Manufactured In America | Hapiness Is A Side Effect Of Meaning

Manufactured In America | Hapiness Is A Side Effect Of Meaning

Manufactured In America | Hapiness Is A Side Effect Of Meaning

GO FORTH AND BE MIGHTY!

Lyrics

This, I submit
Is the freedom
Of real education
Of learning how to be
Well-adjusted
You get to consciously decide

[Chorus]
What has meaning
And what doesn’t
What has meaning
And what doesn’t
What has meaning
What has meaning
What has meaning
What has meaning
W-W-What has meaning
What has meaning
What has meaning
What has meaning

You get to decide
What to worship
Because here’s something else
That’s weird
But true
In the day-to-day trenches of adult life
There is actually no such thing
As atheism
There is no such thing
As not worshipping
Everybody worships
The only choice we get
Is what to worship
And a compelling reason
For maybe
Choosing some sort of god
Or spiritual-type thing to worship
Be it JC or Allah
Be it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess
Or the Four Noble Truths
Or some inviolable set of ethical principles
Is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive

If you worship money and things
If they are where you tap
Real meaning
In life
Then you will never have enough
Never feel
You have enough
It’s the truth

Worship your own body
And beauty
And sexual allure
And you will always feel ugly
And when time and age start showing
You will die a million deaths
Before they finally grieve you
On one level, we all know this stuff already
It’s been codified as myths
Proverbs
Clichés
Epigrams
Parables
The skeleton of every great story

[Chorus]
What has meaning
And what doesn’t
What has meaning
And what doesn’t
What has meaning
What has meaning
What has meaning
What has meaning
W-W-What has meaning
What has meaning
What has meaning
What has meaning

The whole trick is keeping the truth
Up front
In daily consciousness
Worship power
You will end up feeling weak
And afraid
And you will need ever more power over others
To numb you
To your own fear
Worship your intellect
Being seen as smart
You will end up feeling stupid
A fraud
Always on the verge of being found out
But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they’re evil or sinful
It’s that they’re
Unconscious
They are default settings
They’re the kind of worship you just gradually slip into
Day after day
Getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that’s what you’re doing

And the so-called real world
Will not discourage you from operating on your default settings
Because the so-called real world
Of men
And money
And power
Hums merrily along on the fuel of fear
And anger and frustration and craving and worship of self
Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that Have yielded extraordinary wealth
And comfort and personal freedom
The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms
Alone at the center of all creation

This kind of freedom
Has much to recommend it
But of course there are all different kinds of freedom
And the kind that is most precious
You will not hear much talk about much in the great outside world of Wanting and achieving and displaying
The really important kind of freedom involves
Attention and awareness and discipline
And being able truly to care about other people
And to sacrifice for them
Over and over
In a myriad heavy unsexy ways every day

That is real freedom
That is being educated
And understanding
How to think
The alternative is unconsciousness
The default setting
The rat race
The constant gnawing sense
Of having had
And lost
Some infinite thing

I know that this stuff probably doesn’t sound fun and breezy or grandly inspirational the way a commencement speech is supposed To sound
What it is, as far as I can see
Is the capital-T Truth
With a whole lot of rhetorical niceties stripped away
You are, of course
Free to think of it whatever you wish
But please don’t just dismiss it as some finger-wagging Dr. Laura sermon
None of this stuff is really about morality
Or religion
Or dogma
Or big fancy questions
Of life after death
The capital-T Truth
Is about life
BEFORE death
It is about the real value of a real education
Which has almost nothing to do with knowledge
And everything to do
With simple
Awareness
Awareness of what is so real and essential
So hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time
That we have to keep reminding ourselves
Over and over
This is water

This is water
This is water
This is water
This is water
This is water
This is water

It is unimaginably hard to do this
To stay conscious and alive in the adult world
Day in and day out
Which means yet another grand cliché turns out to be true
Your education really IS
The job of a lifetime
And it commences
Now

[Chorus]
What has meaning
And what doesn’t
What has meaning
And what doesn’t
(You get to consciously decide)
What has meaning
What has meaning
What has meaning
What has meaning
W-W-What has meaning
What has meaning
What has meaning
What has meaning

I wish you way more than luck
I wish you way more than luck
I wish you way more than luck
I wish you way more than luck
Biggest, most disgustingly selfish vehicles, driven by the ugliest, most inconsiderate and aggressive drivers
And I can think about how our children’s children will despise us for wasting all the future’s fuel
And probably screwing up the climate
And how spoiled and stupid and selfish and disgusting we all are
And how modern consumer society just sucks
And so forth and so on

You get the idea

If I choose to think this way in a store and on the freeway
Fine
Lots of us do
Except thinking this way tends to be so easy and automatic that it doesn’t have to be a choice
It is my natural default setting
It’s the automatic way
That I experience
The boring
Frustrating
Crowded parts of adult life
When I’m operating on the automatic, unconscious belief
That I am the center of the world
And that my immediate needs and feelings are what should determine the world’s priorities

