Thursday, August 4, 2011


Yesterday, I entered the bureaucratic dust storm that defines college loans. I am not rich enough to spare my children from the debt associated with a college education, though lord knows I wish I were. My older son needed a loan. So I chatted a little with a $12-an-hour clerk who assured me that previous snafus (sometimes I think bureaucracies were created to prove that it was possible to fuck up a wet dream) had been ironed out and my older son was good-to-go for the upcoming school year.

College education. On the bureaucratic front, it's no good unless you haven't got one. There is simply too much bureaucratic pressure to judge people by their paper trail, so having a college degree is taken by $12-an-hour minds to prove something in the world of employment. But given the rampant ignorance among those who do have college degrees, well, it saddens me still further that my children will be financially burdened for something that doesn't prove a hell of a lot and has the potential to put them in the poor house.

I do wish I had the money to spare them this idiotic social requirement, but the fact is I have not and so I will just have to make do with being saddened.

But looking at so-called education as an employment tool is not the only way to see things. True, there needs to be a way to put food on the table, and eating is a requirement for life, but there is also the matter of what-kind-of-life.

Education means seeing a wider array of possibilities. The fewer the possibilities, the more likely the unhappiness. But since seeing a wide array of possibilities does not guarantee happiness -- and in fact may only support a more nuanced sense of unhappiness -- I think it is fair to infer that happiness (whatever it is) is something more than the opposite of unhappiness. No doubt a logician will find fault with this reasoning, but my response is: When has logic ever provided the deep-seated happiness that anyone might wish for and, with or without a college education, strive for?

 Happiness as the antonym for unhappiness is like saying peace is the opposite of war ... a recipe and guarantor of more war, more unhappiness, I'd say.

Swami Vivekananda once observed that "The mind [he was referring to the intellectual mind that may or may not go to college] is a good servant and a poor master." The observation has the capacity to annoy the shit out of those who are intellectually averse to crediting any master other than their own bias, belief and judgment. But perhaps their raised hackles might be placated a little if the master Vivekananda was referring to were something as straight-forward as happiness.

The educated mind may tussle and twist in an effort to nail down a definition of happiness, but that's just more intellectual mind. People know when they are happy, just as they know when they are in love. Things are settled and easy and, somehow, just true.

But if the educated mind cannot create happiness, it can point out the possibilities of the variety of Yellow Brick Roads that hold out some hope of providing it. The educated mind, the intellectual mind, points.

After that, it's all about walking.

There's no out-thinking happiness or unhappiness, but there is getting-off-your-ass and doing something. There is attention. There is responsibility. There is determination. There is constancy. There is patience. There is courage. There is doubt.

As the Dalai Lama once observed, "Everyone wants to be happy." Never mind if the Dalai Lama is a 'spiritual leader.' Not everyone is cut out for spiritual folderol. But everyone is cut out for happiness.

Even those with a debt-laden, bureaucracy-inspired education.

1 comment:

  1. I think the pursuit of happiness may be the number one cause of unhappiness for most people.