Monday, July 27, 2009

Born (too) Free

I learned last week in piano lessons what defines a fugue:
A fugue opens with one main theme, the subject, which then sounds successively in each voice in imitation; when each voice has entered, the exposition is complete; this is occasionally followed by a connecting passage, or episode, developed from previously heard material; further "entries" of the subject then are heard in related keys.

Basically, a motif is introduced, and then repeated until all the voices have had their say.

My life, as a fugue, has been dealing with the motif of freedom- specifically in terms of lightness versus weight. Less abstractly, in wandering versus deliberate purpose. Concretely: as it applies to careers.

This motif first appeared in an article that came out a couple weeks ago which brought some attention and gave voice to my generation's plague- The Quarter-Life Crisis. (The term was coined around 2001, by Alexandra Robbins and Abby Wilner in their book Quarterlife Crisis, the Unique Challenges of Life in your Twenties (Tarcher, 2001)). But as I was 14 in 2001, and not quite old enough when that John Mayer song came out, it hasn't hit me until this past year (hence, the blog).
It sparked some interesting discussion with some friends, though, and the article's lack of conclusion distressed me. The basic points of the article are:

1. That many of us in our twenties feel lost, despite all following the 'rules' by going to college. We followed a roadmap to Wally World, and once we got here, well, you've all seen that movie.

2. Between Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, texting, BBMing, iChat and Skype, we're feeling isolated and more alone than ever.

3. We, as a generation, have too much choice. The overwhelming infiniteness of opportunity is crippling, and so we stick it out in jobs we hate, in cities we don't like, with significant others we don't love.

That was the first Voice of the motif (which was just turning up the volume on a Voice that had already been chattering away in my consciousness for months).

Then, for my book club, we decided to read Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being. One of the main themes, and questions, the novel puts forth is the very non-fictional question: are you more free if you are lighter than air, or tied to the earth with an anchor?

The heaviest of burdens is simultaneously an image of life's most intense fullfillment. The heavier the burden, the closer our lives come to the earth, the more real and truthful they become. Conversely, the absolute absence of a burden causes man to be lighter than air, to soar into new heights, take leave of the earth and his earthly being, and become only half real, his movements as free as they are insignificant. What then shall we choose? Weight or lightness?

Next, this came up over sangria and carpaccio and arancini with my dear and brilliant friend, E=MC. He is studying Theology at Duke Theological Seminary, and thus, is a fascinating person and contributor to conversation. He has read Kundera's book, as well as pretty much every other book on the planet. He posited, that there is Biblical evidence to suggest that "there is freedom in obedience". (So many verses talk about using freedom to serve- using freedom to obey commands and love one another - rather than using freedom to run wild).

Then finally, I went to church on Sunday with my family (the church in which I grew up) and the sermon was on Psalm 100, the key verse of which reads: "Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture." This verse is not meant to demean humans or put us on par with sheep, but to offer comfort in the sovereignty of God- to offer peace in knowing our place, and where we belong.

The benediction (my very favorite part of church services) sent me out into the world to think about this.

I think with this reflection, the fugue is complete.

I may not have any specific direction to take from these musings, but I think I have become comfortable with the idea that I do have a place, and that I do want a career to help me find my place, not necessarily define it. I want a life's work into which I can throw myself, not a series of jobs I do or a meaningless string of people I interact with for no reason. What a person does for a living, how they spend their time, has always been important (it's oftentimes what our last names are derived from: Potter, Miller, Baker, Smith, Fisher, etc.) and I think it is up to each of us to make a decision about what is important to us: to just pick a career/life path and GO with it, rather than twiddle our thumbs and hope something happens.

I will choose to find my joy in weight.