這文章已經有段時日了,嘗試重新翻譯分享給各位(原文在下面),很適合搭配I Dreamed A Dream這首歌品味。

 

I had a dream my life would be. So different from this hell I'm living. So different now from what it seemed Now life has killed the dream I dreamed.

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我的題目是讀人文學科同學常被問到的問題:學習文學、藝術或哲學能有什麼實際價值(practical value)?你肯定納悶,我為什麼會在未來工作機會眾多及以科學科技聞名的史丹佛提出這個問題呢?

 

各位不要誤會。我演講題目的「do」不是指工作,「that」也不是指你的主修,我們要探討的不僅僅是工作。教育不只代表一門主修,也不只是從幼兒園到研究所的正規學校教育。「你要做什麼」的意思是未來你要過什麼樣的生活,「that」指的是在學校或學校之外學到的任何技能。

 

 

我們不妨先來聊聊你是如何進入史丹佛的吧!

你能進入這所大學證明你的某些技能非常出色。父母在你很小的時候就鼓勵你追求卓越,他們送你到好學校,老師和同儕的激勵使你更努力地學習;除了在課堂出類拔萃,態度修養好之外,也培養了一些興趣;你花了幾個暑假預習大學課程,參加專門技能研習的夏令營或訓練營;你認真學習,全力以赴,所以你在數學、音樂、運動等眾多方面都很出色。

 

以上當然沒有錯,全力以赴精通技能並成為優秀人才。有問題的地方在於這個社會體系所遺漏之處:專業化把你的注意力限制在一個點上,你所已知和你想探索的東西都限界於此,你知道的一切就只是你的專業了。

 

專業化讓你成為某方面的專家,但也斷開你與其他事物的聯繫,甚至是你自己本身。當然,作為大一新生,你的專業才剛剛開始,在你渴望邁向成功之路的路途中,進入史丹佛是其中一個階梯,接著再讀三年大學,三五年法學院、醫學院或博士,然後再做若干年住院實習生、博士後或助理教授;或者從政治學系學生變成了律師、公司要角;從生物化學系學生變成了心臟學者,再變成專門做心臟瓣膜移植的醫生;進入越來越狹窄的專業化軌道。

 

這專業化軌道沒有任何錯,只不過,在你越來越深入地進入這些領域後,再記得你最初的樣子就越來越困難了。你開始懷念那個曾經談鋼琴和打曲棍球的人;思考那個曾經和朋友熱烈討論人生、政治及課堂內容的人怎麼會變成現在這樣?那個雄心壯志的19歲年輕人已經變成了現在只專注於某件事的40歲中年人,也難怪越年長者越無趣。「嘿,我爸爸是非常聰明的人,但他現在除了談論錢和肝臟外再無其他。」

 

 

還有另外一個問題:或許你從來沒有想過當心臟外科醫生,只是碰巧發生了而已,隨波逐流最容易,這就是體制的力量。我不是說這個工作容易,而是說做出這種選擇很容易,又或者這些根本就不是自己做出的選擇。你來到史丹佛名校是因為聰明的孩子都這麼做;你考入醫學院是因為它的名望高;你選擇心臟病學是因為當心臟病醫生的待遇好。這樣能讓父母驕傲,令老師高興,讓朋友印象深刻。從你上高中開始,甚至初中開始,你的唯一目標就是進入最好的大學,所以現在你會很自然地從「進入下個階段」的角度看待人生。「進入」就是能力的證明,「進入」就是勝利。先進入史丹佛,然後是約翰霍普金斯醫學院,再進入舊金山大學做實習醫生等;或者進入密西根法學院,高盛集團或麥肯錫公司。你邁出了這一步,下一步就已成定局。

 

又或許你確實想當心臟外科醫生:十歲時就夢想成為醫生,即使你根本不知道醫生意味著什麼。在學期間全力往這個目標前進,你拒絕了有趣的歷史課、暑假的旅行,也故意忽視你在醫學系四年級兒科輪值班時照看孩子的可怕感受。

 

不管因為你隨波逐流或者你早就選定了道路,20年後的某一天,或許你會突然納悶這20年到底發生了什麼事?你怎麼變成現在這個樣子?這一切對你來說意義是什麼?為什麼選擇這個職業?到底為了什麼?這聽起來像老生常談,但這個被稱為中年危機的「老生常談」一直發生在你我之間。

