Saturday, January 31, 2009

Full Measure of Devotion

Balance in life and work is hard to acheive. At what point does putting family first mean that you sacrifice yourself for their good? I've been thinking about this recently as I've been increasingly short-tempered and withdrawn while working on and thinking about this dissertation I'm writing. In many ways, my concern for this dissertation is rotting my ability to enjoy an evening with my family. And yet, it is for them that I reach for this degree. A greater job security, a better job performance, a more knowledgable instructor; these things are ultimately important for my family.

We've been watching John Adams via Netflix over the last week. I had heard it was good and faithful to the book, and I have to say that I am very impressed with it.

We watched as John Adams told his wife that he was needed in France. He was a hero, a philosopher, and a patriot. His dedication to founding this country is nothing less than inspiring. Watching it, I realized something. Whatever other shortcoming I may have, there is one very major difference between me and a man remembered so greatly as John Adams: I could never put my country ahead of my family to that degree.

I understand that my times are different than his. That by putting his country first, he was providing freedom and opportunity for not only his children, but his posterity. But as valuable as that is, I am too selfish a man to do such a thing. I could never leave my family like that.

I feel like, in many ways, we have built a Tempest-like island in our family. Like Prospero, I am unable to let the rest of the world intrude upon that island. Thus the no TV thing, the hate of advertisements, the resentment of a consumer culture that would have us find meaning through objects and lifestyles through services. Quoting another patriot, Jefferson swore "hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man." And I feel like it is the very minds of my family that this consumer-culture hopes to control.

I stray too far from my course.

I suppose devotion to family comes in many ways. From back-breaking labor, to traveling for business, to getting into mountains of debt on the way to an education to secure a meaningful job that ensures a quality of life and time home with the family. It seems an awful burden at times, being a father to a family and being a provider of futures. It's amazing that we do it.

I can see, at times, how this diachotomy can end up being a snake that eats its own tail. It's a line I will try to walk carefully.

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