Thursday, March 1, 2012
After the American Dream
According to this op-ed by Howard Bryant, Jeremy Lin "is the dream of the immigrant: American-born of parents who emigrated from Taiwan with grandparents in China. He is a national and international symbol of what is possible in the United States, evidence of what generations of sweat and sacrifice and dreaming can produce."
If this is the American Dream, to be able to pick yourself up by the bootstraps and to achieve wealth, comfort, and a better life, what happens after you've got it? If I'm honest with myself, that the hope and admiration that I feel towards JLin represents the victories that I seek (in Bryant's parlance), I can admit that my thought process rarely goes beyond what happens after these victories are achieved. So in some ways this unconsciously makes them the highest good, relatively speaking. Still, this isn't all that surprising as usually the goals and victories we shoot for are often far beyond where we currently are and as a result, the mystery that lies between is enough to make us stop in our tracks. As Cardinal Basil Hume says in the Mystery of the Incarnation (excerpt here), "Our age dislikes intensely the idea of mystery, because it directly exposes our limitations." Being exposed to your limitations for the first time is some scary shit.
But when I do finally ask, "Then what?" after hypothetically achieving my dreams, I guess those thoughts boil down to simply wanting my life to matter - that people admire me and that I would be able to make a tangible impact on the world. At worst, wanting a better life for my children and descendants almost seems like just a narcissistic desire that my seed or lineage or whatever you want to call it was good enough. If the achievement of the dream is the thing that then makes our lives matter, my personal social observation tells me that this falls woefully short of the proverbial "meaning of life." It seems that of all the people who have achieved the "American Dream" (if that is even quantifiable), there are many who are still dissatisfied and are unsure what to do with the parts of their life that are broken.
I think part of what makes Lin-Sanity so appealing is that Jeremy seems to have a "what" after the achievement of his NBA dream in that he plays for the glory of God and he knows (and is probably still growing in the idea) that with or without his NBA success, he still is a Beloved child of God.