Responding To Erik


Really, Allen what is preventing us from going and doing something really helpful?

Erik von Harten

I don’t know.

Comfort maybe? We like our gadgets, standard of living and the familiarity of our present surroundings. Will either of us give that up? Day in, day out, do we have the conviction to give to others who’re needier than we are? Give without any expectation of receiving anything in return? Can we really imagine what it’s like to live in a place without any basic amenities, surrounded by constant fear and palpable hopelessness? I can visualize it but I can’t feel it. I have no basis for empathy. Sympathy yes, not empathy.

Is it fear? I too have a number of issues on my plate. And we’re not unique. Everyone has family, relationships, debts – the trappings of human life. And There are two ways to view these. t

Viewpoint 1. They stifle us. Their existence steers us into the tried and true formula: “Study. Get a job. Find your significant other. Have (or not) kids. Buy a house…” The stereotypical North American dream. Deviating from this path can have unforseen effects on your career, your relationships and your social status. I’m not sure many employers would understand a two-year break devoted to helping the unfortunate. That’s two years in which you’ve outdated yourself.

Viewpoint 2. We use them as convenient excuses. It’s easy for me to say “Well – I wish I could do that, but I don’t think I’ll get a job afterwards.”. I can justify my apathy so easily. The existence of debts and/or relationships are great incentives for inertia.


In a way I’m very glad you’ve brought this up. For the past three weeks I’ve degenerated into a solitary being; confined to my cave, I whittle away at my course load. I’ve had very little chance to consider anything beyond the next project, or even the next day. Is that part of the engineering curriculum, blinding a student with work? Put enough on their plate and they’ll forget that this wasn’t all they wanted to do?

You may not remember, but at Turner we had a conversation. One of us – I think it was me – asked “Is this all there is to life? We study and then work till we die?”

It’s late. I’m starting to brood.


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  • I’m getting quite comfortable, yes. I’m heading straight for that stereotypical American Dream, and I want to get there as fast as I can. I want to make as much money as possible (while still enjoying the act, for the sake of my sanity) so that I can have as much free time and expendable money as possible, to use for entertaining myself. Find significant other? Check. Although, it was hardly planned. I’m getting sick of living in places that are as cheap as possible with people I don’t really want to live with. I want a nice place to live that I can share with whom I wish. Kids? Maybe, maybe not. They make for a convenient excuse to be as “comfortable” as possible. “I have to look out for my kids. I want the best life for them. I need to provide everything I can for them.”, is what I would think to myself.

    I want as high a degree of true freedom as possible. Basically, maximize: money obtained / time used to obtain it. But does achieving this have to mean that other people suffer? We exchange our time for money, which we use for freedom (after survival). What if somehow I could be paid to help others who NEED it? What if the effort we expend could be used to help others as well as further our personal goals of obtaining freedom. I am being paid to help the stakeholders in the company I work for have a little bit more money. I am being paid to help create something that somebody will buy to make them a little bit more money. Gah, I’m getting lost on my own train of thought.

    I just mean that its physically possible for us to drop what we are doing and expend the same amount of effort helping those who need it. Rather than those who have a sufficient amount of freedom but, naturally, want more. Why is it that there is no way to do this without achieving more freedom for ourselves (which is what we will inevitably work towards)?

    I think there probably is a way, but nobody has bothered to figure it out.

    To answer your final question: No. You will find other things you are interested in doing that will make you happy when you are not working or studying. If you don’t you will be unhappy and go crazy, in a bad way. :) Don’t worry, you will only have to endure your solitary existence until you graduate. Then you will only continue to be in that situation if you let yourself be.

  • Why does anyone have to be in that situation until they graduate? I accept that everyone is different, but I think people can choose to be in a “solitary existence” or not at any point in their life. Alls you gots to do is open your door to the world and let it in :)

  • I suppose it depends on your definition of freedom.

    Maybe we’re too used to thinking of it as freedom from material worries.

    Why does anyone have to be in that situation until they graduate?

    Simplicity? Necessity?