What’s in a Dream Job?

Seemingly from the day you’re born, you’re constantly peppered with the question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” As a child, that question is easy to answer, because you can say pretty much whatever you want, however unrealistic it might be, and it won’t have any sort of lasting impact on your life. If you say you want to be president, then that’s great. If you say you want to be a chef, wonderful. A race car driver? Great! However, as you get older, and the realities of that question begin to weed their way into your very soul, it becomes an incredibly exasperating query to consider.

The problem with being asked virtually your entire life about what you want to do is that it becomes something that is rather romanticized beyond its actualities. With people always advising you to “do what you like to do” and “follow your dreams/passion,” you can quickly reach an impasse when you genuinely don’t know what it is you’d like to spend your life doing. Some people find their passion easily, maybe even knowing it from a young age. Those people can dedicate themselves to a single goal, and put every ounce of their being towards achieving it Therefore they can find success. Even if, in the end, they don’t accomplish it, they can’t be faulted for chasing their dreams.

But what if you don’t have a dream? Or what if you have a lot of dreams, all unrelated, and all equally interesting? What then? You could pursue the thing that you’re best at, since that would probably give you the best chance at success. Yet it’s often the case that the thing you may be best at isn’t really what you want to be building your life around. While it may be your best bet at success (here success is most easily defined as being better than the largest percentage of people), it might well not be your best bet at happiness.

The problem with the notion of a dream job is that so often that dream job is unrealistic, or seen as unreasonable to have as a dream job. Sure, the scientist who dreams of curing cancer or unifying the fundamental forces probably won’t, they will still likely contribute to the greater scientific community, and perhaps make important breakthroughs in other, related topics. Or the non-profit owner who strives to assist as many of the less fortunate as they can. They may not fix world hunger, but they will positively affect the lives of others, likely saving lives. These dreams can be commended, since they will still lead to something of benefit. But what if you don’t have that?

There are those, like myself, who have interests across the board, without any rising high enough above the rest to be considered a singular passion or focus. For these people, it can be difficult to decide what to do. In today’s society, you’re essentially forced into choosing an area of expertise, usually coming in the form of a college major. Yet that major may not be what you want to go into, because any major might not be what you want to go into. Physics can be as equally intriguing as government or history or geology, but you can’t do everything. You have to choose. And that choosing can leave you stuck.

For people who don’t have a clear dream job, as it’s often thought of, it can then be extremely disheartening when faced with the question of what to do with your life. For these people, they probably have something they might love doing, but it falls outside of an academic discipline or even a well-defined career. Therefore, it’s often considered unrealistic, or not shooting for the stars, or simply not lucrative enough. Here’s the huge contradiction:  with everyone telling to work towards your dream job, you’re subsequently being forced to choose a major and keep specializing as time goes on. You can then quickly find yourself getting stuck going to down a path that you’re not genuinely passionate about. What then?

I don’t know. Clearly. It can be mind-numbingly frustrating to be in this situation. Maybe you have an idea of what your dream lifestyle would be like (because let’s be real, it’s not all about careers, it’s about the whole package – family, friends, location, etc. – that goes with it), but that isn’t considered what a dream job should be. Alan Watts argues in one of his famous quotes (often recognized from its opening line “What do you desire?”) that you should forget about money, and become a master in what you love, and that eventually you will be able to support yourself with it. If you don’t have one thing you love, however, or that thing might be considered unrealistic, what do you do then? It’s a monumentally difficult question to answer, and something that can’t be ascertained on a whim. But maybe Alan is on to something: maybe you should give that “dream” a chance.

Terrorism Isn’t Evil

WARNING: Controversial stuff to follow. But nowadays,  what isn’t?

Terrorism: one of the defining issues of modern times. While being a tactic used for much longer than many are aware of, it has come to a global focus in the past few decades. With it has come unfathomable amounts of controversy, anger, death, and fear. Because terrorism is BAD. Let it be understood that I DO NOT like terrorism. It’s bad. Very bad. It’s the intentional use of violence, often resulting in death, to initiate fear in a population for the advancement of political goals. But it isn’t evil.

To fully explain my point of view, I must first define my stance on the idea of evil. Others may disagree with me, but I am of the belief that no one is evil. We are all programmed like animals, and everything we humans do is because we deem it the right thing to do on some level. This discussion could go the way of evil in the abstract, but I’m not too well versed in philosophy, so I’ll stick to the idea that terrorism isn’t evil. It’s something I am quite passionate about.

Looking at the definition of terrorism, reworded from the definitions found on various online dictionaries such as Miriam-Webster, should prove enough convincing that terrorism isn’t evil. Its goal is to insight political change. It may be a cruel, cruel way to do so, but you don’t classify those who desire political change to be evil. Of course, political change isn’t brought about through violence and fear, all of it is done through respectful discussions between informed individuals, right? Oh. War.

