Creative, Intellectual Lives are Not Self-Indulgent


Think of what we’ve come to. It is one of the great testaments to the intellectual—and moral, and spiritual—poverty of American society that it makes its most intelligent young people feel like they’re being self-indulgent if they pursue their curiosity. You are all told that you’re supposed to go to college, but you’re also told that you’re being “self-indulgent” if you actually want to get an education. Or even worse, give yourself one. As opposed to what? Going into consulting isn’t self-indulgent? Going into finance isn’t self-indulgent? Going into law, like most of the people who do, in order to make yourself rich, isn’t self-indulgent? It’s not OK to play music, or write essays, because what good does that really do anyone, but it is OK to work for a hedge fund. It’s selfish to pursue your passion, unless it’s also going to make you a lot of money, in which case it’s not selfish at all.

via Dangerous Minds | Creative, Intellectual Lives are Not Self-Indulgent.

Go read the whole article; seriously, it's massively worth it. (And thank you yet *again* to Psuke for the awesome links!)

You could kinda knock me over with a feather right now. ;)  Where I grew up, it was "wasting money" to go to college unless you had a clear idea of the money-pumping career you were aiming for (trade school was much preferred); and my decision to go for philosophy because I was passionate about it was met with….well.  And whenever I considered moving to Boston, where my writing &etc. had a better chance of becoming a more solid and meaningful part of my life, someone was always there to frown at me for "acting like a child" and wanting silly, inappropriate things.  Once I had a child the opinionating doubled…now that I was a mom, the theory went, all my passion and art and weirdness should have been finally fully subsumed to my womanhood, leaving nothing but a burning desire to clean the house, and a firm preference for tasteful clothes from Sears.

Of course, as many of you know, I did eventually move to Boston…because I could no longer get work amid the financial devastation wrought by the exact industry-obsessed attitudes that insisted on the primacy of work and money.  I found a job — not just a good job, but a great job, making more than anyone in my family by a good long bit —  and I'll be darned if my husband and I *still* didn't get frowned at for moving to a place that was "more artsy", that had a better music scene for him and writing groups for me…even IF you're going to make a bunch of money, if anyone suspects (as they doubtless do with me) that you're going to make that money in some way SO you can pursue things that you're passionate about, "useless" things like art and music and philosophy, then you're still suspect.

We are living in a dark age.  If you doubt me in historical terms, go watch Terry Jones' Medieval Lives for a few episodes.  ;)  But if you have any awareness in you at all, you won't doubt me in social terms, especially not after the article above clears it up for you.

Don't worry.  Galileo lived in the dark ages too, and he did alright.  They may lynch us eventually, but if in the meantime we've pursued our passions, we'll be alright anyway.

About puredoxyk

Word addict, kungfu/taiji nut, and life-partner to polyphasic sleep. Rabid fan of as many hobbies as the world will let me pry into its piddly fourth dimension (it helps to have knocked out the wall).
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3 Responses to Creative, Intellectual Lives are Not Self-Indulgent

  1. Chad says:

    Nice article.  I like the spirit.  We as a people can get so wrapped up in the rat race.
    A coworker recently wrote:
    Above my desk & on the door at work I have the following quote from Mary Oliver's The Summer Day "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life."

    I really like that quote.  It makes the Zen like nowness stark and plain and full of potential.

  2. Nick says:

    Really really, this is so simple to work through.  Think for yourself and that way when people try to pull you down- for whatever reason- you can immediately reject their stupid wasteful opinion.  Make good decisions all the time, then it becomes easy to trust in yourself.
    IMO, if you are any less than 100% happy to disagree with the whole world, then you have work to do.

  3. Erayd says:

    Looking at what I hope is the original Chronicle article (, it's worth taking a look at the comments – I'm fascinated by how the majority of commenters there simply seem to be rejecting the entire point of it outright, without first considering all the aspects of what is being discussed. Perhaps this is because they feel uncomfortable even thinking about such 'heresy'?
    I like to live my life by the concept that limits are never based on resources, but resourcefulness. Just because something may seem unlikely at the outset, that's no reason to give up on the whole thing – dreams only become possible if you actually take the first step on the path to achieving them. Once that step is taken, the second step becomes clear… and after a while of that, it turns out that whatever that dream was, it was worth chasing.
    Dreams also change along the way – what you end up with isn't necessarily what you started out wanting, but as long as you follow what feels right, the end result is usually one worth having. I'm not claiming that every step of the journey is necessarily a pleasant one – but that does nothing to diminish the validity or worth of the experience, and often provides useful insight or context.

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