The Point Of It All

I’m not feeling so great. I’ve been up since six this morning with no real sleep for the past two days. My stomach is aching from a combination of stress and oily, fatty college cafeteria food. I’ve spent the past three hours having my brain clubbed into a gooey pulp by a statistics test, and I’ll be having to write up a major presentation and memorize it by tomorrow evening.


I have it easy.


There are millions of people out there who would sell their own children to be in my place. Thousands of people have sold their own children to have a chance at being where I am. There are millions of people who, no matter how hard they work or how long or how well, will never be where I am.


That’s just a little something to put things in perspective.


I’m sitting here, eyes-bloodshot, stomach churning, neck-aching and I’m wondering why? Why am I putting myself through this everyday (sure it’s nothing compared to other people’s hardships, but let’s stay focused here)?


Why do people go to college? Well, some people are in college because they want to party for four years before the responsibilities of life and the universe hit them. Some people are here (at my college especially) to find someone to marry, but in general, the overwhelming number of us are in college to get degrees so they can get jobs.


Not sure, you don’t need a college degree to get a job. You don’t need to know how to find a t statistic for related samples or the definition of a theodicy to get a career in a textile mill or as a janitor. Only problem for those who try going down this road is that in the West, the vast majority of jobs you would be able to get without a degree can be done infinitely cheaper by a twelve-year old in Indonesia or an illegal immigrant. Sure there are still jobs out there for the degree-less, but it’s hard to support yourself, let alone any sort of family, working the grill at McDonalds or mowing lawns. There’s always the army, but considering the pay isn’t much better and the work is slightly more than hazardous, it’s a bit of a gamble.


So that’s where degrees come in. You want to have a decent-paying job at some point, you’ll need a degree. I’m at college to get a degree and chances are that you were/are/will be at college to get a degree. But is that really enough? I can’t help think back to a Peter Kreeft book where the resurrected philosopher Socrates approaches a college student to figure out why he’s attending college. I’ll paraphrase it briefly:

Socrates: Why are you here?

Student: To get a degree so I can get a job.

Soc: Why?

Stu: To make a lot of money so I can have a family and send my children to college.

Soc: Why will you send them to college?

Stu: So they can get degrees and get jobs.


It goes on like that.


Now this is really what I’m seeing here at my college. Students come in from generally the middle-class/upper-class to get degrees, get jobs, and return to being part of the middle-class/upper-class. People will take jobs on the basis of pay, whether said jobs are fulfilling or not, and spend the next forty years or so grinding away at their jobs. Why? To do what they really want to do. To go fishing, to take care of a garden, to spend time with family, to paint, to read, to tinker with cars, to cook, to write, and so on. It’s seems to me to be awful rate of exchange if we’re working sixty-plus years at jobs we don’t care about (or even hate) to spend our old age desperately trying to do the things we we wanted to do from the beginning (indeed, the things we were born to do). I don’t want to work on the machine that going to sap me of my life, rewarding me with the chance to do what I love doing when I’m too old to do it! I don’t want to have wealth, I want to have purpose.


That, I think, is the point of it all.

The only question we’re left with is “what purpose”?


5 Responses to “The Point Of It All”

  1. December 19, 2010 at 7:40 pm

    You wanting to get a degree is falling into the media brainwashing we experience when we are young. The machine tells us we need a degree. College is big money and big corporations. They benefit from this brainwashing we experience, and indeed play a part in the machine. We are further indoctrinated into the machine. It is the same as any school we go in as individuals and we all come out the same. To find a job, and a cookie cutter house and a cookie cutter life. I am not saying college doesn’t have its benefits because it does, but it does for all the wrong reasons. We as Americans should not have to sign a deal with the devil to be burdened with a life time of debt. The same can be said about healthcare, but I digress. You should really analyze the conversation with Socrates and you will come to the conclusion that you are only in school because that is what the machine wants you to do. We have very little freedom even though we live in a “free” country. Our lives are defined by what we are told through the various media. It gets to the point where it does our thinking for us. Congrats on being in school though.

    • 2 trotskyite
      December 19, 2010 at 7:43 pm

      I dunno about that- while I’ll grant that education is overwhelming part of the system to rob us of our individuality and carve us into proper parts for the machine, I’d argue that there’s still a lot to be learned. Just because I get a degree doesn’t mean I have to use it for the interest of the machine- indeed, I could probably use it against it.

      • December 19, 2010 at 8:07 pm

        I do agree you could use it to fight the system. I am not saying getting a degree is bad. It really is a necessary evil. Corporations have all but made it a requirment to have a degree, so we are forced into obtaining them. The college experience party wise is great. Why not enjoy your last few years of freedom. It is also great because you are learning and one thing we should always do in school or not is to continue learning. So I am not saying it is bad, and good for you that you are getting one. I was speaking of the injusttice of being forced to get one and in turn live your life in debt to the machine, financially and physically.

      • 4 trotskyite
        December 19, 2010 at 8:08 pm

        That’s true.

  2. 5 Em
    February 27, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    G, I’ve read this particular post a couple times, and I’ve really (I don’t know if enjoyed is the right word, maybe more of a sighed-along-side is) every time I do.

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