Thursday, January 19, 2017


This week, one of the classes I assist worked on essays discussing disillusionment.  We'd read The Great Gatsby, and were debating whether Gatsby's relentless romanticism and hopefulness that Daisy would come, Daisy would call, and he and she would live happily ever after, was a good thing as Nick opines, or a delusion which should have been discarded when she married Tom.  

We'd given examples, "Finding out about the Tooth Fairy or Santa," learning a friend wasn't, or being let down by a classmate, parent, teacher or other person.  We'd discussed the first component necessary in being disillusioned, having trust and hope in something or someone.   So is it a good?  One could not say it was healthy in the case of Gatsby, and several students declared him to be insane to pursue her when he could have anyone and he had everything.  However the funeral reveals the stark reality.  He had everything of matter, and nothing that mattered.  Some of my students lamented the weight of the waste of Gatsby's life and felt mystified he'd have such depth of feeling for someone who seemed so casual in her feelings for everything.

Other students understood Nick's appreciation of Gatsby for his "all in" way of living.  These students wanted that romanticism to be real.  They wanted a "Re-illusioned" world where anything was possible and maybe, maybe if George hadn't shot him, Daisy would recognize what she might lose by not leaving Tom.  

The discussion took place in pieces, punctuated by talk about the fight that took place between two girls that morning.  Oddly, the students didn't recognize the very passions which drove the quarrel between two students, was also the result of two visions of the world.  One world held there is no place that is safe, there is no relationship one should hold as fixed.  The other side thought even if it was a fight, there was a reason, and the fight settled very little, as the passions remained.  

If we have a goal with education, it is to walk the line of growing hope and bolstering the steel in each student to face reality.    We have to do both and, revealing that we cannot know all ends of our actions or the outcomes of all relationships, and yet must act in all things with some degree of anticipation about how things will play out.  The students wrote over and over again of a wanting to not have to be disillusioned.   They want the dream of having someone be that lavishly in love.  They want the dream of being able to somehow build one's self out of nothing.   They want to think, they can one day arrive and have everything. They also presume, when they arrive, the friends at the party will be real.  That's what they want. It's what Gatsby wanted.   No one wanted to think they had to despair to face reality.

All I could think was, me too.  

So I pondered, perhaps it is time to create some story which allows for the re-ordering of our understanding about hopes and dreams.  They aren't an illusion or a delusion, but a means of imagining a reality better than what we face.  They may be a goal.  They may become a reality.  They aren't a guarantee, but they are a catalyst for everyone who ever embraces them, to make the world something other than the disillusioned mess it is now.  

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