Acceptance, True Self, and George F. Babbitt


Babbit

Sinclair Lewis’ satirical book Babbitt depicted the pressure of conformity during the 1920s in the life of George Babbitt as he strove to obtain a higher status in his business and social world. Babbitt “belongs to all the right right clubs, attends the right events, and goes to all the right dinners,” as noted by Allison Hiltz. Yet Babbitt failed to satisfy his greed causing a sense of discontentment with his life.

Babbitt felt dissatisfied with the daily grind of family, work, and friends because he denied himself the opportunity to develop his true self. Babbitt looked to his neighbors to define the kind of man they believed he should be instead of the kind of man Babbitt truly was or wanted to be. According to Richard Schwartz of Florida International University, Babbitt’s denial was that of his homosexual tendencies toward Paul Riesling. In his journal, Schwartz’s explained Babbitt’s pursuit to “explore himself and feel loved and accepted while he discovers what he really wants and enjoys” was expressed when Babbitt spoke more openly about his true feelings and revealed his dissatisfaction with his life privately to Riesling. As a result, Babbitt found access to his true self in his friendship with Riesling. Their relationship deepened and became more precious to him than the shallow social connections Babbitt was obsessed in obtaining. Consequently after Riesling began serving his three years in jail which separated Riesling and Babbitt both physically and emotionally, Babbitt poured himself into his business, local politics, and his mistress Tanis to seek out a replica of the acceptance he once experienced with Riesling. Schwartz’s conclusion was that Babbitt’s suppressed homosexuality caused his inability to develop his true self. But, Babbitt was not a homosexual, and it was his dependency upon other’s acceptance caused his inability to develop his true self. Babbitt sought the acceptance of those more powerful than he so that he could accept himself.

As Lewis craftily portrayed in his book, Babbitt needed to find satisfaction and meaning from himself and not others. Because Babbitt was overly concerned with the upkeep of his image and appearance, he was unable to discover what made him happy and fulfilled. Lewis ended the book not with Babbitt’s happy ending but with an opportunity for Babbitt’s son, Ted, to go find his fulfillment no matter what society thought of him. For the first time, Babbitt himself consciously went against conformity when he gave his son this advice and was ready to fearlessly defend his decision.

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Impossible Unhappiness

blog itThe long standing catchphrase, “College is not for everyone,” is used by many college dropouts and guidance counsellors today. Occasionally, the catchphrase rings true. Some students abhor education to such an extent that even while they are in college, the students rebel against the comprehension of any information taught to them. These students would much rather jump straight into direct application instead of enduring additional years of education. Growing up in a small school where the college dropout rate within the first semester of college was around forty percent, the catchphrase of an exclusive college became our battle cry of Anacoco.

Through the character Dr. Leete in Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward, a much different concept of education is presented in Bellamy’s Nationalism (not nationalist, as mentioned in this Wikipedia article) point of view on a futuristic United States. In Chapter 21, Dr. Leete explains to Julian West, somewhat of a time traveler from the year 1887, “The main difference is that nowadays all persons equally have those opportunities of higher education while in your day only an infinitesimal portion of the population enjoyed.” Bellamy is suggesting that everyone can enjoy a free college education paid by the nation which the students will, in turn, pay for by working in the years to come. An equal education, as described by Bellamy, yields equal opportunities so that the upper classes cannot have more opportunities that the lower classes do not have a shot at.

However, if all education is equal, would there be honors classes or AP courses? Would Bellamy insist that all educators treat every mind equally so that no one is left out and a potential honors student is not looked over? With this frame of mind, all the material would be kept the same in every state and every classroom around the country.

If honors classes exist in this perfectly equal opportunity world, then those honors students would receive an opportunity at a better education than those receiving a common one. With a better education, better job possibilities come along, and BAM! an unequal world is created once again. However, if every student is treated the same, those who exceed in intelligence would become bored in a classroom where there is no challenge. Bellamy did not address such issues because each character in his book is part of a “world where everyone has a nice day,” as described by Warren Sloat in this New York Times article. To have a student who is bored with his education would mean that the student is dissatisfied with the nation, and according to Looking Backward, this is impossible.

Why Not The Nice Guy

The Bedside Manner of a True Maid of Honor
When deciding how much a person means to me and if he or she is truly a “best friend”, I normally test his or her character by asking two separate questions:

1.) Would I make him or her my maid of honor?
or
2.) Would I want him or her to be the first person I see when I wake up in a hospital after a terrible accident?

