Monday, February 16, 2015

Update, "Please, give up your dreams."

The largely acerbic response to today's Daily News essay (which for much of the day has been the most-read and most-shared story) illustrates the magnitude of what we're up against in this noble battle we fight against empowerment/entitlement/magical-thinking lunacy. You cannot safely argue for sanity, common sense or pragmatic probabilities nowadays. As a culture, we are just so invested in dreams and hopes and, yes, fantasy. And if you attempt to bring people back down to earth, you provoke a great deal of ire that may manifest as some nasty recriminations that can get quite personal.

Not that we want to drift too far afield here, but this same phenomenon helps explain why some people are certain that vaccines cause autismdespite evidence to the contraryand why climate change deniers feel perfectly comfortable dismissing the mounting/redundant body of science supporting the concept. In addition we have growing numbers of political candidatesfor meaningful officeswho'll publicly espouse the notion that creationism should be given equal academic footing with evolution, such that the "two theories" are taught side by side.

It just doesn't fit with my world-view is considered an acceptable mentality in today's solipsistic culture. Each of us feels entitled to decide what our personal reality is, just as each of us feels entitled
to see our personal dreams fulfilled. However "well-meaning" some of it may be, it isn't just eccentric anymore; it's pathological.

A writer can point out, quite sensibly I thought, that there's only one starting shortstop for the Yankees, and for the past two decades that shortstop was Derek Jeter, and critics will come back with, "Oh, so the Yankees are never going to have another shortstop?" (The scariest part of such rhetorical barbs is... Well, I ask myself, do people really see that as a winning riposte?) In any case, it totally misses the point. Yes, the Yankee lineup will feature another shortstop, and if he's good he'll hold down the position for a number of years, during which time none of the several million other kids who had their hearts set on that slot will get it. They'll be frozen out, just like the approximately 60 million kids* who were frozen out by the Reign of Jeter.

It is not blasphemy or "negative thinking" to point such things out. It is simply fact.

Or do we insist on living in such a dream world that we've lost all reverence for fact?
* Little League boasts a global membership of 3 million per year. It is true that some of the same kids player year after year, so it's not a unique 3 million every season. But many of the same players play in Major League Baseball each year as well, so it's not as if all of the starting spots are up for grabs all over again each spring. And, lest we forget, there are other youth baseball leagues, too, so the odds against any given player making it are even worse. 


Anonymous said...

I found things to like in your op-ed as well as things not to like. I do think there's something to be said for single-minded commitment to a cause, and when you have a level of competition where talent is distributed equally or even within the same general realm, it is the belief and dedication that puts the winner over the top. I also think that while not everyone can have great talent, we can all show great effort and initiative. Sometimes that counts for more.

One thing that's more on my mind though is where is everybody? There seems to be so much less participation now than there used to be. Did I miss a memo?

If I'm the only one commenting on the blog of all people then what's up?

Steve Salerno said...

Hey Roger, good to see a (reasonably) friendly face. Maybe I shouldn't say this as I run the risk of making things worse, but there's a clear correlation between the participation falloff and the donation button that I put up. I can't say that the donation outreach caused people to bail--I have no way of knowing--but the time-frames coincide exactly. So maybe I offended people or made them uncomfortable, such that they now feel like if they stop by and participate at all, they're "supposed to" contribute. So it's just easier for them not to stop by. I hope that isn't the case and I also hope our regulars will continue to feel free to weigh in, when they're so inclined, without even acknowledging the donation outreach. In fact that would be my preference. If you choose to give, fine. If not, just ignore it. I apologize if I made anyone feel uneasy.

I've always felt we were a community, and I hope that can continue to be true for as long as I keep blogging

John H said...

