I don't know if this says more about F. Scott Fitzgerald or myself, but one of my most beloved character introductions I have ever read is that of Tom Buchanan, who is described as peaking in life during his playing football in college. Now, there's a lot more to criticize about Tom's character (the casual adultery, misogyny, and racism might be a good place to start), but I was struck by this particular description because it made me think about the way we judge a person's life and the way they have chosen to fill up their time.
Occasionally I feel bad for those kids you read about who published a book at age 14 or graduated college at age 16 because their media coverage pretty much ends there- who knows what they have done since or whether their accomplishments will ever surpass their earlier ones?
Let me get straight to the point- the idea of someone reaching a "peak" in their professional life is a total lie- but it's a lie we let ourselves believe. This metaphor makes life into a struggle akin to climbing up a mountain in that there's only one place we hope to reach and once we get there, we simply wait around for others to catch up. The truth is more complicated.
In short, the way to prevent this so-called "peaking" is to make sure you don't climb a mountain- do anything else; go on a hike, a sail, or a walk to the corner store. The truth is that if you have only one goal in life, you're either going to spend your entire life trying to get somewhere you'll never be, or you'll get there and have nothing else to do. Kids who have spent their entire lives dreaming about Harvard will either be disappointed come college acceptance season or they'll get to Harvard and not know what to do next.
Life is incredibly diverse with opportunities to do different things. Your goal was to write a book and you just get one published? Great, now go travel the world and blog about it. You became the prosecution lawyer you've always dreamed of? Terrific, maybe now on Saturdays you can teach an ESL class for local immigrants. The truth is you can't peak if you live in a mountain range.
This has been my personal drive recently, and it's the reason why I have gotten to do so many cool things. Aside from my coursework and my preparation for future academic opportunities, I run this blog, produce a podcast, and have many other projects lined up that you will learn about soon. If you reflect on your own time and realize that you are spending too much time on achieving your 'peak,' I encourage you to explore more of what you love and perhaps you'll find something extraordinary.
- Alexandra Kytka
No sources for this post, but be sure to check out my podcast "Ergo" on iTunes and Soundcloud- the second episode on atheism and theism is being released this Friday!
Animal lovers may be interested to know that in Argentina a judge ruled that the chimpanzee "Cecilia" has rights under the law and could not be confined in a local zoo without a companion to spend her days with, while philosophy lovers may be interested in Judge Mauricio, who explained his position by quoting Emmanuel Kant- "We may judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals."
I'm sure PETA is rejoicing but I'm not as quick to celebrate- for in our desire to protect the wellbeing of animals and in Kant's own words actually lies more understanding of the nature of humanity than that of animals. Kant claims we can see into the morality of a man by looking at how he treats animals, a statement that sounds clear and radical at first. But look at what happens if we switch out animals for other people groups.
"We may judge the heart of a man by his treatment of the poor"
"We may judge the heart of a man by his treatment of the elderly"
"We may judge the heart of a man by his treatment of minorities."
Do you see the problem here? This statement seems to recognize the innate worth of the direct object (animals), but when we change the sentence around it is clear it does no such thing. Rather, it creates a dichotomy between the (claimed) superior and inferior, the dominant and the submissive, the morally responsible and the helpless. When speaking about animals, this isn't necessarily bad. Because we are human (unless I have a secret animal audience, in that case, hello!), we naturally put the innate worth of our species over that of others. However, many news outlets reporting on this particular case called attention to the emergence of animal rights being recognizing legally. But granting a population allowances because we believe we are superior to them is not giving them rights. We cannot claim adherence to animal rights as an expression of moral righteousness or integrity.
As much as I love the cute little furry ones, I recognize that when we object to someone abusing a dog we do it not necessarily on a foundation of believing in the inner worth of that dog, but because we find pleasure in the cute little furry ones and we don't want someone to compromise that source of pleasure. Humanity's quest for animal rights is not actually about the animals at all- it's about us- seeking to take care of the vulnerable and simultaneously being placed on a pedestal of ethics.
I love that this chimpanzee is legally entitled to a companion. I love this because I am a human who seeks relationships and community and not because I know the scientific basis for the emotional stability of apes. I give my congratulations to Cecilia and the hopefully full life she will live in companionship. But I caution the supposed heroes of the animal rights movement to understand where they are coming from.
(Also, please check out my podcast "Ergo" available on iTunes and Soundcloud!)
- Alexandra Kytka
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