The good life

Earlier this month I heard a talk by a philosophy professor who said that, as a way of getting to know his students, he had them write an essay on the first day of class on “The Good Life.”  To his consternation, about 25 of his class of 30 wrote that the good life was what they expected to be able to enjoy when they retired at age 62 or 65.  The intervening 35 or 40 years presumably were just a waiting period to be endured.

I’m as bothered by that as he is.  But it is understandable.  When I graduated from college in 1956, I had the freedom to decide what I wanted to do with my life – what I was good at, what I liked to do, what I could feel proud of.  If I graduated today, I would not have that freedom. My first thought would have to be what can I do that will earn the maximum income to pay off my student loans and get out of indentured servitude.


History shows that when you have a large population of young people with excellent academic educations and marginal economic prospects, you generally have a strong radical movement, either of the left or right.  If our current recession blossoms into a real depression, as some smart people think it might, you will have a lot of energetic young people with strong reason to feel discontented, and the leisure and intellectual resources to act on their feelings, and that will be an explosive mixture.


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