The Lost World
By Scott Welsh
Having been stimulated by Pirsig's works, I decided to write some of the results of that stimulation in the form of some small essays. They are very rough drafts with many holes I'm sure, but they are my fledgling attempts at putting some of elements of the metaphysics of quality in to "every day" use. Please give feedback as to whether this essay is interesting, banal, having some sort of potential or whatever. It would be much appreciated and very helpful. My e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We're losing them, you know. Maybe each generation has said this in one form or anther but now it somehow seems different. Now kids are dying. It's about time we paid attention.
It's one thing to be old and locked into a routine. Maybe you've given up and just want to go quietly into the sunset. But kids today, like kids in any time, aren't ready for that just yet. They think they can do anything. They believe it can still be done. But no one is giving any answers and they don't know what to do. They don't know where to turn.
And where can they turn? Organized religion is failing miserably. Kids don't want to go to church; it's boring. Now elders, gilded in their ways, would say that our children are undisciplined and uncommitted. But the fact of the matter is, church is boring. The thing about the young is they haven't learned to dull their sense of excellence. They are more attached to quality feelings than old people and judge things for what they truly are. If church was fun, they'd like it and they'd learn. They'd learn what it's like to love and care and how we are all one and the lessons would help them live a high quality life. But kids are instead drowned with religious traditions and rituals and simply put, they're not buying it. The people who make kids go to church because it's "good for them" are only, in essence, telling these kids, "Hey, I'm out of it. Maybe someday when you're older and duller we can talk, but right now I can't help you."
So where else can kids go? To school? Really? Where did those shootings in Colorado happen anyway? Do you think that's a coincidence? Schools aren't offering any answers, either. Most teachers are college graduates looking for a decent paycheck and summers off. They may say they want to "educate" but what are they really doing? Think about it, how do you get an "A" in school? You don't do what you feel. If the teacher doesn't agree with what you think, then you fail. Of course, most of the time you aren't even taught to feel or think anything in the first place. Just study the questions, copy the notes and memorize the best you can. Those who memorize well become the stars. Those who fight to understand are troublemakers and those who question the banality of the lesson-plan or the system are unruly. In our schools today you can get straight "A's", make dean's list, be class valedictorian and local beacon of the future, without ever having an original thought in your head. And you know what, kids know this. Deep down they can't believe that the "stars" who conform and regurgitate facts and figures like good little robots get all the faculty's smiles and adoration when they actually don't know squat. Reaching a dead end, the outcast, average kids look around and see what else gets garners attention at school. The answer: cheerleaders and sport stars. The average portion of the student body is forced to sit around and wonder just what is so special about parasitic pompom leaders who by definition exist only because of an actual game going on the field. The cheerleaders are the elite and for what, being pretty? Sure they might have some surface quality but somewhere along the line someone told these kids that they are superior for performing such meaninglessness and so don't ever search for any real excellence in themselves. The outsiders can feel this. On the other hand, the sports stars can do some amazing things but nothing seems more antagonizing than a holier-than-thou, self-centered, hollowed-out athlete who takes his wonderful gift and abuses it rather that using it as a vehicle for true self-knowledge or anything else of substance. When they're fat and fifty these athletes will understand but in school today, only the outsiders can see it. Eventually all of these things build up. Life begins to look worthless and the emotions are strong. Those on the outside can't get a good-looking date or even an "A". All that surrounds these kids is pointless and, being too young to give up, some try lash out to try to change things in some desperate form of catharsis. Sometimes this process turns violent.
So the only place left in the world to find what they're looking for is at home, and that may be where the greatest failure in our society lies. Where do kids learn how to live? From their parents--theoretically. But it's not happening. Kids are being told not to drink while getting their father a beer from the fridge. Kids are told not to do drugs, well, the parents had to work so they left a note not to do drugs on the kitchen table. Kids are told not to be promiscuous by parents who've had only one lover or by parents on their third marriage. Kids are given rules and platitudes but no direction and no answers. They look at their parents and see over-weight, hypocritical, out-of-touch dictators and eventually they stop listening. They start gravitating to their friends, the only people they can find in their life that still care or represent some sort of truth. But most of the time their friends are just as confused as they are so they all begin to experiment. To find out the truth, one path to take is to find all that which is not the truth, and keep narrowing it down. These abandoned children know their parents are not the truth so they figure if they become everything their parents are not or do everything their parents say not to do, maybe then they will have the answer. Sometimes this works, sometimes it leads to destructiveness, sometimes nothing comes of it and they give up trying. In the latter case, eventually they become their parents and the cycle continues.
So what can be done? It's time to start giving kids answers. It's time for some real "teachers" to step to the forefront. Kids will always follow the truth. Kids will always follow quality. The problem is, nothing in their every-day life has any quality. As philosopher/writer Robert Pirsig once wrote (and I'm paraphrasing), "If you want to change the world, start with yourself and work outward." Whether you know it or not, the kids are watching. They're watching all the time. Once you're deemed as having no quality, they'll look somewhere else. So stop drinking so much. Stop accepting being fat. Stop making lame excuses. Stop wasting your time. Quit giving rules and start giving an example. Fill yourself with so much quality, people can't help but notice. Quality ripples out like waves in a pond. If you are excellent, people will notice. People will follow. All kids need is a true way out. If they are shown a real path to a quality life, most will stay on it. School won't matter, church won't matter, or better yet, they might be able walk amongst these institutions and actually make them better. One person can make a difference because you never know how far quality will travel. Don't give up on yourself and don't give up on these kids. Everything can change in an instant if you just start providing some answers.