On Loving a Loveless Thing
As I begin the exciting countdown to my 17th birthday, I’ve encountered various knick-knacks of wonder that have made me think about growing up. More specifically, what it means to move on from an utopian concept of the world to one that is painful but surely more realistic. On loving a world and a life that are, more often than not, loveless things.
Contrary to what you may be thinking, I am currently not in a pessimistic state of mind. In general, I consider myself to be more of an optimist than a cynic. There’s no harm in thinking the world is ‘loveless’, because it allows us to exert our efforts in seeking other, perhaps more rewarding, things.
Why the sudden impetus to write? Well, I’ve just finished reading J.D Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. If I were in charge of international teenage reading habits, I’d endorse it as mandatory reading for all adolescents worldwide. Its achingly accurate portrayal of the common ‘quarter-life crisis’ is both heartbreaking and uplifting. As Holden, the protagonist, undergoes internal quandaries over what it means to live a valuable life amidst a society that highly underestimates its raw, humane value, you inevitably end up thinking about the sacrifices you have to make in order to ‘fit in’. What I found especially poignant is something Holden’s teacher, Mr. Antolini, tells him once Holden has recounted his disillusionment:
‘This fall I think you’re riding for – it’s a special kind of fall, a horrible kind. The man falling isn’t permitted to feel or hear himself hit bottom. He just keeps faling and falling. The whole arrangement’s designed for men who, at some time or other in their lives, were looking for something their own environment couldn’t supply them with. Or they thought their own environment couldn’t supply them with. So they gave up looking. They gave it up before they ever really got started. You follow me?’
It is so easy to be disillusioned by many things. As we grow up and construct our own versions of the ‘world view’, there will always be people or circumstances that clash so explosively with our own values and beliefs to the extent where we will inevitably end up feeling dejected. But what makes all the difference is how easily we allow ourselves the ease of slipping into dejection. Sure, feeling dejected is completely fine; in fact, it’s great. It’s always important to give yourself the space to feel a gut reaction so as not to suffer from its suppression. But even if some things don’t pan out our way, it doesn’t mean we have to give up on the system entirely. I’ve had a lot of trouble coming to terms with this, and I’m sure I’ll encounter more troubles as I enter my 18th, then 19th, then 63rd year of life. But that’s okay.
In this sense, life is ‘loveless’ because there’s never a guarantee it will reciprocate the love we often provide it with. It’s a punch in the stomach, yes. But I tell myself I need to realize that the world wasn’t built for me, nor was it built around me, but for a collective series of mes that I may not holistically agree with. So there’s no way I’m going to be 100% happy, but that applies to everyone else, too. The best plan of action, then, would be to strike a balance between what makes me happy and what makes someone else happy. When we recognize that 100% of anything is virtually impossible, it gives us the freedom of mind to pursue things that may be imperfect or have limited utility but makes us happy. We can all be catchers in the rye.
What’s funny about these kinds of posts is that their regularity almost nullifies whatever statement is made in each. As individuals, we all try to find our own interpretations and meanings in different things – but if everyone is saying the same thing, then what am I gaining from it? A classic conundrum that contributes to a common ‘malaise’, if you will – but it doesn’t have to be that way. Think about these kinds of posts as a reflection of a growing movement that encourages people to look beyond their own little worlds and enter the entire galaxy that awaits.
Perhaps this is growing up. And we never fully grow, either. I’ve only sown the seed and watered the soil, and now I will step back and watch myself climb to the heavens.