Steve, I really enjoyed your article in the Daily News. SO refreshing in this age of "no limits". Of course there are limits! Always have been, likely always will be. And it's not that no limit can ever be surmounted. Sure they can. But not all of them and not all the time. The wise learn quickly and well which ones are likely to yield to the determined effort alluded to my Roger O'Keefe in his post and which ones ought to be simply accepted and lived with as best we can for, as Dirty Harry said, "a man's gotta know his limitations."
Your article reminded me of a book I read back in the 70s whose author and title I, sadly, cannot recall which deftly skewered the "positive thinking" meme with the same pragmatism evident in your article. My own take on this the past several years has been that, in life, we hear mainly of the successes and the glorious failures while, all over the world, people "fail"---that is, are forced to give up on this or that dream---10,000 times a day in relative obscurity.
I usually find acceptance of this stone cold fact liberating rather than demoralizing because a consistently unfulfilled dream can become quite a load to bear.

Steve Salerno said...

John, and it's so refreshing to not be screamed at; you should've seen my inbox today.

Thanks for taking the time to add your thoughts. Very cogent, and much appreciate.

Anonymous said...

What is it with people like you that get such a thrill out of crapping all over other people's hopes and dreams. Why is it necessary to add more fuel to the fire of cynicism that is drowning this culture? I don't understand why these kinds of things need to be said.

I believe we should try to uplift and inspire, ESPECIALLY where children are concerned. And you want to make them bitter and pessimistic before they even have a chance to live some life!

Cosmic Connie said...

In answer to your question, Roger (and only answering for myself, of course): I am currently busy fighting evil -- a side effect of my own blogging efforts -- but I am still here, and still reading, and ever more grateful for the presence of SHAMblog.

I am all for you having a donation button, Steve and will contribute myself as soon as I am able. For now, I am simply going to share your NY Daily News piece on Facebook. Good job.

Anonymous said...

Hi Steve

I think the lack of participation is due to the lack of the old days we all seem to have been writing more on the blog...

Anyway...I'm so pleased with the response to your article and as they say...any media attention is good attention and i hope it stimulates lots more work coming your way.

I would love to see the comments on the article but am having trouble accessing them...are there any on the website or are they just coming straight to you?


Steve Salerno said...

Londoner, there were perhaps 2 dozen comments listed right beneath the piece. Some of the snarkiest personal ones came directly to me, one person noting the donation button and suggesting that I am clearly an envious loser who missed out on my own dreams and am getting what I deserve. For the record, folks, I lived a dream of a life--5 or 6 of 'em--for maybe 50 years. I achieved all I ever hoped to achieve and then some. Things just turned around on me a bit.

Connie, you living with Steve now, not Ron? ;) and please, oh please, I hope you didn't interpret my comment as a way of "guilting" anyone, especially you, dear Connie! You guys have alreDy been there for me more times than I can count.

eyes wide open said...

I saw your tweet about Bob Kiyosaki which led me back to your blog. I don't deny you have grounds to be skeptical but your way of thinking throws the baby out with the bath water and is a terrible way of thinking about raising children especially. It doesn't matter if some of their dreams are unrealistic you must have your dreams and an unshakeable daily motivation to get through life. The feeling alone will sustain you even if the dreams never quite get there, that's waht people like you fail to see. Everybody needs to strive!

Steve Salerno said...

"eyes," you visited me once before, yes? And had little use for me then, either, as I recall. ;)

Look, I'm not going to deny that there is some merit to what you say. There is an inherent value to belief that is separate and apart from the validity of the belief. It's like my still-evolving feelings on God/religion: Even if there is no God, is it worthwhile/helpful to believe anyway? I'm honestly not sure how I answer that. And in realms that are purely emotional to begin with--love, for example--is one best-advised to carry with him (her) an abiding belief in true love/the power of love etc? Rather than to risk killing the feeling by overanalyzing/second-guessing/etc.? If you believe that you have found the perfect partner, and you cherish that person with all your heart, am I not an idiot to point out that, with 5 billion people on earth (or whatever it is now), the odds of your having found Mr. or Mrs. Right are remote? Even if I'm right, does it matter?

I just get annoyed in this context (self-help) because so many hucksters/shysters use this apparently human foible against us: They do business in predatory fashion, milking the human need to believe for all it's worth, extracting thousands of dollars from people who can ill afford it. I'm reminded of the guy in my ABC special who said he'd spent all of his money on positive-thinking programs and was now hoping the Universe would acknowledge his faith by sending some money his way, because he's flat broke and can't affored to pay his bills. That's pitiful.