II. 4. Scott Juggles with His Future


Certainly, the sense of vocation is not the only type of self-projecting circumstances, which could occupy a top position in our self-perception. Moreover, no matter how strong a vocation is, at a certain point of our lives it can become irrelevant to the environment, which risks making us irrelevant. Successful people haven’t necessarily relied on their vocation. Some of them haven’t had a well-established talent at all. What those have been driven by was not their self-perception, but their extremely acute perception of the environment. They haven’t been seeking the right place for displaying their natural inclinations, or fighting windmills in hoping to create such a place. They have rather picked up and elevated in their inner hierarchy a circumstance, which they guessed would be in conformity to their environment, and worked hard to keep it there. Through their ability to adapt they have achieved the harmony with their surroundings. Of course, the ones who had some eminent inborn qualities might be haunted by the fact that they’ve turned their back on them; but others would be proud to have found the strength for the painful operation of rearranging the priorities of their youth.

As long as Scott was in his teens he was comfortable with following his call for being an athlete. He was well-built, strong and a fast runner; he loved football, and on the field he was a team-player and had a good eye for the play. That’s why he was in every game of his high school team, and even had a modest personal fan club. At his graduation he got invitations from several good colleges to enroll and, of course, to get into their football teams. The future of a celebrity sportsman loomed even brighter in front of Scott. Football was the activity he was best at, and the opportunity to make it his career choice was staring him in the face. But, to common surprise, Scott decided otherwise. He got into medical school. It wasn’t an easy decision. The offers he had gotten were pretty lucrative. But Scott didn’t want his active professional life to stop at the age of twenty seven; he didn’t like the prospect of later becoming a coach boring every one with stories of past successes; and he wasn’t enthusiastic about wasting his best years to something which wouldn’t be the job of his life. Besides, he knew that doctors made a pretty good living, so if he would learn and work hard the years ahead would be quite prosperous and successful. Scott gave up pursuing his vocation in return to a long lasting well-respected and secure professional future.

What Scott did was rearranging the circumstances at the top position of his self-perception. The positioning of the first one (his vocation) was the choice made for him by Mother Nature, while the positioning of the second (his self-initiated interest in medicine) – his own choice. In both cases he had a good chance of enjoying the taste of success, since both circumstances sprang from his self-projecting drive, i.e. they helped him develop his personality in alliance with the environment

But what if Scott fails at his medical education? He might have probably overestimated the complexity of the realm, or his own willingness to explore it. He might have spend too much time watching and talking about football, or just thinking about the good old days. Or, he might have been inconvertibly repelled by the sight of the totally real samples he had to practice on during the seminars. In any case, his perception of the environment has played him false. After several years of roaming like a ghost through the campus auditoriums Scott throws the towel. He admits having made a bad choice. What now? It is too late for him to go back to football. At the age of twenty-something he finds himself at the crossroads. One possible scenario for him is to look for a new start – to elevate a third circumstance in his self-perception hierarchy, which to energize him into another undertaking. But with some already wasted golden years Scott might fall into the trap of self-deprecation, which actually means that his self-projection gives way to his self-preservation drive. Hopefully this inner condition won’t reign over Scott’s self-perception for long, but while it does, he would be too far from getting his life back on track.

Letting ourselves be driven by self-preservation is an actual refusal to comprehend, let alone to change the environment in our advantage. For a certain period of time this might grant us the room for inner recovery from a blow from the outside, but if a self-preservation circumstance takes a permanent top spot in our self-perception it starts acting to the detriment of the personality. The cocoon we find ourselves in starts growing thicker, isolating us from our surroundings more and more with every passing day. If maintained at the top, with time self-preservation gradually makes our personality deteriorate; we become less involved in the life of our milieu and more irrelevant to it. Moreover, our detachment from the environment gradually diminishes our chances to find an adequate self-projecting circumstance, since our perception of the environment has become outdated.

…Unless you decide to project yourself through confessing your self-preservation choices – which is exactly the point of departure of my Man from the Underground (from Dostoyevsky’s “Notes from the Underground” – see Introduction). Being neglected, humiliated and beaten up by the environment his whole life, he finds an odd way of paying her back. He takes his frayed, threadbare, outworn, sweaty and bloody undershirt and starts proudly waving it as an ensign of honor. His vocation, whatever it was, didn’t receive a green light from society; he wasn’t able to find a way to adapt to it either. So he paradoxically (The Paradoxalist was the name of the film we made) turns his history of self-preservation into a philosophy, and hopes to get royalty from it. At the end he crashes under the weight of his pathetic attempt, but for at least a brief period of his life he has been happy, really happy… This is the only example I can come up with of someone who managed to project himself at the expense of the environment.

© 2009 Peter Budevski

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