These questions might be a little jurassic. But, if you think about it, how much does the person mean to you if you say you are “best friends” but you don’t want him or her as your maid of honor let alone in your wedding at all.

I allow question #1 to symbolize all happiness for me in this extended metaphor. When figuring out how much a person really means to me, I think:  Who do I want in the front of the church, right alongside of me when I finally get to marry the man of dreams? Who do I want holding my flowers and crying softly as I say words that will bind me to another life for a lifetime? Of course, I would want the same person who I call when my crush asks me out on a date. I would want the same person who I binge watch Netflix with. I would want the same person who is my running partner. I would want someone who is there for all the happy times and always wants happy things for me. This person calls on my birthday and buys me a thoughtful Christmas gift every year. This person wants nothing but the best in my life and wants to hear about it when I get the best.
But this person is not there when hard times come, not because the person does not care but something always gets in the way. There’s always a reason and when I need him or her the most, and he or she is not willing to drop everything. Maybe it’s not fair to ask that of one person. After a while, I quit telling the person when I am having a bad day or when that guy does not notice me enough to ask me out or when I feel too down and out to go running. These are the friends that I want to spend the happiest days of my life with because they deserve to be there. They will add to the happiness as they have continuously and consistently all these years, but we do not want to disappoint them when happiness seems to be far away.
We all have these friends. Admittedly, I am this kind of friend to many people, coincidentally with the people I was friends with when I was younger. I wish I was more than this kind of friend to these important people, but maybe we do not need each other in any other way than this. Because these friends are reminders that there are people out in the world who wish happiness on me and my life while I am wishing happiness on them and theirs–even if it is only from a distance.

The second kind of “best friend” is the one I call up before I call my parents. The one that is the first to know anything when I am freaking out because they are the only ones that can help me take a deep breath. The one that I go to when I have the worst break up in the history of my life and I don’t think that there is any way in Heaven or Hell that I could get up tomorrow because I could run into my ex. So, I go and sit on his or her doorstep and wait for them because if I called before heading over, I would not have made it through the phone call.
There is a reason he or she is the one that I go to first. This reason is that I know that he or she will have the exact words to get me back on my feet. And when he or she does not, and I just sit there crying my eyes out because I never thought hurt could hurt this much, they just put their arm around me and let me cry. I don’t even feel embarrassed and when I try to apologize they look at me like I am crazy.
These are the friends I want to see when I wake up from a horrible accident. Because my parents would be worried sick if I woke up and said that I am scared of dying. Yet, if I voice my fear of death to one of these friends, they nod and say, “Me too” and somehow it would make me feel better and less afraid just like these friends always have a way of doing.
These friends I can be brutally honest with and they do not think twice about it. I can ask ridiculous questions, and they just simply answer them. I can tell them my most shallow thoughts and they do not think less of me. These friends see me as a human but they also see themselves as humans too—no better, no worse.

I was trying to figure out for several weeks now why I can’t like this guy I have been seeing. To say he is a nice guy is an absolute understatement. He is the kind of guy I would be proud to take to my parents’ house, but also the kind of guy I can joke around with and have a great time (these kinds are a rarity). And I finally figured it out.
The biggest difference between these two kinds of friends, is that one of the types does not really know me and the other type knows everything. The maid of honor friends only know the happy me. They don’t know why I stayed up thinking last night, or that I think that much at all. These friends share experiences with me and share memories but I tell them little about myself. The hospital friends know everything about what I think, but rarely spend time with me. And when we do spend time, it’s mostly spent talking. From my experience, I don’t spend all my time talking and listening with these hospital friends because we are bored, but because we don’t have to entertain the other person. Talking is enough and really, that’s all we want to do because the moment either of us stop, we realize that no one else in the world really cares about any of that stuff except these kinds of friends.

Jesus had friends like these. Jesus had 12 disciples that he shared 3 years of his life with. But only 3 of them really knew the true side of him—these “hospital” friends were Peter, James, and John. Because when it all comes down to it, there just some people on this earth we want to be known by, and this number is few. By “known”, I mean that when I am dead and gone, I don’t want those people who barely knew me to remember me or to say fake nice things at my funeral. No, I want those people who really knew me (because I allowed myself to be known by them) to speak and to remember and to smile because in a world that has 8 billion people on it, they chose to love me. And I chose them.

