Saturday, March 26, 2016

Reality: The Ultimate Prep School

When you look back on the early parts of your education, your primary image of yourself is as the sponge you were, soaking up information and skills thought to be appropriate by a progressive school board, a national culture tottering on the cusp of a recession known as The Great Depression, a birth culture teaching you its historical and tribal values, a family culture that was attempting to cope with having one been affluent, but now connected to The Great Depression.

To a limited sense, you were being educated by the questions you asked yourself about these sources of information to which you were being subjected, and by your growing awareness of frustrations you experienced with all of them. 

Although you were unable to articulate the matter as such, you understood even then how the source of some of your frustrations had to do with you being at the mercy of two significant sources, adults and, once again in ways you were not at the time able to articulate, plans made by adults.

You pretty much were reminded daily of the Los Angeles Unified School District, which imposed curricula, reminded of rules and suggestions transmitted by your parents, and ways you were likely to be treated by random adults. Sundays brought you in contact with a similar set of conditions through the filter of Sunday School, where you were presented with ritual, tradition, and information relating to the culture into which you were born. 

You were well aware that the going was not easy for those of your culture who happened to live in Europe. Since your maternal grandparents had migrated from Europe, you were aware of some of the reasons they chose to leave relative affluence in Russia before migrating to this country.

This brief background explains some but by no means all of the reasons why your responses to education caused you to be given high grades for learning and, charitably, less than satisfactory grades for personal behaviors such as responsibility, cooperation, and attentiveness. Your grades in such qualities were Ns, the N signifying Needs to Improve. In other words, you were a smart ass.

Against such a background, another form of frustration arose, your awareness of the ways in which events often followed a pattern of random effect. Things happened that you were neither aware of nor did they have effect on you. Things happened at random every bit as often as they did because plans were made for them to happen. Cakes failed in the oven, souffles fell.

Because you studied for a test or expended wide and considerable research on a project, preparation did not guarantee a positive or even good result. Of course, there was the basic: the fact of you wanting something was no guarantee you would get it or even be close to achieving it.

In some cultures and in many circumstances, such awareness was part of the process described as "growing up" or "that's the way things are," or "coming to terms with reality." To this day, you consider yourself an optimist, notwithstanding the numerous disappointments, failures, reversals, and occasions where you were beneficiary of unanticipated happy outcomes. 

In many, if not all, cases, you are grown up, recognize the enormous efforts needed to change some of the cultural things you'd wish to change, and are at the least in a state of detente with reality.

The most significant thing you've learned about yourself is the need to put your efforts into preparation rather than relying on faith-based options. You still understand that preparation is action-based faith; it is not a guarantee of the outcome you have in mind, but it is the best thing you can do, and the most probable source of happiness.

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