As a class, we watched Alain de Boton's TED Talk "A Kinder, Gentler Philosophy of Success" to get a sense of how, even in today's world, we live in an environment set up for tragedy. Specifically, we are surrounded by the potential for a financial or occupational tragedy. When I say this, it may bring to mind bankruptcy of a large company or someone getting injured at work and suing, but this is not necessarily the case. All occupations bear this burden, simply because of the world in which we work.
de Boton describes several reasons why we may feel these sort of career crises, as he calls them. First and foremost, we as a people are very judgmental when it comes to jobs. If we feel that others think our occupation is lowly or beneath them, we suffer a fall from what we have built ourselves up to be in the eyes of another. If you read my previous blog post, this may sound familiar. This is a tragic fear that all of us have. A fear of no longer being a pillar of society in the eyes of other. Losing that sense of self. With so many quick to judge, it becomes very easy to suffer this fall from self image.
Another reason de Boton mentions is how our society is a 'meritocracy', or a society in which everyone is allowed success solely on merit. This sounds great, the perfect way for everyone to work for what they are given. However, this makes failure all the more monumental. If you are not successful, society will deem it a personal failure, and you become a 'loser'. In a meritocracy, anybody can just simply put in work and get successful, right? In a perfect world, yes. Is this a perfect world? Not at all. To think about this tragically, one who has achieved esteem and success can have it stripped away quicker than they achieved it. Accidents happen and it's not necessarily a personal failure.
If you follow in the footsteps of modern society and how we judge, every tragic hero is a loser. That would be insane to say. Hamlet was not a loser, he was a man who could have had it all but had it stripped from him with the death of his father. Romeo and Juliet could have been happily married, but their families' feud was too great for their love to be accepted. These failures are not their own. We must remove these judgmental views from our mind. These tragic heroes are human. They signify what can happen to us.
One of the most important points made in this video was that success must be your own. Your success will be different from the person sitting next to you. A happy life means something different to every person and that is okay. Because of this, we must take a firm look at what it is we truly want. If we don't, we will build what we think we want around what others want out of us. That just sets us up for tragedy.