who were a bit luckier could afford to extend that to law school or medical school, but still, we did it in the requisite minimum time frame. No dallying.
A million (well a few actually) other things intrigued me. Anthropology, and philosophy for starts. I didn’t really even know the word paleontology at the time I doubt. These would have been pretty darn neat disciplines I would have loved to pursue. But in all such cases, this required a masters, and then doctorate since there isn’t much call for an BA in anthropology these days, or any days. Teach it and write, and take sabbaticals for treasure hunting. That requires PH.D’s.
So I ended up being a lawyer. While it had it’s moments, I never was “fascinated” or in love with it. It was a job, it brought a paycheck.
Which is why people like David Attenborough totally are my heroes. I’ve been watching him on various channels for maybe 30 or more years. He travels everywhere, from deep under the ocean to the tallest mountain peaks, and he shows me wonders in nature. He’s been doing it for 50 years.
He seems as much in love with what he does now as when he did the first time I saw him. His sense of wonder and excitement are as fresh today as ever. He seems not to be the product of great wealth. His love for nature apparently was evident since his youth. He was a collector as a child.
I use him only as an example. You can think of your own no doubt with ease. People that you can just tell, jump out of bed in anticipation each morning,eager to go off to their chosen field. You’ve seen the orchid expert gasping with delight at finding a new species, or the geologist waiting expectantly, wringing his hands, waiting for the spectroscopic analysis to be complete. Some of the funniest are the JPL guys and gals as they watch with held breath as the robots traverse the planet Mars, oohing and aahing, over pieces of gravel we simply shrug at.
I truly envy these people who by luck, or sheer force of will attained the right job for themselves. The ones who wouldn’t do anything differently if given the chance. Who can’t imagine retiring. These are blessed lives.