Rohit's Realm

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October 03, 2007

Age and Accomplishment

There are exactly two days each year upon which one is urged—nay, forced—to reflect upon one's perceived accomplishments of the year that has past: one is New Year's Eve, the other, one's day of birth; unsurprisingly, most people choose to ring in both through dangerous amounts of intoxication. What might begin as mere consumption for the purposes of celebration quickly gives way to imbibition (or some variant thereof, depending on your intoxicant of choice) simply for the sake of inebriation—and escape, no matter how fleeting or futile it may prove to be in the proverbial grand scheme of things.

Why is our desire to avoid such reflection so potent? Certainly one could attribute it to some subconscious desire to avoid regretting past decisions, as I suggested earlier (in a different context), but I suspect the actual reason is far more insidious. Perhaps we wish to supplant introspection with intoxication precisely because we know implicitly—if not explicitly—that such retrospective analysis can only lead to one conclusion: that our past year has seen us accomplish nothing at all, and that the next year will likely be no different. Without doubt, this is a position in which I find myself today.

Admittedly, the two days we select for such reflections are without inherent meaning. The selection of January 1 as the day upon which to restart the calendar is no more—or less—meaningful than if we were to select what is known in our calendar as April Fools' Day. Perhaps even more perplexing is our desire to celebrate our day of birth: given how little value most people add to others' lives, as well as the inevitable fact that nearly all of us will lead futile, inconsequential existences leading up to unmemorable, unlamented deaths, one is hard-pressed to justify celebrating the arrival of any of us wretched souls upon this planet, let alone every single one.

The arbitrariness of the days notwithstanding, the point is that we can still use them as markers to delimit time—and effect the introspection that is well and due. In analyzing my own situation, however, I cannot help but wish I had sought inebriation over introspection.1

Why, the naïve reader might be wondering, would I take such a dour view on my own life? Well, aside from the fact that it is part and parcel of what I do, I think most people will readily agree with me that I have done little in the past year to justify my fair share of the world's resources.2 Though normative definitions of concepts such as success (i.e., money, cash, hoes) are by no means the gold standard by which we should judge ourselves, based on all reasonable measures of human productivity, I have at best, accomplished nothing, and at worst, actively caused the world to be a worse place, if ever so slightly (to make the world a worse place by leaps and bounds might in itself be considered an accomplishment).

I suppose one might consider getting into graduate school to be some sort of accomplishment, but in light of this analysis, and the fact that almost everyone hates lawyers, was that really a net positive? Hardly. More substantively, did I accomplish anything at work? Absolutely not. Did I achieve any of my personal goals or dreams? Nope. Did I make a measurable impact on anyone else's life? Not a chance. In fact, in the case of the last question, I would go so far as to suggest that the impact I did have on others this past year—positive or negative—was so inconsequential as to render it (and me) irrelevant.

At first glance, or as they say in legalese, prima facie,3 the last paragraph might sound horribly depressing. And yet, in many ways, it is supremely liberating. By virtue of the fact that I have accomplished nothing and helped no one, it can be said that I have no responsibilities to anyone either; in other words, if I were to drop dead right now, hardly anyone would be adversely affected substantively. I mean, presumably—and this is by no means guaranteed—some, few people might (briefly) lament my passing due to some (misplaced) notion of friendship or kinship, but this would necessarily be a short-lived occurrence. No one relies on me for anything: I have neither a spouse whose (future) dual income might be disturbed, nor any children (that I know of) to raise or support. I am as free as one can be without being dead.

As such, maybe I don't need to escape my reflective day through inebriation: I can simply take solace in knowing that though I might have accomplished nothing the past year, and will most certainly not accomplish anything in the year(s) to come, that it will not matter anyway. Put another way, who needs inebriation when one has despondency? Surely, I have attained the age of reason.

1 Curiously, outside of my 21st birthday, I have never really celebrated my birthday through intoxication. The same cannot be said about other people's birthdays, however.
2 Arguably, it is even worse than it sounds considering that I live in the United States, and on average, people in the U.S. consume much more than their fair share of the world's resources.
3 There is little in this world that is more pretentious than dropping Latin into a blog of little to no redeemable value; I anticipate that as I progress in law school, this will become more common, serving only to augment the pretension for which this site is already well known.


I would tell you to cheer up, but I know that would do nothing. Instead, I will note that I am quite impressed by your tying in Sartre and your birthday in a neat little pun at the very end. Well done! And happy birthday!!!

i magna cum lauded on your mom's prima facie

You go to THE University of Chicago. You aren't supposed to be happy.

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