The thing is that, of course, there are totally different ways to think about these kinds of situations
In this traffic
All these vehicles stopped and idling in my way
It’s not impossible that some of these people in SUV’s have been in horrible auto accidents in the past
And now find driving so terrifying that their therapist has all but ordered them
To get a huge, heavy SUV
So they can feel safe enough to drive
Or that the Hummer that just cut me off is maybe being driven by a father whose little child is hurt or sick
In the seat next to him, and he’s trying to get this kid to the hospital
And he’s in a way bigger, more legitimate hurry than I am
It is actually I who am in HIS way

Or I can choose to force myself to consider the likelihood that everyone else in the supermarket’s checkout line is just as bored and frustrated as I am
And that some of these people probably have harder
More tedious and painful lives than I do

Again, please don’t think that I’m giving you moral advice, or that I’m saying you are supposed to think this way
Or that anyone expects you to just automatically do it

[Chorus]
Because it’s hard
It takes will and effort
Do it
Because it’s hard
It takes will and effort

And if you are like me
Some days you won’t be able to do it
Or you just flat out won’t want to
But most days
If you’re aware enough to give yourself a choice
You can choose to look differently at this fat
Dead-eyed
Over-made-up lady who just screamed at her kid in the checkout line
Maybe she’s not usually like this
Maybe she’s been up three straight nights holding the hand of a husband who is dying of bone cancer
Or maybe this very lady is the low-wage clerk at the motor vehicle department
Who just yesterday helped your spouse resolve a horrific, infuriating, red-tape problem
Through some small act of bureaucratic kindness
Of course, none of this is likely
But it’s also not impossible
It just depends what you want to consider
If you’re automatically sure
That you know what reality is
And who and what is really important
If you want to operate on your default setting
Then you
Like me
Probably won’t consider possibilities that aren’t annoying
And miserable
And miserable

But if you really
Learn
How to think
How to pay attention
Then you will know you have other options
Do it

[Chorus]
Because it’s hard
It takes will and effort
Do it
Because it’s hard
It takes will and effort

It will actually be within your power
To experience
A crowded
Hot
Slow
Consumer-hell type situation
As not only meaningful
But sacred
On fire with the same force that made the stars
Love
Fellowship
The mystical oneness of all things
Deep down
On fire with the same force that made the stars
Love
Fellowship
The mystical oneness of all things
Deep down

Not that that mystical stuff is necessarily true
The only thing that’s capital-T True
Is that you get to decide
How you’re gonna try and see it

On fire with the same force that made the stars
Love
Fellowship
The mystical oneness of all things
Deep down
On fire with the same force that made the stars
Love
Fellowship
The mystical oneness of all things
Deep down
There happen to be whole, large parts of adult American life that nobody talks about in commencement speeches
One such part involves boredom
Routine
And petty frustration
The parents and older folks here will know all too well what I’m talking about

By way of example
Let’s say it’s an average adult day
And you get up in the morning
Go to your challenging, white-collar, college-graduate job
And you work hard for eight or ten hours
And at the end of the day you’re tired
And somewhat stressed
And all you want is to go home and have a good supper and maybe unwind for an hour, and then hit the sack early
Because, of course, you have to get up the next day and do it all again
But then you remember there’s no food at home

You haven’t had time to shop this week
Because of your challenging job
And so now after work you have to get in your car and drive to the supermarket
It’s the end of the workday
And the traffic is apt to be
Very bad
So getting to the store takes way longer than it should
And when you finally get there, the supermarket is very crowded
Because of course, it’s the time of day when all the other people with jobs also try to squeeze in some grocery shopping
And the store is hideously fluorescently lit
And infused with soul-killing muzak or corporate pop
And it’s pretty much the last place you want to be
But you can’t just get in and quickly out
You have to wander all over the huge, over-lit store’s confusing aisles to find the stuff you want
And you have to maneuver your junky cart through all these other tired, hurried people with carts

And eventually
You get all your supper supplies
Except now it turns out there aren’t enough check-out lanes open
Even though it’s the end-of-the-day rush
So the checkout line is incredibly long
Which is stupid and infuriating
Stupid and infuriating
Which is stupid and infuriating
Stupid and infuriating

But you can’t take your frustration out on the frantic lady working the register
Who is overworked at a job whose daily tedium and meaninglessness surpasses the imagination of any of us here at a prestigious college

But anyway, you finally get to the checkout line’s front
And you pay for your food
And you get told to
‘Have a nice day’
In a voice that is the absolute voice of death
Then you have to take your creepy, flimsy, plastic bags of groceries in your cart with the one crazy wheel that pulls maddeningly to the left
All the way out through the crowded, bumpy, littery parking lot
And then you have to drive all the way home through slow, heavy, SUV-intensive, rush-hour traffic, et cetera et cetera

Everyone here has done this, of course
But it hasn’t yet been part of you graduates’ actual life routine

[Chorus]
Day after week, after month, after year
Day after week, after month, after year
Day after week, after month, after year
Day after week, after month, after year
D-D-Day after week, after month, after year
Day after week, after month, after year
D-D-Day after week, after month, after year
D-D-Day after week, after month, after year

