"The Stuff of Life" - Utne Reader - February 1999

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Utne Reader Shelby Dowty February 21, 1999 The Stuff of Life By: Scott Russell Sanders

The article starts out with a father on vacation with his son, Jesse, in Rocky Mountain National Park. Their vacation started out with the two of them yelling at one another without explanation but ended with a cleansing, relaxed, and appreciative feeling of one another and the environment of the mountains. The understanding I received from this article was that even though we are the earths richest country, we cant afford what we really need. What I think we need doesnt have a dollar sign on it. What we need to know is our authentic selves, and what makes us happy. Your authentic self is the real you. The author also relates the idea of individuals having all and anything they want but still cant find happiness. I agree with the authors thoughts on this idea. For example, I know a couple living in the Twin Cities who have an annual income of $120,000. They can buy whatever they want and travel wherever they want, but they are not happy. Because of being able to buy what they want and travel where they want, they havent taken the time to find out what makes the real person inside them happy.

When I speak of finding your authentic self, I define that by you finding what represents you, the real you. To find the real you, you have to dig inside to find that person. So many times, as the author writes in this article, people can have everything money can buy, but they are not happy. Why is that? The reason is that they dont know what makes them happy. Many people have to dig into their past to find unhappiness first, and then find happiness. In the same breath, many people are afraid to dig into their past. I get the feeling that the father in this article really doesnt know what makes him happy in life. From reading the article, I think he can financially afford the trip with his son to the Rockies. The question in my mind remains whether he took the trip with his son because everyone else was doing it and he found the relaxing, cleansing, and appreciative environment. Or did he take the trip because he knew he would find a father/son relationship and an environment that would make him happy? The difference being that if the father took vacation with Jesse to find the father/son relationship, in my opinion, would mean him knowing his real self. That father/son relationship would appear to be one thing that makes Jesses father happy. If the father took the vacation with Jesse because he could afford it and everyone else was doing it, then he doesnt know his real self. He doesnt know what makes him happy.

At the end of the article, Ruth, Jesses mother, gets a telephone call with an invitation from friends to look at stars in the country. Ruths husband says he has too much to do and wouldnt be able accept the invitation. However, Ruth replies to her friends that her and her husband would be out in the country within thiry minutes. In this article, Ruth seems to know the power of her real self. In my opinion, the author writes to give the impression that Ruth enjoys the companionship with her husband, relationship with friends, and she enjoy watching the stars. I think Ruth knows her real self. The author also gives me the feeling that Ruth is assisting her husband in way that he will find his real self.

I think children of today need to learn that they are rich and wealthy if they are happy with who they really are, not by the dollars their parents bring home. Learning that the dollar sign is not the answer to happiness is a hard concept for children to see in todays world. A childs meaning of happiness today is being able to buy the $60 pair of jeans that everyone else is wearing. At the same time, are we, as parents, buying whatever we want for our happiness? What we need to do is change the material growth that we all measure and start measuring the authentic growth we should be searching for. Instead of leaping around like grasshoppers from one activity to the next, as this article states, we can accomplish authentic growth by slowing down and finding the meaning of life within ourselves and our families.

-- Anonymous, March 14, 1999

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