Oh Me Oh My

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Discipline (of the non-sexual variety)

“Seek freedom and become captive of your desires. Seek discipline and find your liberty.” I think this Frank Herbert quote sort of offers a perspective as to why our generation of twenty-somethings is wandering sort of aimlessly. Previous generations had military obligations, or had families at a younger age or entered a company from the bottom and worked their way to the top. All of these things demanded a huge amount of discipline which offers purpose in a way. We are of the “play it by ear” generation. If you’ve noticed people in their twenties often suck when it comes to making decisions. When asked what they feel like doing, the common response is “Whatever, I’m up for anything”. Is “being up for anything” what makes us feel so lost sometimes?

Marriage takes a lot of discipline, and the divorce rate reflects this. Saving money takes a lot of discipline, and the number of people declaring bankruptcy reflects this. We are a non-committal generation. We work contract jobs, we have “friends with benefits”, we agonize about our purpose in life because we are the fortunate few who have all the options open to them—and that freedom is actually kind of scary. How can you settle on ONE major, ONE partner, ONE ultimate destination, when there is an entire world of choices out there?

There is this strange societal stigma towards discipline. No one wants their boss to be “too bossy” so they try and be your friend. Personally as long as you’re respectful I really don’t care if we’re chummy. At the library I work at we keep relaxing the rules so we’re not such disciplinarians. Now instead of telling people they can’t eat, or to turn off their phones, we turn a blind eye. Again I think we’re doing a disservice to the people who have to mop up the spilled coke or have to try and study while Chamillionaire is “ridin’ dirty” as someone’s obnoxious ringtone.

I have sat in meetings where managers let employees ramble on about inane things instead of taking control of the situation. We have all seen parents throw up their hands and let Cody and Madison run amuck in public. Courts tiptoe around issues afraid of hurting peoples’ religious sensibilities. Part of me just wants that manager to take back control, make an executive decision and move the hell on. I want to see that parent physically yank their kid down from the thing they shouldn’t be climbing or actually follow through on a threat to turn the car around. I want courts to be like, “Sharia law, no thanks, we have a legal system already” or “Stop gays from marrying, give me one logic-based reason why we should!”

This reminds me of the speech Sideshow Bob gives when he is caught rigging the election: “You need me Springfield. Your guilty conscience may force you to vote Democratic, but deep down inside you secretly long for a cold-hearted Republican to lower taxes, brutalize criminals, and rule you like a king”. Obviously a corrupt leader is bad, and a Republican leader even worse, or is it the same thing? (badoom ching) but I think deep down inside everyone has some longing for structure. Without the obligations associated with previous generations it seems it’s up to us to find our own version of discipline.

Maybe we can save for a house, or set a fitness target, or learn a skill of some kind. Even tiny victories give us a sense of purpose, and make the idea of not having a set path, a little less terrifying. We as a generation have so much potential and we just need the focus and lack of fear to achieve it. Jim Rohn once said “Discipline is the road from goals to accomplishment”. Maybe the way to stop feeling so lost is to find the road again.


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