 

還有另外一種情況可能會發生,就讓我用你們同儕的故事來解釋吧!。幾年前,我在哈佛參加了一次小組討論會談到這些問題,參加這次討論的一個女學生後來與我聯繫,這個哈佛學生正在寫有關哈佛大學的畢業論文,討論哈佛是如何灌輸學生她所稱的「自我效能」:相信自己能做任何事的意識,或更熟悉的說法「自尊」。她說有些考了好成績的學生會說「我考得好是因為試題很簡單。」 ,但另外一些「自我效能」較高的學生則會說「我考得好是因為我聰明。」

 

 

認為考得好是因為自己聰明的想法並沒有錯,不過,哈佛學生卻沒有認知到他們是否有第三選擇,當我指出這一點時女學生十分震驚。我指出真正的自尊意味著你根本不在乎成績是否優秀;真正的自尊即為認識自己,而非成長過程中被教導的相信自己,不是你所等獲得的成績、獎勵、錄取通知書等所有這一切,這些都不能來定義你是誰。

 

這個女學生還稱哈佛學生把他們的自我效能入世,就成了「創新」。但當我問她「創新」的定義是什麼?她能夠想到的唯一例子是「世界五百強執行長」。我告訴她這不是創新,這只是成功,而且是狹義的成功而已。真正的創新意味著運用你的想像力,發揮你的潛力,創造新的可能性。

 

但這裡我並不是在談論技術創新,如發明新機器或新藥,我談論的是另外一種創新:創造你自己的生活,創造一條屬於自己的道路。我談論的想像力是道德想像力(moral imagination:心理學專業名詞)。「道德」在這裡無關對錯,而是與選擇有關,道德想像力意味著創造新生活的潛力。

 

它意味著不隨波逐流,不是下一步要「進入」什麼名校或計畫。弄清楚自己到底想要什麼,而不是父母、同儕、學校、或社會想要什麼。確認你自己的價值觀,思考邁向自己所定義成功的道路,而不僅僅是接受別人給你的生活,接受別人給你的選擇。當你走進星巴克咖啡館,服務員可能讓你在牛奶咖啡、加糖咖啡、特製咖啡等幾樣東西之間做出選擇,但你可以考慮轉身走出去。當你進入大學,大學給你眾多選擇,法律、醫學、投資銀行或顧問,但你同樣也可以做別的選擇,做從前根本沒有人想過的事。

 

 

讓我再舉一例子,幾年前我寫過一篇涉及同類問題的文章,我說那些在耶魯和史丹佛這類名校的孩子往往比較謹慎,去追求一些穩妥的報酬,我得到的最常見的批評是:「為美國而教(TFA)計畫」如何?從名校出來的學生畢業後很多參與這個教育項目,因此我的觀點是錯誤的。「為美國而教」當然是好東西,但引用這個項目來反駁我的觀點恰恰是不得要領,實際上正好證明了我想說的東西。「為美國而教」已經成為體系一部分,它已經成為另外一個需要「進入」的門檻。

 

從其內容來看,「為美國而教」完全不同於高盛、者麥肯錫公司、哈佛醫學院或者柏克萊法學院,但從它在精英體系中的地位來說完全是一樣的,它享有盛名,很難進入,是值得你和父母誇耀的東西,如果寫在履歷上會很好看;最重要的是它代表了清晰標記的道路,你根本不用自己創造,什麼都不用做,只需申請然後按要求做就行了,就像上大學或進入麥肯錫公司,它是社會參與方面的史丹佛或哈佛,是另一個柵欄、另一枚獎章,該項目需要能力和勤奮,但完全不需要道德想像力。

 

道德想像力是困難的,這種困難與你已經習慣經歷的困難完全不同,不僅如此,光有道德想像力還不夠,如果你要創造自己的生活,如果你想要完全自主,你還需要道德勇氣-不管別人說什麼或試圖改變你什麼,都有按自己的價值觀行動的勇氣。具有道德勇氣的個人往往讓周圍的人感到不舒服,他們不按照世俗的想法,讓自己陷於不確定性裡面。只要沒人自由,就不會有人在乎自己被關進監獄;可是一旦有人越獄成功,其他人都會追隨而出。

