Follow Your Passion at Your Own Peril
But do it regardless — my comment against a conservative life advice video
By MARTIN REZNY
First, here’s the video that I simply had to respond to. You should watch it before reading my comment, but if you don’t have all day, it basically says, very fairly and eloquently, that people shouldn’t be driven by their passion when making career affecting choices, such as what to study or generally pursue. It was explained there that passion doesn’t necessarily equal skills, or even affinity for developing them, and that one should follow opportunity.
I get the point of this video, but riddle me this — what if your passion aligns with your talents and skills, but there’s no or very limited opportunity because of a rotten job market, failing state systems, or immoral corporate industries? What if you are eminently qualified to do something that’s actually very meaningful and people need it, but it doesn’t adequately pay as a career, or has been thoroughly corrupted?
What this video entirely sidesteps is the question of meaning and purpose behind work, and from where I’m standing, that’s what matters the most. Sometimes, career failure and even death caused by trying to do what’s right instead of being opportunistic is a good thing. Maybe not good in the sense of pleasant or fair, but definitely good in the sense of right and necessary. It may be tragic, but tragedy by definition can only happen to people with good intentions.
I’m not insulted by the arguments presented, it’s the most fair way I’ve seen of defending the worldview of just conforming to the state of the world, however sorry it might be. But let’s be really realistic. If someone thinks they’re a great singer and that the way to go about doing it is to participate in a “reality” TV show, they’re somewhere between ill-informed and delusional about what the purpose of being a musician is.
The point of being an artist is not to get a career, success, fame, or wealth out of it, it is to express something that needs to be expressed. All career related issues are tangential and coincidental to what art is, relevant only in determining the scope of artist’s impact or legacy. Artists, even the best ones, often spend most of their lives struggling career-wise and suffering for their art, but that doesn’t make them failures.
It’s similar with degrees, talked about here with subdued derision. Knowledge has value in and of itself, and again, it has relation to career, but is not justified by material rewards. If anything, it’s generally twisted by material rewards. It’s not just theorists of postmodern Japanese gender cooking who’d have a hard time getting a job these days, it’s all of the artists and philosophers and social scientists. We need those people, a lot.
Manual or other menial labor can, and should, be mostly automated. And it already largely could have been, which is being stalled by mere lack of will. You cannot automate creative thinking and it’s thinking that’s needed to solve problems, like that of a crap job market. An unemployed social scientist can still think of a solution to a number of problems, an employed and pretty busy successful plumber likely cannot.
Not because uneducated people or manual workers are dumber people, it’s the lack of pursuing a specific passion despite the “reality” of available opportunities that makes the difference. A successful worker isn’t motivated to change anything whatsoever, if he or she is smart (in the pragmatic sense). The agenda of people behind media channels like PragerU is that of smart successful people who are very conservative.
From such a position, you certainly want people to be obedient, opportunistic, without advanced education (especially in philosophy or art), and therefore likely to do any work which those who own businesses deem worthwhile. But you, person with a passion, are not them. Their goals don’t serve you. Don’t avoid success, but don’t compromise too much of what gives your life meaning and purpose for it. If you fail, it wasn’t for nothing.
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