War is terrible. It’s the intentional large-scale use of violence for political reasons. Of course, it is different from terrorism in a few key areas. One: it (ideally) involves only the lives of those soldiers who consciously commit themselves to the cause. Two: it generally involves the consent (a term used loosely) to go to war by all parties. Three: it’s considered noble, brave, and exists in the platforms of many politicians. People use these reasons, particularly the first two, in the defense of war and the condemnation of terrorism. However, they do not provide an accurate assessment of the reality of the situation.

Can we consider war and terrorism completely separate entities when war has existed in such similar situations as terrorism? Was the bombing of London by the Nazis during WWII not terrorism? Was the bombing of Japan by the USA during WWII not terrorism? Was the use of Agent Orange and other careless practices during the Vietnam War not akin to terrorism? What about the intentional invasions of the various wars in Iraq? Did they not carry some similarities? And what about the bombings of ISIS instalments taking place today? They may be targeted at the members of the organization, but that doesn’t describe the reality of who is actually being affected.

As a society in general, we place this implicit barrier between terrorism and war, but they shouldn’t be thought of as being fundamentally different. Sure, those living in nations with the resources to have large standing armies may see terrorism as something very strange and unjust, but that’s ignoring the other side’s situation. Terrorism is utilized by states, organizations, and groups that cannot participate in direct war with those they have conflicts with. For them, terrorism is the only way they can attempt to fight and protect what they believe in. To be clear, peaceful diplomacy is not an option for these groups, since war and terrorism alike exist only in the place of failed negotiations. To think of terrorism as being evil is to be ignorant of the other side’s point of view and beliefs.

Terrorism is bad. It’s the intentional use of violence to achieve political goals. War is bad. It’s the intentional use of violence to achieve political goals. However you look at it, this is the truth. From living in a nation where war is commonplace and terrorism is only ever seen as a tool used by the enemy, I’ve realized how important it is to seek as good of an understanding as possible of the other side. If you see them as being fundamentally evil, and act on that assumption, than they we see you in the same light, and act accordingly. It creates an endless cycle of malcontent and violence. We are all humans, living on the same lone rock in the universe. We must understand that people can have different beliefs and that no one is fundamentally evil. It’s the only way we can hope to coexist on this planet we share.

Ghibli: Cartoons Realer Than Life

The age of cartoons, at least when it comes to movies, seems to be over. To be fair, it’s probably been over for a while, with CGI Pixar-esque films the only real non-live action movies being made. While some of these movies are fantastic (Up and Wall-e great examples), modern animated films are being made to looker realer and realer. The big advantage that animated films have over live action is the ability to do whatever the filmmakers want to do, be it magic, robots, or any sort of physics-defying premises. That’s all well and good, but they still seem so fake (as might not be unexpected). While these movies continue their march towards reality, Studio Ghibli’s vast portfolio has already been there for decades.

Even though most are doused with all sorts of magic and fantasy, all portrayed by 2-dimensional characters in 2-dimensional worlds, Ghibli films are realer than most live action movies out there. So much of modern movies are full of action, adventure, and never-ending suspense, and while Ghibli incorporates these themes from time to time, their best moments are when they slow down and look at the various caveats of life. Live action films can do this quite well at times, but the incredible consistency across the Ghibli canon in exploring these facets is remarkable, and is what makes them so special.

Ghibli’s usage of cartoons (of course called anime in Japan) is what allows its films, the wonderful storytelling abilities of Miyazaki et al aside, to investigate those themes so wonderfully. Each Ghibli film is a work of art in itself, with gorgeous drawings and animations creating an eye-catching spectacle. This artistic nature is what allows the films to explore reality so well, in that they provide a way to view life with the weight, separation, fantasy, and importance that we give it. Everyone views things differently, and our minds elaborate on what we experience, because we live in our mind, not outside it.

Ghibli’s ability to take one step out of reality is its greatest asset. The scenes in the heartbreaking Grave of the Fireflies would be too gut-wrenching to see in live action, yet that film explores the life in war-torn Japan expertly. Throughout films like My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, and Whisper of the Heart, the filmmakers paint a picture of the magical nature of everyday life, something that would seem mundane if a camera was simply pointed at some people. In Spirited Away, the indomitable bath house and the various spirits within are surely closer to representing the challenges a child faces growing up than simply portraying those ideas with images we see every day.  Princess Mononoke, a film set around battle between humans and gods, illustrates the very real environmental situation we find ourselves in better than most. The list can go on and on.

To anyone who hasn’t seen Ghibli movies, to anyone who is hesitant to see Ghibli movies, and to anyone who doesn’t think cartoons can make a great movie, highly highly highly encourage them to give Ghibli a try. Their ability to depict life’s great facets in mesmerizing fashion is unparalleled in film. Their wonderful themes and artwork are accented gloriously with beautiful scores by excellent composers like Joe Hisaishi, among others. Best of all, they paint life as we really see it: through our mind’s eye, enhanced by our thoughts and imagination.