Friday, June 6, 2014

FFF: Never enough

Yesterday, I heard an artist on NPR.

She described her work with mannequins as a direct response to being repeatedly accosted by her mother, wondering why her daughter was not married by the ripe age of the early thirties.  The woman acquired fashion mannequins from a closing store and photographed herself with her fake, plastic "family" as snarky retort to her mother's incessant nagging.

The complaint is not lost upon me.  How many times are we subjected to it in our lives?  On how many occasions are we subtly accused that we are not "enough?"

Two cases in point:

You're 18 and just graduated high school.  The barrage of questions begins with "Where are you going to college?"  The response you give no doubt will communicate a great deal in interrogator's eyes about your academic record.  Following that, you will be asked what your "major" will be.  This is to help determine how much you "have it together" (Note: never answer that you will study any of the Humanities unless you like to be looked at as if you've just been caught fucking a fish.)  Once you've completed college, you're duty is done, correct?  No.  Next come the questions of "what are you doing next?  What job?  What graduate school?" Still, an answer there will not be enough for long.  If you do have employment and are still there, say, five years later, people will start to wonder.

It extends to personal relationships as well.  Found a nice man or woman whose company you are enjoying through dating?  Get ready for plenty of "Is it serious?  When are you getting married?"  And say you are fortunate enough to find someone with whom you wish to enter that blessed union.  You won't be at peace for long.  Rapidly you will get questions of "So when are you two having kids?"  Oh what's that you say?  You choose not to reproduce?  Prepare for the same accusations of peregrine behavior (see "Humanities.")

Why are we never enough as we are?

I subject myself to the same.  My achievements, however few there are, are never enough.  No matter how much I get I always want more.  When will it be "enough?"  How can it ever be enough coming from a culture that doesn't let it be?

Like I said, I don't excuse myself from this dangerous philosophy.  I have often engaged in what Tolstoy might call, "Writing for all the wrong reasons."

Tolstoy also went through a protracted stretch of melancholia where he was restless and unsatisfied with his work, believing his greatest literary achievements to be behind him.  He wondered, as many writers do, about the meaning of life.

“For man to be able to live he must either not see the infinite, or have such an explanation of the meaning of life as will connect the finite with the infinite.”

Not religious but perhaps spiritual.

So when will "it"...however you define "it" in terms of achievements, money, or enough?

Maybe the idea is to be at peace with right now being enough.

That's difficult.  Especially when there are family members pressing you to attain a marital status, when friends push you to have kids for no better reason than the fact that they've done it too, and when a barrage of media images assault you, telling you that if your income is not ever-increasing then you are a worthless piece of shit.

"To thine own self be true."

That's getting harder and harder to do.

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