But it will be
And many more dreary, annoying, seemingly meaningless routines besides
But that is not the point
The point is that petty, frustrating crap like this is exactly where the work of choosing
Is gonna come in
Because the traffic jams and crowded aisles and long checkout lines give me time to think
And if I don’t make a conscious decision about how to think and what to pay attention to
I’m gonna be pissed and miserable every time I have to shop
Because my natural default setting is the certainty that situations like this are really all about me About MY hungriness and MY fatigue and MY desire to just get home
And it’s going to seem for all the world like everybody else is just in my way

And who are all these people in my way?
And look at how repulsive most of them are, and how stupid and cow-like and dead-eyed
And nonhuman they seem in the checkout line
Or at how annoying and rude it is that people are talking loudly on cell phones in the middle of the line
And look at how deeply and personally unfair this is

Or, of course, if I’m in a more socially conscious liberal arts form of my default setting
I can spend time in the end-of-the-day traffic being disgusted about all the huge stupid
Lane-blocking SUV’s and Hummers
And V-12 pickup trucks
Burning their wasteful, selfish, 40-gallon tanks of gas
And I can dwell on the fact that the patriotic or religious bumper-stickers
Always seem to be on the biggest
Most disgustingly selfish vehicles
[Audience laughter]
Driven by the ugliest -
[Interrupting audience applause]

This is an example of how NOT to think

[Chorus]
Day after week, after month, after year
Day after week, after month, after year
Day after week, after month, after year
Day after week, after month, after year
D-D-Day after week, after month, after year
Day after week, after month, after year
D-D-Day after week, after month, after year
D-D-Day after week, after month, after year
(Japanese dialogue from Naruto Shippuden between Naruto & Pain)

Here is just one example of the total wrongness of something I tend to be automatically sure of
Everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of the universe

The realest, most vivid and important person in existence
We rarely talk about this sort of natural, basic self-centeredness
Because it’s so socially repulsive
But it’s pretty much the same for all of us
It is our default setting
Hard-wired into our boards at birth
Think about it
There is no experience you have had
That you were not the absolute center of

[Chorus]
The world as you experience it
Is there in front of YOU
Or behind YOU
To the left or right of YOU
On YOUR TV or YOUR monitor
The world as you experience it
Is there in front of YOU
Or behind YOU
To the left or right of YOU
On YOUR TV or YOUR monitor

And so on
Other people’s thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow
But your own are so immediate
Urgent
Real

Please don’t worry that I’m getting ready to lecture you about compassion or other-directedness or all the so-called virtues
This is not a matter of virtue
It’s a matter of my choosing to do the work
Of somehow altering or getting free of my natural, hard-wired default setting
Which is to be deeply and literally self-centered
And to see and interpret everything
Through this lens of self
People who can adjust their natural default setting this way are often described as being
‘Well-adjusted’
Which I suggest to you is not an accidental term

[Chorus]
The world as you experience it
Is there in front of YOU
Or behind YOU
To the left or right of YOU
On YOUR TV or YOUR monitor
The world as you experience it
Is there in front of YOU
Or behind YOU
To the left or right of YOU
On YOUR TV or YOUR monitor
Given the triumphant academic setting here
An obvious question is how much of this work of adjusting our default setting involves actual knowledge or intellect
This question gets very tricky
Probably the most dangerous thing about an academic education
At least in my own case
Is that it enables my tendency to over-intellectualize stuff

To get lost in abstract arguments inside my head
Instead of simply paying attention to what is going on right in front of me
Paying attention to what is going on
Inside me

As I’m sure you guys know by now
It is extremely difficult to stay alert and attentive
Instead of getting hypnotized by the constant monologue inside your own head
It may be happening right now

Twenty years after my own graduation
I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about
Teaching you how to think
Is actually shorthand for a much deeper
More serious idea
Learning how to think
Really means learning how to exercise some control
Over how and what you think
It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to
And to choose how you construct meaning from experience

[Chorus]
Learning how to think
Learning how to think
Learning how to think
Learning how to think

Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life
You will be totally
Hosed
Think of the old cliché about, quote
“The mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.”

This
Like many clichés
So lame and unexciting on the surface
Actually expresses a great and terrible truth
It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in
The head
The head
They shoot the terrible master
And the truth is that most of these suicides are actually dead long before they pull the trigger

And I submit that this is what the real
No bullshit value of your liberal arts education is supposed to be about
How to keep from going through your comfortable
Prosperous
Respectable adult life

Dead
Unconscious
A slave to your head
And to your natural default setting of being uniquely
Completely
Imperially alone
Day in and day out
That may sound like hyperbole
Or abstract nonsense
Let’s get concrete
The plain fact is that you graduating seniors do not yet have any clue what
‘Day in day out’
Really means

[Chorus]
Learning how to think
Learning how to think
Learning how to think
Learning how to think

[Chorus]
Learning how to think
Learning how to think
Learning how to think
Learning how to think

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