Thursday, September 17, 2009

This? Or That?

Outside of the de rigeur academics and military science and sports, the life of a West Point cadet is full of opportunity. To name a few of the bigger deals in his one year there so far: M has gotten a New York state and a national EMT certification; he has traveled to Israel as a guest of the IDF; he has debated (and won!) against Harvard and Yale and others of their ilk. He has had occasion to shake the hand of the president (Bush, not N/Obama); and he has marched in the presidential inaugural parade (alas, N/Obama's). He has learned how to hack computers; he has driven a tank, coordinating a platoon (Is that the right military technology?) of tanks and hummers. He has even dislocated a jaw (his) and broken a nose (also his), courtesy of the evil boxing class required of all male West Point cadets.

This year is shaping up to be equally fascinating. He is on the debate team again, as well as MUN (Is that a team?), both of which offer the possibility of a trip to Oxford. As in England. And he is running for Class President. Nothing else occurs to me at the moment, but the year is young...

Well, a few days ago he called with a dilemma: "I could easily major in English," he said, "or history, IR, language, comp sci, or geography, or management, or philosophy. I would love to branch infantry, aviation, finance, transpo, MP, or JAG. I would love to skip the Army, be a SEAL, or work in the CIA, or be a stay-at-home dad, or a teacher, or a cop, but at some point it all has to narrow down..." :-( And that's the thing. You have to choose. Each is different from the others; none is necessarily better, or worse, than the rest. They can each be done well, or they can be done ill. But they can't be done all.

So this whole conversation, like too many other things I get involved in, got me to thinking. One can know a lot about a few things, or a little about a lot of things. One can be a master of one thing, or perhaps two, or even three, but one cannot be a master of them all.

And that whole line of thinking sent me off on another wonder: Once upon a time, people used to graduate from the 8th grade knowing pretty much everything there was to know. Now people go to 12th grade, college, masters, and beyond, and still don't know anything much. The more we learn, the less we know, because every time we find an answer, it opens up another ? or two, or three. AAAGGGHHHH!!!!!

Every time we say *yes* to something, we say *no* to something else. But, we have to say yes to something. Otherwise, we say yes to nothing.

Life is full of possibilities. At least it starts out that way. But "possibilities" is all most of them ever are, because . . . well . . . because there just isn't enough *us* to go around, and as things go along, things change. The changes are subtle, though, so much so that they generally go unnoticed, until one day....!!! Just like that!

All of a sudden, life is full of improbabilities.

1 comment:

Mary at Civilla's Cyber Cafe said...

In the Book of Daniel it says that in the last days, people will go to and fro and knowledge will increase. We're there.

Congratulations to your son on all his successes.