Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Blog - Almost 40-Year-Old Virgin - got me to thinking . . .

I just finished reading every post in the blog Almost 40-Year-Old Virgin. Blogs like this one remind me why I was inspired to start my own blog. Early on, I put my name on My Learning Curve, which limited what I can (really, what is prudent to) talk about in it. I should start an anonymous blog like A40YOV has done so I can be just as open and honest about personal issues and use the blogosphere as safe interactive introspective therapy. I mostly agree with his opinion regarding the fraud that is psycho-therapy; however, I also believe that if one's psycho-emotional problems are deeply ingrained, it's awfully tough to count on the use of that flawed mind to fix the same mind. The solution itself likely will be formed incorporating the systemic flaw. A degree of reflection and introspection is healthy, but it must be balanced. I very much believe that interaction with real people and the real world is fundamentally necessary, not just healthy, even when it entails friction. An imbalance of reflection and introspection easily becomes an unhealthy isolation, which only magnifies flaws and creates an increasing unreality. On the other hand, how many psycho-therapists have the capability to divine a solution? Very few. Reasonably, prescribing drugs is the most effective thing psycho-therapists can do: skip the philosophical-cognitive visualization and directly attack the mechanical-chemical base.

Thoughts inspired:

The Army was a good environment to test my abilities and learn how I actually relate to real people in the real world. However, the Army is a structured environment with structured roles that are oriented according to their relations to the collective whole. As someone seeking to find himself and not knowing where to begin, the Army provided a rich 3-dimensional test environment I could not have duplicated with my own devices. The value of the experience was great. However, as I matured as a soldier, I eventually rebelled against the Army as a vehicle of personal growth because it wasn't mine. Everything I became - was becoming - as a soldier was part-me, but in greater degree, it belonged to the Army. It wasn't of me, if that makes sense. The selfless service that is soldiering is a noble and necessary thing, but little of it is for the sake of self (hence, the "selfless" aspect). When I left the Army in April 2001, I looked upon Columbia as the logical next stage. If the Army was my test environment, Columbia was supposed to be my experimental and developmental environment. It was the time, place and opportunity when and where I would bundle all the things I learned about myself in the Army and take full control of my personal development - for the rest of my life. I intended to be totally self-focused, even selfish, as a student in order to prepare myself for adulthood. At Columbia, I would more than find myself, I would become myself. Especially given that I had rejected the incredible opportunity offered to me as a West Point cadet, it was intensely important that I compensate by maximizing my opportunity at Columbia. (OT: Interacting with my fellow milvets, I get a similar intense vibe from many of them, which is why I think it's hard to get more investment into the group from more of them - we're a selfish lot.) Well, my selfish intent lasted through the summer, when not coincidentally, I earned my only 'A' at Columbia. Then 9/11 happened. All my issues I had intended to attack and conquer at Columbia were backburnered. Walking the city that day, I made the decision: I switched back to my soldierly selfless service mode and decided I had to do something. As I witnessed the utter inability of my classmates to respond properly to the terrorist attacks, I became a campus activist. Now 5 years later, I have MilVets, the ROTC movement and Students United for America to show for my activism, all nobly selfless achievements based upon the right reasons. But I sacrificed myself. I'm limping out of Columbia with a BA and I've failed to accomplish any of the personal development I originally intended. I made a choice on 9/11 that has cost me. I desperately needed to be selfish, and I sacrificed this vital (last-chance?) developmental period of my life in order to be selfless. Yes, I am proud of the campus changes I've put in motion, there are no regrets on that level, but who I am and who I have not become worry the hell out of me.

In AWOL and Baby Jack, Kathy Roth-Douquet and Frank Schaeffer emphasize the progressiveness of classic liberalism (civic progressivism), selfless service and duty and the greater good. They place those socially oriented values over individualist (rights liberalism) values. While I agree service and civic duty are important, I believe a healthy life contains a balance of both - selflessness and selfishness. Do the right thing, sure, but in the end, you can only count on yourself to take care of you. How does this tie into A40YOV's blog? His blog reminded me that with all the things that ask and demand of us as social beings and denizens of the world, it's easy to backburner our selves. Life keeps moving forward, regardless, and increased age is no curative. We get older, the by-products (personal baggage) of life add up, and if we only focus on selflessness, the outside or the other, the self suffers. Problems compound. Losing my 20s and becoming 30 has been a shock. I can just as easily reach 40 without any improvement. I feel guilty about wanting to be selfish, but I need to be self-centered now even if I will return to selflessness.

By the way, if I go back to the Army (likely as a Civil Affairs reservist) some time after I graduate, it would be a selfless act. I want to. It's not that I'm eager to put on the uniform again, but I can't think of anything more important to do right now in a civic sense. As scary as the prospect of going to war is, and I scare easily, those who choose not to serve at this point in American history are wrong. Right now, I'm wrong, but am I willing to pay the price of sacrifice to become right? I don't know. I very much envy my fellow milvets who have served 'over there' since 9/11. They've checked the block. I haven't. Their stuff is proven. Mine isn't.

Eric

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