 

史蒂芬·迪達勒斯就19世紀末期的愛爾蘭的環境說出了如下名言:「當一個人的靈魂誕生在這個國家時,會有一張大網把它罩住,防止它飛翔。當你跟我談論民族性、語言和宗教,我應衝出這張網。」

 

 

現在大網仍然存在,其中之一是我與學生交流時經常聽到的一個術語:「自我放任」。「在求學過程中有這麼多事要做的時候,試圖按照自己的感覺生活難道不是自我放任嗎?」「畢業後不去找個真正的工作而去畫畫難道不是自我放任嗎?」

 

年輕人只要稍稍思考一下出格的事就常被問這些問題,更糟糕的是他們覺得這些問題是理所應當的。許多學生在畢業前夕進行生涯探索時跟我說,他們感受到來自同儕那裡的壓力,他們需要為創造性的生活或思想生活進行辯護,好像自己已經不正常了:不正常到拋棄安穩的道路,不正常到認為自己的想法可行並有權利去嘗試。

 

這是美國社會智慧、道德和精神貧乏最明顯的證據,美國最聰明的年輕人竟然認為跟隨自己好奇心行動就是自我放任。你們被教導要上大學,但你們同時也被告知如果想獲得其他知識,那就是「自我放任」。這是什麼道理?進入顧問業是不是自我放任?進入金融業是不是自我放任?像許多人那樣當律師發財是不是自我放任?搞音樂,寫文章就不行,但做避險基金就可以,追求自己的理想是自私的,但是如果它能讓你賺很多錢,就一點也不自私了。

 

你看到這些觀點是多麼荒謬了嗎?這就是罩在你們身上的大網,也是為什麼你們需要勇氣對抗,因為這過程永遠不會結束。在兩年前,有個學生談到我說大學生需要重新思考人生決定的觀點,他說「我們早已做出了決定,我們早在中學時就已經決定要成為能夠進入哈佛的高材生。」我在想,有誰會想按照自己在12歲時做出的決定生活呢?讓我換一種說法,誰願意讓一個12歲的孩子決定他們未來一輩子要做什麼呢?或者一個19歲的小毛頭?

 

能影響你選擇的是你現在想什麼,你準備好不斷修正自己的決定。讓我說得更明白一些。我不是在試圖說服你們都成為音樂家或者作家。成為醫生、律師、科學家、工程師或者經濟學家沒有什麼不好,這些都是可靠的、可敬的選擇。我想說的是你需要認真地思考它,我請求你們是根據正確的理由做出你的選擇,認識你的道德自由並熱情擁抱它。

 

 

不要太舒適,要學會拒絕世俗的誘惑:舒服、方便、安全、可預測的、可控制的,這些同樣是大網,最重要的,不要臣服於失敗的恐懼感。是的,你會犯錯誤,但這將是你寶貴錯誤,別人想得也得不到,你將因失敗而強大,更認識你自己。

人們常說你們年輕人屬於「後情感」一代,我想我未必贊同這個說法,但這個說法值得嚴肅對待。你們更願意避開混亂、動盪和強烈的感情,但我想說,不要迴避挑戰自我,不要否認你自己的欲望、好奇心、懷疑、不滿、快樂和陰鬱,它們可能改變你預設的人生軌跡。大學剛開始,未來美好人生等者你們,讓自己面對更多可能性吧。這個世界大過你現在所能想像,你自身的潛力也將遠超過你現在的想像。

 

The question my title poses, of course, is the one that is classically aimed at humanities majors. What practical value could there possibly be in studying literature or art or philosophy? So you must be wondering why I'm bothering to raise it here, at Stanford, this renowned citadel of science and technology. What doubt can there be that the world will offer you many opportunities to use your degree?

 

But that's not the question I'm asking. By "do" I don't mean a job, and by "that" I don't mean your major. We are more than our jobs, and education is more than a major. Education is more than college, more even than the totality of your formal schooling, from kindergarten through graduate school. By "What are you going to do," I mean, what kind of life are you going to lead? And by "that," I mean everything in your training, formal and informal, that has brought you to be sitting here today, and everything you're going to be doing for the rest of the time that you're in school.

