The Dangers of Youthful Enthusiasm
It Is sobering, I suppose, to be reminded occasionally that we’re inevitably trapped both within the culture we inhabit and, more decisively, within the decisions we make about our lives before we’re even aware of the fact. Call this latter trap ‘aspiration’ or ‘vocation’ or ‘life-goal’. Whatever it is called, it has probably been arrived at through an irrational process of attraction and avoidance that has very little to do with current reality. This truth is potentially humiliating. So we avoid it. And few even desire to follow Schiller’s advice: “Live with your century but do not be its creature.”
Actually it matters very little whether the general culture or our specific ambitions are shaped by state propaganda and Party status, as in the former Soviet Union, or by commercial advertising and competitive striving, as in the United States. The consequence is that we find ourselves on a trajectory which is bound to end in disappointment. No institution lives up to its promotional hype. They are less satisfying, more mundane, and frequently more dangerous than we allow ourselves to imagine in our youthful enthusiasm.
How else could we possibly treat this situation, therefore, other than as an existential joke? Our feeling is one of being convicted of a crime we haven’t committed. We could, and frequently do, blame others, circumstances, or luck for the failure of ‘the system’ but we know this is ridiculous. Satire like Pelevin’s allows us to express our self-mockery with at least some dignity, however underserved. This may seem an odd and certainly a minority interpretation of the cultic Omon Ra
but it seems to me more generally relevant than understanding its inside jokes of Soviet society or the unique travails of doomed cosmonauts. Reply