the persistence of ego: flash lite

flash-lightEach of us is born with distinct gifts, to be developed and expanded through discipline and desire, or to be left to fade through apathy and anxiety. They encompass the kaleidoscopic range of human experiences, from construction worker to concert violinist, from doorman to doctor, from gardener to golfer, from proctor to president. Yet why must society make delineations, create class categories, foster exclusivity?

A concert violinist must go through decades of disciplined practice on top of requiring the inborn gifts, yet is the construction worker—who labors through years of apprenticeship and stultifying weather conditions while helping to create the concert hall—a less valuable person?

A doctor must go through endless years of highly specific training and staves off disease, yet is the doorman—who helps to guard the doctor’s co-op against crime and murder, and keeps order—a less valuable person?

A professional golfer must devote immeasurable time to drives and putts while offering entertainment and ready aspiration, yet is the gardener—who maintains the course and cultivates beauty and oxygen with perpetual toil—a less valuable person?

A president, whether of company or country, must cultivate expansive education, political skills and charisma to guide and inspire groups of people with much at stake, yet is the proctor—who oversaw the president’s bar exam and ensures integrity and discipline within life-changing circumstances—a less valuable person?

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learning another language: cursed words

It’s a very safe bet that everyone reading this has either directly had the following experience or knows someone who has—spouse, child, friend,oui-non relative or colleague:

You’ve taken three or four years of high-school French or Spanish, then another three or four more years in college (where the offerings are significantly broader, extending from Mandarin to Russian to Hindi and all points between)… and six months later you remember a few dozen words and can’t speak or read the language, as far from fluency as Paris is from Beijing. You’re intelligent and motivated, and did all of the requested homework, yet the results speak for themselves. I simply have no gift for languages, you think, and move on to other areas of study and projects that yield tangible results.

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the corporate ladder: climb and punishment

For so many teenagers, it’s simply not an option. Their grades must be exemplary. Their SAT and ACT scores must be in one of those coveted eat-sleep-and-drink percentiles. corporate ladderTheir college applications must be loaded with everything from athletics to community involvement. Their college grades must stand out, even when surrounded by standout students. Their graduate school years must reflect pinpoint focus. All of this more often than not leads to punishing 80-hour weeks at that longed-for corporate job, where creativity, freedom and empathy are shunted aside in favor of six-figure prestige and tireless climbing.

Companies like Google and Apple, with cash streaming in faster than it can be printed, can and do take advantage of that circumstance to encourage their employees to eat well, to exercise, to be creative, to give back—and set up their corporate campuses accordingly. Many more, though, under the constant pressure of relentlessly judged quarterly reports or simply meeting monthly expenses—magnified by COVID restrictions—demand more than the body can realistically sustain. Over time, sleep becomes a secondary concern and exercise a tertiary matter, with family activities fit in whenever possible.

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