And that’s why I can’t like this really nice guy because I don’t want him to known by me. I want the entire world to see Christ when they look at me, but is it selfish to want those few people to see what makes up the true me (as cliche as it sounds)? To be honest, those friends who I would want to see first when I wake up in a hospital should be my maids of honor. It should be the people who are the only ones that can calm me down and would drop everything when I call them. But what do I know? I don’t even have a boyfriend.

I hope you find friends like these. Because with friends like these, who needs anemones?

Why Adventures

There is two sides to every adventure. There’s the side you tell everyone when you return, and there’s the side that actually happened. Of course the one that you tell everyone will have much more vivid detail—now, whether or not that vivid detail is true, well I guess that’s part of the fun because the listener has to pick and pull at the story to figure out what you actually did. These adventures that you tell are the adventures you go out and find. The ones that extend late into the night. The ones where you physically go somewhere like to running through the woods that’s knee deep in dead leaves and rotting fallen tree limbs away from chasing dogs. These adventures are the ones that build adrenaline when you return to the mundane routine the next day and leaving to you expectantly wait to get off work or get out of class so that you can go have another adventure.
For a period of time, it seemed like I was addicted to the high of adventures. Every day was a real life version of Phieas and Ferb. “What are we going to do today?” What invention will we build, what stone needs to be unturned, what will we accomplish today? After this phase though, I went into college ready to grow up and leave those adventures behind. You cannot go check out an abandoned dorm when you have studying to do. You cannot drive for miles without a destination when you are on a limited college budget. I must be responsible; I must be consistent. Adventures cannot interrupt my schedule anymore.
But the enticing life of adventures began to look all too desirable after days of the endless conversation of what to watch on Netflix with too many “boring” people. When all my time was spent indoors staring at computer screens or staring at a textbook or staring at someone who droned on about them staring at computer screens or textbooks, I began to look for adventures. The itch to be outside and to be anywhere but the present place I was became overwhelming to me. I could not remember what happened between leaving for work in the mornings and exiting the classrooms in the afternoons. The information, the people, and the events meant very little to me because it was uninteresting. I had to go on my adventures. This is what was exciting.
Is this what life is? A string of adventures, and we are doing one of two things: adventuring or waiting. No, I do not believe life is a string of adventures but one big adventure itself.  These adventures, the adventures of everyday life, deal with people and relationships not so much sprinting from angry dogs. In conversation, you can go very remote places without stepping a foot out the door. You can build a third world space where there are only two inhabitiants. It can became a familiar space where you can control what happens. If life is the adventure, relationships and people are what we explore. We could explore places, but what is the point if we do not have someone to experience the memory with us?
When all your adventures are made up of doing, you miss out on impacting lives. And yes, there are waterfalls to discover, food to eat, and doors to unlock, but if you have adventures because you are convinced that your life is so “mundane” filled with “mundane” people who do nothing but talk about Ramon, look at the people around you. Is it you or them that is making your life so boring? (Here, I’ll give you a hint: it’s most likely you). Everyone likes to think that they are more special than the next person. I am sure Stephen Hawkins thinks that he is quite special because he is so intelligent, but did he make the best snicker doodle cookies last night with buttercream icing? Nope, that was me. I believe each of us can do something no one else we come into contact with can do. This is my challenge to you: prove me wrong. Live life with people and find out all those weird quirks and secret talents they have—and if you find someone who is exactly like someone else, then you win. I just might send you a snicker doodle cookie.
The funny thing about adventures, no matter what kind, they always leave you wishing for another one. That is why Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin felt weird being back in the Shire after their unexpected adventure with the Ring of Power. Because adventures do something to you along the way that changes your perspective. And once it’s changed, it’s desperately difficult to change it back. And because of this change, you remember the adventure. I find the same with people. People can change your whole perspective. People can make you feel things that never made sense to you before. You can feel love or hate or frustration or compassion. You can understand why things hurt you the way they do or why you just don’t care. People have a way to reaching into your soul and touching you in way that no one can. This is why I love people and why I gave up a life of adventures and pleasing myself to surrender to a God Who allows me to love people who can have such impact on me. And why I believe no one is so undeserving of the gospel because each of us was made by Him and for Him.

