Archive for July, 2011
I’ve been discussing homeownership off the blog with my friend Cindy, in an extension of our discussion from my thoughts on the Irrational Attraction to Homeownership.
I wrote her an email today explaining why I think the desire for homeownership, and especially “The American Dream of Home Ownership” is as manufactured as the idea of a diamond engagement ring as a symbol of love.
I think its interesting and instructive to compare what Jonathan Larsen thought of the American reality of the early 1990s and to compare that to John F. Kennedy’s vision of an American Dream. So, if you would please indulge me with a few quotes:
Don’t breathe too deep / Don’t think all day / Dive into work / Drive the other way / That drip of hurt / That pint of shame / Goes away / Just play the game / You’re living in America / At the end of the millennium / You’re living in America / Leave your conscience at the tone / And when you’re living in America / At the end of the millennium / You’re what you own
Just tighten those shoulders / Just clench your jaw til you frown / Just don’t let go / Or you may drown / You’re living in America / At the end of the millennium / You’re what you own
Alexi – Mark / Call me a hypocrite / I need to finish my own film / I quit!
Dying in America / A the end of the millennium / We’re dying in America / To come into our own / And when you’re dying in America / At the end of the millennium / You’re not alone / I’m not alone / I’m not alone
&emdash; Jonathan Larsen through his characters Mark and Roger in “What you Own” from Rent (c. 1994)
Contrast this with John F. Kennedy’s description of the American Dream from the early 1960s.
But why, some say, the moon? Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation many never come again. But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?
We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.
&emdash; John F Kennedy, Rice Stadium on Sept 12 1962
When did we move from the American Dream being pursuing your wildest visions and hopes, to measuring ourselves by what we own?
I’m where Mark and Roger are when they’re singing What You Own. I cannot and will not play the corporate consumerist American game. I agree with George Carlin’s statement from his CD Explicit Lyrics: “Pointless careerism? Pointless careerism? … To take a job in a criminal corporation that’s poisoning the environment and robbing customers out of their money? This is the worthiest thing they can think of? Isn’t there something nobler they can do to be helping this planet heal?” This isn’t to say that corporations in and of themselves are by definition immoral, but the demands placed on the managers of those corporations drive them to decisions that are less and less moral.
When I kick around what I’d like to be doing with my life, the real bottom line is simple: I want to create something. It is even better if it changes our world.
There have been so many ways this has manifested itself in my life. I love theatre because you’re part of making something, even if you’re only watching. But the process of collaboration and creation is simply one of the most joyful things I have experienced in my life. Handbells have been a huge part of this past year for me, and the joy of creating music with a group is wonderful.
So, now its time to create the hardest thing I’ve ever aimed to do: start a company and change an industry. Its one of the scariest things I’ve ever done, fraught with an huge amount of personal risk, but also a huge potential for joy and a space in which I believe I can engage my signature strengths.
This my friends is An American Dream. A real one, not one handed down from Madison Avenue or Washington DC. This is why people sailed across the oceans, to pursue their dreams fully and head on.
The American Dream is not a house, or what you own. The American Dream is one made of individual hopes, fears, and vision.
I’m sitting at the waterfront looking out over Elliot Bay, the sun shimmering across the water, and I’m feeling I’m the luckiest guy in the world.
But really, luck had nothing to do with this. Issac Wilkins calls for a focused used of aggression. I’d perhaps compare my move to Seattle as an aggressive move, but it was too unfocused, too unplanned.
I’ve gotten where I’m at through a unique blend of blind drive, stupidity, and a great support system of friends, family, and my church community.
I’ve had the blind drive to get where I’ve wanted to go, but it is community that has really pushed me higher toward achieving the dreams behind that blind ambition.