Stamboul: Imagine a pivot
Today, I wish, would be the first day of the rest of my life.
I am in that honest mood: That I feel stuck, of going nowhere, yet again. I knew this was coming. Against my better judgement, I was getting sucked into company life. I was telling myself a lie - I enjoy it! After eschewing this path for many years, I suddenly felt that illusion to be in control, of getting things done. What was it - the pandemic-induced pathos? - that led me down this path? But, sure enough, I now have that unmistakable feeling of getting nowhere.
I did what I usually do at moments like this: I got away. I came to Istanbul. I possibly needs the strange combination of hustle and the 5000-years of history around me to recharge my senses and temper my self-importance. I am reading this beautiful little book called 'The four thousand weeks' which is about embracing the limitedness of life and focusing on what counts. And as I do this, I know I am on the wrong path.
My trouble - and I shall call it trouble because it got in the way of my attaining the usual things - is that I took life for granted and acquired, somewhat early in life, a sense of purpose. It is possibly my unresolved fascination with my uncle's life, who just disappeared one day: A perfectly reasonable man with a standard middle class future who gave himself away for what he believed! However much I try, I couldn't get that shadow out of my life. I wanted to do something similar, without dying for it! That made me choose education.
I had my blessed moments. I did feel, at times, that my life had meaning, I was making a difference. I also thought I was doing it the sensible way: Good education would mean good business and money for my ideas would always be found! It was only after a long journey I now have the privilege of looking back and know I was wrong.
I think this is more about the neo-liberal business environment that we live in. The last thirty years of easy money has created a speculative business environment, where gamblers have reaped all the rewards. It is not value creation as the textbooks say, but value extraction that is the essence of making money. Good products don't really count, making a difference does not really matter. The new-age gurus have taken over the language after flushing out all the meaning: Only the soundbites remain!
Building, therefore, is no longer what businesses do. They proudly advertise for hunters rather than farmers, those who would somehow extract value without minding the consequences. All my twentieth century sensibility is indeed completely out of step with the twentyfirst century credo of money-making.
But I don't want to describe the world, as these things are already well-known. I can't change it too, though I know that these ideas are standing on fragile foundations. My concerns are much more limited; How do I change what I do? How do I get back to the search of meaning? How do I stop myself giving away bits of myself to crass commercial pursuits which dominate my everyday? I know now that I have to leave private higher education and get into something more publicly-minded.
I want to start working towards this now. I know people who wants to change careers need to imagine themselves into the new shoes first. I came away to think about how I should do such a thing. In fact, this works to my advantage: The selfish environment of private business can't handle someone's ability to walk away! My great advantage must be that I should not take myself seriously and actually be able to walk away just when people thought the greed that devours them got me too. This, therefore, is a moment for me to look at other people who choose, by their own accord, lives of hardship and sacrifice: Not the 'greed is good' business leaders of the world, but those people who really move the civilisation forward.