Wednesday, November 16, 2011

On the future

אל-תתהלל, ליום מחר: כי לא-תדע, מה-ילד יום
Boast not to yourself of tomorrow; for you have not knowledge of what that day brings.
-Proverbs 27:1

I've been thinking about this verse a lot lately. I started a paper with it, and it hasn't gotten out of my head. I don't take a literal view of the Bible, or G-d: the former to me, is extremely metaphorical and non-literal, and my view of G-d is complicated and definitely non-traditional.

But this verse rings true for me. And it's sitting in my head like a cat does - lazily, and not for a short time - and making me think.

Ergo, I ask: Do students at the University of Chicago do this too much? Do we boast to ourselves of a glorious, guaranteed future?

I don't, but I get really into my work and think of it as a possibility. But I'm wondering if a lot of people do.

I've been here at UChicago for over a year now. I'm a second-year, and now I get to watch a batch of first-years come in. I know people who know exactly what they want to do - and who know exactly how they'll achieve it. And that they'll achieve it.

Or they believe it.

I used to think that I'd definitely be an international maritime lawyer. I'm researching demography PhD programs now.

But there are people here who believe in a future that has been written for them.

A few people - only one at UChicago, though - think it's G-d-given.

Liturgically, I have issues with this - I don't believe in an anthropomorphic G-d, rather a force-like G-d (think Star Wars), but more importantly, G-d just lets a lot of shit happen. And even if He did write the future, He wouldn't necessarily write it your way. You can't own G-d.

More people have never really thought about other scenarios.

Look, you never know what shit could happen. I didn't ask for a friendly spider to bite me in China. My friend just got out of the ER with a concussion.

And you may not be sure what your passion really is. My friend Allie has done a lot of looking around, so she actually knows what she wants to do. My friend Alex has done that. My friend Aaron. But that took trial and error. And I've had other friends who have blasted in as a biology geek and come out as linguists!

And do you know what life in your chosen field is like? I thought I wanted to be a lawyer, but I really don't want to go through the lawyer's life. I always find it worrisome when people want to go into something...and don't know what they're getting into.

How do you know that that future is written for you?

That's my thought for today. I probably sound pretentious and snobby and such, but I can't get that verse out of my head.

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