Still thinking about the flight back. For all the complaining I do about my school, the fact remains it has people patient with things like “books” and “hypotheses” and willing to identify problems worth thinking through. Re: that last part – you don’t identify problems by going “hey, I encountered this recently.” Usually, in my case, I’m gossiping about someone and then wondering why I was interested in saying what I said in the first place.
On the plane back, a young male professional who worked for a charity hit on a young female professional who worked in auctions (designer luxury goods). They talked and really did hit it off; for a time it was fun and really interesting to listen to them. This wasn’t eavesdropping. They were plenty loud and right next to me. Turned out the gentleman had done work in former Yugoslavia and his talk raised questions about Serbian and Croatian identity and how conflict arose. I found myself wondering whether certain groups identify themselves as being the backbone of a greater order and whether resentment is bred when other groups challenge that claim for more everyday reasons. I thought about the concept of “empire” hiding in the “tribe.”
Of course his talk didn’t focus on that. It was about places he’d been, why he was involved in charity. He admitted he was going to concerts nearly every night and hanging out in bars routinely. (At one point, he basically said the people at his regular place were his family.) He had no savings. I was shocked by how someone who seemed very dedicated to his work was pretty much throwing away every other moment of his life.
She was enthralled with hearing this for some reason. She was a terrific conversationalist – she was patient letting him talk and asked him questions about what he related to, what growing up was like, etc. At the same time, you couldn’t help but feel there was something coarsely materialistic and shallow about it all. They ended up talking about bars (this happened a lot), listing the places they’d been (this was the worst part of overhearing them. They listed places they’d basically stopped in almost as if to say “I’m a world traveler”), and ranting about work. They never mentioned a book, a film, a world event, a piece of music that moved them in such a way it was worth sharing with others; rather, they sounded like an admissions brochure for a college (“I felt my future was at stake, so I enrolled in PS 110″). He talked about how he was into the drums and she questioned him quite a bit about it. Not once did they share what their tastes in music are to each other.
I get the distinct feeling, given their virtues and ambition, I’ve run into two who are going to shape the future in decisive ways. He may talk too much and waste his life outside work, but he can sure dedicate himself to a cause. She has some excellent talents that higher classes depend on. I want to vomit in my mouth. It’s professionalism to the point where they were clearly their careers, nothing more. I don’t think philosophy is for everyone. But I rarely encounter people who assign self-reflection entirely to the domain of “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” It’s really scary when you’re romancing someone and your career is the sum total of your life.