I look back on the way I was then: a young, stupid kid… I want to talk to him. I want to try to talk some sense to him, tell him the way things are. But I can’t. That kid’s long gone… I got to live with that.
–Red from 1994’s Shawshank Redemption
The 1960s brought us “flower power,” the counter-cultural movement that claimed flowers – designs in your clothes or actual flowers in your hair and those you gave to anyone who would take one – represented the pacifist method to oppose the Vietnam War and other wars, as well as permit all sorts of behaviors that were deemed too authoritarian or stuffy in earlier decades.
It would appear we have generational flower power carryover:
Jay Austin and Lauren Geoghegan, both 29, last year quit their office jobs in Washington, DC, to embark on the journey. Austin, a vegan who worked for the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Geoghegan, a vegetarian who worked in the Georgetown University admissions office, decided that they’re were wasting their lives working.
“I’ve grown tired of spending the best hours of my day in front of a glowing rectangle, of coloring the best years of my life in swaths of grey and beige,” Austin wrote on his blog before he quit. “I’ve missed too many sunsets while my back was turned. Too many thunderstorms went unwatched, too many gentle breezes unnoticed.”
The couple documented their year-long journey on Instagram and on a joint blog. As The New York Times put it, they shared “the openheartedness they wanted to embody and the acts of kindness reciprocated by strangers.”
“You read the papers and you’re led to believe that the world is a big, scary place,” Austin wrote.
“People, the narrative goes, are not to be trusted. People are bad. People are evil.”
“I don’t buy it,” he continued. “Evil is a make-believe concept we’ve invented to deal with the complexities of fellow humans holding values and beliefs and perspectives different than our own… By and large, humans are kind. Self-interested sometimes, myopic sometimes, but kind. Generous and wonderful and kind.”
I’m confused by Jay’s proclamation that he grew tired of “spending the best hours of my day in front of a glowing rectangle…” He admits in his blog that his employer, the United States Office of Housing and Urban Development, gave him three months of sabbatical every year. Three Months. Of his seven years being paid at HUD, that means he only worked about five of those years. That doesn’t sound like a job you hate. Thank you, American taxpayers.
I get it. Office jobs – even ones that pay you not to be there for one-fourth of the year — can suck the life out of you, and movies like Office Space and shows like The Office are funny for a reason: There is much truth to the life-sapping motion of banging away at a computer keyboard eight to ten hours a day. But this is true only if you let it get the best of you. If your goal is to get out of the daily-grind world and live on your own terms, do it.
Many have parted ways with the corporate (or in Jay and Lauren’s case, government) world. The issue isn’t whether these two wanted to live a monk’s life. The issue is the decision on where they wanted to live it, and around whom. Rule of thumb: If it ends in ‘stan’, don’t go there.
These two wayward souls, who should have been grateful for their lives, made the mistake of choosing to travel without security in Tajikistan. After hitting them and a couple other bicyclists with a van, ISIS terrorists emerged from the vehicle and stabbed them to death. I’m sure Jay and Lauren of today, wherever they are, want to talk to the Jay and Lauren of July 29, 2018. I’m sure their loved ones want desperately to talk to the Jay and Lauren of that morning, to try to talk some sense into them, tell them the ways things are. But they can’t. These two innocents are long gone, and only memories remain. Their loved ones have to live with that.
Hippies, please understand this: The unfortunate truth is people are not born good. We are born, and through a bit of nature and mostly nurture we become adults capable of both good and bad. If you don’t believe me, have you seen teenage girl drama?
And let’s be clear about the religion behind those who murdered Jay and Lauren. When it comes to Islam, no number of fairytales will protect innocent non-Muslims (or the wrong kind of Muslims) from violence and evil.
Give flowers to these sub-humans if you like, buy them a flat white at Starbucks, but please don’t be surprised when you don’t like what happens.
Image: Screen Shot: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=86&v=MlwAUNkKbPM