This was my answer when I was asked why I believe in people.
I believe in adventures and in people and in wearing converse with skirts and in wet willies. If you believe in the same things…keep reading and I will keep posting—eventually!

Why Blog

Why blog?  This was a question I had and decided to explore today while I was passing the time before classes start up.  I was reading an article and a quote stuck out to me that I found quite intriguing.  I read a quote about a blogger enthusiast that said blogging is like sending a post out into an abyss.  I liked the idea of an abyss and its eternal nothingness, so I allowed myself to test it out.  Really, this abyss spoken about is the same abyss that tweets and Facebook posts are thrown into.  But as a part of a project and exploration, I am willing to step into whatever abyss blogging claims.

I, then, thought how similar blogging and Facebook were.  I mean, they are used for the same purpose:  for people to rant about various topics (or at least that’s the purpose the majority use it for).  As far as social networking goes, Christians claim it can used for a higher purpose than just rants, photo like contests, and forwarding those pictures that if you don’t like, you will go to Hell.  And I totally agree with them.

Christians say that in order to remain “in the world and not of it” as Scripture calls us to (John 17:14), social networking is very important.  We should be a model of a moral lifestyle and a foundation of a positive attitude, thus we post encouragements and Scriptures.  So we use a medium like Facebook to do our evangelism for us.  But that is the thing:  Facebook is our one and only witnessing tool for many people.  How many times have any of you scrolled through your news feed and read post after post from someone where he or she quotes Scripture and recounts experiences where God sent a revelation, yet if you talked to the same person it would take days for him or her to bring up anything with an inkling of the same spirituality as in the very frequent FB posts that clog up the news feed.  I write that obvious run-on sentence to say:  I don’t want to be associated with “christians” like that who allow their social media be the only evangelizing their lives proclaim.  I want to walk up to someone and within that conversation mention my Jesus with him or her not because I am forcing religion, but because I am in this so intimate relationship with God the Father that it is totally natural to bring Him up.

I look at witnessing like this.  I once had this obsession for the TV show Friends.  And if we are all being totally honest here and if you watched more than four episodes of Friends, you probably also suffered from the same condition.  Anyway, the re-runs came on everyday from 230 to 400pm and again after 10pm, I believe.  So whenever my busy extracurricular activity schedule would come to a standstill, I would race home and catch 2.5 episodes (this was pre-DVR era).  Over the course of a year with this same routine, I had seen almost every re-run several times.  My obsession worsened with the installation of the DVR.  Then, my favorite passivity was a click away.  On bad days, I would comfort myself with cookie dough and a Friends marathon.  Not my proudest moments, let me tell you.  But then because I had submersed into the very lives of Ross, Rachel, Monica, Joey, Phoebe, and Chandelier, everything could be related back to Friends.  If someone asked me if I wanted a piece of gum, I would say, “Gum would be perfection,” and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked flight attendants if they checked the function of the plane’s phalanges.  And then whenever my friends (real life version) had issues and asked for my advice, I would refer back to a similar case in Friends (sitcom version).  Soon, talking about and referring to Friends (sitcom version) was as easy and frequent as talking about my friends (real life and sometimes not as entertaining version).

This is how the gospel should be our lives.  The gospel should be as easy to talk about as anything else we are passionate about like a quesarito from Taco Bell, Friends TV show, or the VMAs.  And that’s what I aim for.  And that’s what this blog and my life is going to be about.  Maybe sometimes it will come off as very blunt, and other times I won’t put the effort to highlight, bold, and underline that it is the gospel I am talking about.

Regardless, that’s my challenge to you.  Don’t let Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter evangelize for you.  This can be extended to cross necklaces, giving keys (more on giving keys later), church and BCM t-shirts do all your evangelizing.  And what I mean by that, although all of these allow you to have conversation starters and to reach people you won’t see on a daily basis, don’t let yourself be limited by this.  Live the Christian life and walk the Christian walk.  Evangelize and witness with your mouth.  That’s why it says “Confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord” (Romans 10:9-13)  and “If you love me, obey my commandments” (John 14:15).  These involve your words and actions.  Hit up Twitter with a Bible verse a day, whatever, but remember that the same Bible verse is a command from God the Father so you better be obeying it too.

 

For further reading about saying you know God while your actions say otherwise, go to Daniel 4

For more on blogging and its inactivity with youth, go to http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/21/technology/internet/21blog.html?_r=0

For more on me, keep reading