As to the whole community service vs. intellectual pursuits thing. I think, in some ways that's too narrow of a debate. I'm a scientist who works in a field of pure theory. At face value it doesn't appear that my work helps society. However, many side effects of my field have helped society (once specifically ended up finding a way to cure a specific type of cancer). Additionally, we are pushing the barriers of human knowledge, which I do believe is also valuable to society at large. Now my day-to-day work is not quite so sexy sounding but it is a drop in the bucket of human understanding and that does give me personal satisfaction that I'm giving back to society in a way. Obviously, it's not nearly as direct as going into the Peace Corps (something I actually have been interested in doing later on in life..) but it still has its use. I have a feeling that many intellectual careers are similar. That's precisely why the government funds because of all the side benefits that are not immediately obvious.
I hope it didn't sound like I thought a person needed to start a community recycling program or something.
How sad that "thinking of others" and "putting others first" has been boxed in like that by our society. To me, thinking of others is so simple as to be something you can literally do nearly all the time. Granted, not while contemplating butterflies for their innate beauty, but certainly, if you are standing at the nature reserve, then making sure you stand out of people's way...
I want to go back to school in theoretical physics and metaphysics. Sound useless?
Do you think the Internet would exist without Shroedinger's Cat (whether he exists or not)? That's what I thought. :D
the deepest element of my own core identity is my creative identity, which does not particularly serve the world, especially since much of my art is seen only by me or a few other people.
I think the creation of beauty is one of the most wonderful ways we can serve humanity. Even art that reaches a small number of people is important. Everyone needs to be touched by art, and not everyone is going to be touched in the same way. It is the small things that are important. Many of Emily Dickinson's poems were not seen by anyone until after her death.
Loving others isn't always about spooning gruel at the soup kitchen.
Like it or not, how we live our lives provides a template for what our children view as worthwhile activities. If we love learning because that brings us closer to peace, if we care for others because we believe that is our job (and I don't mean... spend Saturdays in the prison sick ward, though that is also nice... I mean, listen to other people, be that true friend that remembers to bring flowers, stand up and offer to fold the chairs back up after the PTA meeting, bring hamburgers to the lady that just gave birth, just think of others, period, doesn't have to be some career choice or anything)--then that is what our child will pick up on.
So I'm not saying set out a lesson plan and lecture schedule on humanitarianism.
I'm saying, the child with a great set of values and a strong sense of identity rooted in community, who knows her parents love her no matter what, will not become unhinged when college disappoints, because she will know life is so much more than that.
I realize that some of you are saying, "Sure, sure, but what about THAT? What about the intellect? How to deal with intellectual frustration?" And I guess my answer is, it will not be devastating if you have a passion in life and have a place in your community. You will be able to create interesting things for yourself.
I never thought learning to write backwards would be so useful (I taught myself during the seventh grade, so bored was I... among other things). Well, can I tell you how many compliments I get on my handwriting in Persian and Arabic? LOL! "Like you have been writing that way since you were a child." :beam: You see... I can make the best of what I got.
Because I'm not focused on what I lost. I'm focused on what I have and always learning. Yay, life, yay, mom, yay, world...
Now imagine if my perspective were, "I am so bored, I am so bored, someone stimulate me...."
I never would have learned to write backwards. I wouldn't have taken up Persian or Arabic. I wouldn't have studied several other languages up to that point so that I was capable at my age of picking up another language easily. And on and on and on.
By all means, look for the answer in a particular educational style. I personally am convinced that the answer to personal fulfillment will never be found in specific accomplishments, at least not isolated from the world.