I truly and avidly believe in the pen as substance. A first-class education should not just produce a “well rounded student,” but should be able to round out a table as well. All intellectuals such as, novelists, playwrights, poets, essayists, painters, philosophers, astronomers, theoretical physicists (I do consider astronomy and physics part of the humanistic arts), lyricists, composers, journalists, orators, historians, comedians, etc. have a right to sustain themselves with their ideas. However, because of the changing nature of the academic scene (or perhaps the increasingly impatient materialistic pupil) this is not always the case.
I met a gentleman in a writing class once, and like me, he was passionate about writing, the arts, and all the wonders of the universe, known and unknown. One day I asked him (during one of many profound conversations) what his major was. He paused for a moment, leaned back in his chair, and then cleared his throat.
“Hotel administration,” he mumbled.
I could barely understand the garbled words coming out of his mouth. I asked him to repeat himself.
“Hotel administration, it’s one of the fastest growing industries in the Midwest. It’s a guaranteed fifty grand or more upon graduation.”
I nodded my head in bewilderment.
“Sweet,” I said. It was the only thing I could say to hide my bitter disappointment of another mind being tossed in the landfills of gold.
There is a term used to describe a generation of 1920s modernist literary writers (Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Pound, Stein, etc.) who left the United States for Paris and other parts of Europe after WWI: the “Lost Generation.” I think it is only proper the term be applied to our current generation of youth. Instead of Paris or Madrid, minds are fleeing to cubicles and conference halls. The executive who has an unfinished manuscript on his desk or the secretary who longs to one day become an accomplished novelist, too busy rising to the expectations of society instead of their hearts.
Albert Einstein could have stuck with his job in accounting and Barack Obama could have continued being an “interest group researcher.” I am sure Einstein would have been a great accountant, but the world would have lost “The Theory of Relativity.” I am also just as certain Mr. Obama would have been a wonderful data analyst, but the world would have lost a leader. All Americans have an individual right to freedom and happiness, but what is happiness? Is happiness taking orders from managers, supervisors, and administrators? Or is bliss taking over the world with philosophy, art, words, and ideas―your pen.
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