Friday, July 17, 2009
Canto or Owen?
Three days into my post vacation diet, I was impacted today by this OP-ED piece in the NYTimes by Roger Cohen titled "The Meaning of Life". This cute little anecdote raises many great questions to consider including the core one...what is more important, quality or quantity in a lifetime? Being rationalizing human beings, I'm sure there are as many sides to that answer as there are individuals...yet I think we make daily decisions in life based on how we think or feel, even subconsciously, about that question.
I have always thought that with humans and our destinies, everything starts with the BRAIN. The way we think and even feel is determined by how we reason and then act. Like monkeys, humans are great imitators throughout our lives spending most of our waking moments thinking and acting like those around us. We have grown up trained to please others in our circle and society in general. We like to be liked. Beginning with our parents, we were programmed to "behave" in certain ways based on reward systems. If we wanted to be held, we cried until we were held. If we were hungry, we cried until we were fed. In response, we were often denied what we wanted based on our individual behavior...and very few of us accomplished getting what we wanted independently. We usually had to please someone...whether it was our family, church, employer, government or school. Our brains and feelings have been conditioned to be controlled by external forces that are very hard to overcome.
I am much more interested in watching humans than animals. Sure, animals can be interesting and beautiful to watch especially in their natural habitat...but observing humans and being able to understand what they say (at least word wise if not their reasoning) is much more challenging and entertaining than watching animals of other species. I know this will over generalize my observations a bit, but I think Canto and Owen represent two major categories of humans that I observe in every day life.
Canto to me represents the type of people who are controlled, driven and disciplined in every aspect of their life. Many of these are "type A" individuals who are lean and mean machines, racing strongly for their goals and trying to reach their leadership or financial potential. Many of these are in the military or police ranks, submitting themselves to authorities to pursue the order and support the controls they have grown up submitting to. Some "Cantos" are sports stars, models or famous actors who strive and compete to perform or look better than the rest in order to gain fame and notoriety. Yet, as life has revealed it, fame is fleeting and some of the saddest people on the planet are people who hit their peek of performance or acceptance in their 20s or 30s. Alas, we have "Cantos" who turn into Michael Jacksons, Marilyn Monroes, or O.J. Simpsons just to name a few...people who lose their ways or never can deal with the true results of achieving fame and fortune. Sure, there are good examples of "Canto"...many disciplined leaders or "stars" who are well adjusted, live positive private lives, and do good in society. My point is, just being a "Canto" does not equate to a solid center on the "meaning of life" or being "happy".
Owen on the other hand can represent a variety of other human types. They are a bit more "laid back" in life. The good "Owens" tend to be thinkers, philosophers, writers, musicians, artists..."right brain" oriented people. Life for these types are more about emotions, pleasure and living in the moment. They are usually not as driven to please others and more about self pleasure. Carried to an extreme of course these "Owens" can be very self destructive. They can become so addicted to life's pleasures that any semblance of character will disappear in order to achieve instant gratification. The results of that imbalance in perspective can bring much pain and displeasure as a consequence whether it be bad health, lack of financial discipline in order to sustain a free life or an extreme "Owen" can end up in a penitentiary as a result of their self destructiveness affecting the safety of those around them. I see the "Owen" mentality in the masses of people who want government or "others" to take care of them while a "Canto" is more likely to be self sufficient and independent.
For me, the best case scenario is a balance between these two extremes. I think balance is key in most every aspect in life and so difficult to achieve. It is as if we humans have some genetic drive to one extreme side or the other...yet I believe in most of us lies a little bit of both Canto and Owen. Some of us cover up our "Owenistic", pleasure seeking side in favor of adhering to strict upbringings or "towing the line" of traditions and social pressures. Others of us give into total depravity of pleasure from the Owen side and make no plans nor give attention to our tomorrows.
The key observation for me today is that very few of us live in a cage or without some control on our environments. These guys are in a forced study, we are not. Most of us are free to decide whether we work out or eat, study or goof off, consume or not consume. As the wisest man once said..."there is a time and a purpose for everything under the sun...". My goal is to live a balance between Canto and Owen...indulge myself everyday with something pleasurable, but also make a conscious decision everyday to discipline myself towards a future goal. Some people say "be all things to all people". I say "be all things to yourself"...a key difference.
Ok...who are you...Canto or Owen? :)