Today in San Miguel de Allende we had our usual Philosophy Group meeting. This time we listened to the words of Allan Watts. He told us why modern education is a hoax. His basic thought is that education is poured into our brains from an early age but that we are really taught nothing that will make our life worthwhile to us. At my age of 75, I understand what he is saying.
What we are taught, basically, is how to make money. But this is only part of life. We do need to know how to earn the things which allow us to survive – and to have a family, and help that family to survive. But what we are not taught is what we should be doing to help our society to survive. And we are not taught to think about the things that will make our life worthwhile to us.
As someone remarked correctly during our Philosophy Group conversation, we can be sure of nothing in our life except two things: that we have been born, and that we shall die. What will make our life worthwhile to us are events and people that we meet between those two occurrences.
Yes, we need to make money in order to have food, clothing, a place to live, and other things. But unless the amount of money is so great that earning it appears a real achievement to us, the actions done in earning it will provide little satisfaction to us. For what we need to make our life appear worthwhile to us is an achievement, as that makes others proud of us, and makes us proud of ourselves. That feeling of pride is part of what we need to make us feel happy as we go along. It’s not the only thing we need, of course. We need relationships that make us feel happy. We need events that make us feel happy. We need to understand ourselves and those others who are important in our lives, and as we experience the things that are important, or exciting, or satisfying to us, we feel happiness.
I can think of several things in my life that made me happy at the moment they occurred. When I was young, I had a very difficult time getting into a relationship with a woman my age. I felt deprived of romance. I felt that I was a failure because I didn’t have sex when other boys did. Looking back on this, I feel somewhat foolish that I felt so unhappy about this, but a lot of it was due to the society, on the one hand, and to my own feelings of failure. I managed to have sex when I was 23, but it was not a happy experience, because I felt that I was robbing the woman in question. Why? Because I knew that I was having sex for the experience only, and not because I had any real attachment to her. But thereafter I had sex with others, and finally at age 25 with the woman I wanted to marry. And I remained faithful to her for the next 25 years, although I would not say that our sexual experiences were riveting.
Eventually, we split up. And thereafter I was able to find other women with whom I had positive experiences. In other words, I had learned what I wanted, and I had learned what they wanted. And this was a very happy period of my life.
There were other things that made me happy. I wrote many law articles and got them published. This was a feeling of achievement. And later in life I have written other articles (like this one) and having them published makes me feel good. I have been part of writing groups. I have written novels (although none has really been professionally published). Nevertheless, completing one of them has always given me a feeling of achievement.
I attend sessions like the Philosophy Group. These can be learning experiences. Similarly, I go to Occupy San Miguel, at which we discuss political things. In 2015-16 I was part of a group that was promoting Bernie Sanders for President. Almost every Saturday we went down to the metro station in North Hollywood and handed out flyers. I wouldn’t say that this was a great accomplishment, but it made me feel good to be part of a group that was promoting his candidacy.
Today, as I write this, it is raining in San Miguel. Raining hard, because this is the rainy season. It makes me happy to hear the rain, because we need the water in our dry climate. And it makes me think of other places I have lived where I have heard rain. Seattle, New York, Fresno, Portland, Halifax, Paris. The rain coming down makes me think of the past and the happy relationships I have had in such places.
As I sit in San Miguel de Allende, I live in both the past and the present. And also in the future. I am always thinking about what I can do to advance the cause of progressive politics in the United States. It is one of the odd things about our world right now, that one can live in Mexico and be attached by social media, email, and other modes of communication with persons following the same political aspirations. We started political spots on Facebook in 2015 and, here we are, four years later, and they continue. If I see something interesting, I post it. I remember my friends from those days, and I hope that they remember me. And I remember the people from today, who are engaged in the same hopes as we go along.
And I even have two friends from Fresno who are supporters of Trump. We worked together for many years at the same law firm, and I left, but we continue to communicate. If I see something weird about Trump (such as the fact that his father was accused of being in the KKK in 1927, I send it out to them. One of them responds, “More fake news?” To which I reply, “Of course not! I’ve seen similar reports elsewhere. In 1927, Donald Trump’s father was arrested after a Ku Klux Klan riot in New York.
We go back and forth about such things.
Is this achievement? No. Does it make for happiness? In a strange way, yes. Every time we have such an engagement, I am reconnected to my Fresno friends. They remind me of their political beliefs, and I remind them of mine. Somehow, this inspires me to go on with people I do not know, or people I am just learning about here in San Miguel. And, somehow, it gives me hope that perhaps something positive will happen.
When I was younger (not so long ago, and yet very long ago), I worked to try and get Michael Dukakis elected as president. It was an utter failure in 1988 (in Fresno, which can be very pro-Republican). I pretty much withdrew from political activity then (and especially after the Clinton years, which I hated, and the Gore political mess in Florida in 2000). I came back somewhat with Obama, buying his “Hope” campaign. But in the end, I am very disappointed by what happened under his regime.
I look back at the history of America since the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and I become ever more pessimistic. It has only been recently, with the advent of Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Tulsi Gabbard that I think there is any hope for the future. Donald Trump is the complete opposite, and yet I understand why my former colleagues in Fresno support him. They, too, see the decline of America, and they hope that somehow Trump will help pull us out of it. I cannot see why they believe that, but I understand why they want something positive to happen.
In our lives, we want positive achievement, and we want happiness. These are difficult things to have, and yet we struggle to get them. We want positive relationships with others with whom we can share. A good education would be one which teaches us how to have such relationships, how to understand what achievement would be positive to us, how to obtain happiness for ourselves and others.
To me, it is our relationship with others that is most important. That is, after all, what society is all about – relationships. If we could obtain good relationships, we would no longer have struggled with race, religion, and other things that divide us. If we truly had a sharing society, we would no longer have division along economic lines. And wouldn’t that be good? All such goals are very difficult to achieve, especially we are divided about the need to achieve them. I only hope that someday that will all change.