 

We should start by talking about how you did, in fact, get here. You got here by getting very good at a certain set of skills. Your parents pushed you to excel from the time you were very young. They sent you to good schools, where the encouragement of your teachers and the example of your peers helped push you even harder. Your natural aptitudes were nurtured so that, in addition to excelling in all your subjects, you developed a number of specific interests that you cultivated with particular vigor. You did extracurricular activities, went to afterschool programs, took private lessons. You spent summers doing advanced courses at a local college or attending skill-specific camps and workshops. You worked hard, you paid attention, and you tried your very best. And so you got very good at math, or piano, or lacrosse, or, indeed, several things at once.

 

 

Now there's nothing wrong with mastering skills, with wanting to do your best and to be the best. What's wrong is what the system leaves out: which is to say, everything else. I don't mean that by choosing to excel in math, say, you are failing to develop your verbal abilities to their fullest extent, or that in addition to focusing on geology, you should also focus on political science, or that while you're learning the piano, you should also be working on the flute. It is the nature of specialization, after all, to be specialized. No, the problem with specialization is that it narrows your attention to the point where all you know about and all you want to know about, and, indeed, all you can know about, is your specialty.

 

The problem with specialization is that it makes you into a specialist. It cuts you off, not only from everything else in the world, but also from everything else in yourself. And of course, as college freshmen, your specialization is only just beginning. In the journey toward the success that you all hope to achieve, you have completed, by getting into Stanford, only the first of many legs. Three more years of college, three or four or five years of law school or medical school or a Ph.D. program, then residencies or postdocs or years as a junior associate. In short, an ever-narrowing funnel of specialization. You go from being a political-science major to being a lawyer to being a corporate attorney to being a corporate attorney focusing on taxation issues in the consumer-products industry. You go from being a biochemistry major to being a doctor to being a cardiologist to being a cardiac surgeon who performs heart-valve replacements.

 

Again, there's nothing wrong with being those things. It's just that, as you get deeper and deeper into the funnel, into the tunnel, it becomes increasingly difficult to remember who you once were. You start to wonder what happened to that person who played piano and lacrosse and sat around with her friends having intense conversations about life and politics and all the things she was learning in her classes. The 19-year-old who could do so many things, and was interested in so many things, has become a 40-year-old who thinks about only one thing. That's why older people are so boring. "Hey, my dad's a smart guy, but all he talks about is money and livers."

 

 

And there's another problem. Maybe you never really wanted to be a cardiac surgeon in the first place. It just kind of happened. It's easy, the way the system works, to simply go with the flow. I don't mean the work is easy, but the choices are easy. Or rather, the choices sort of make themselves. You go to a place like Stanford because that's what smart kids do. You go to medical school because it's prestigious. You specialize in cardiology because it's lucrative. You do the things that reap the rewards, that make your parents proud, and your teachers pleased, and your friends impressed. From the time you started high school and maybe even junior high, your whole goal was to get into the best college you could, and so now you naturally think about your life in terms of "getting into" whatever's next. "Getting into" is validation; "getting into" is victory. Stanford, then Johns Hopkins medical school, then a residency at the University of San Francisco, and so forth. Or Michigan Law School, or Goldman Sachs, or Mc Kinsey, or whatever. You take it one step at a time, and the next step always seems to be inevitable. 

 

Or maybe you did always want to be a cardiac surgeon. You dreamed about it from the time you were 10 years old, even though you had no idea what it really meant, and you stayed on course for the entire time you were in school. You refused to be enticed from your path by that great experience you had in AP history, or that trip you took to Costa Rica the summer after your junior year in college, or that terrific feeling you got taking care of kids when you did your rotation in pediatrics during your fourth year in medical school.

 

But either way, either because you went with the flow or because you set your course very early, you wake up one day, maybe 20 years later, and you wonder what happened: how you got there, what it all means. Not what it means in the "big picture," whatever that is, but what it means to you. Why you're doing it, what it's all for. It sounds like a cliché, this "waking up one day," but it's called having a midlife crisis, and it happens to people all the time.

 

 

There is an alternative, however, and it may be one that hasn't occurred to you. Let me try to explain it by telling you a story about one of your peers, and the alternative that hadn't occurred to her. A couple of years ago, I participated in a panel discussion at Harvard that dealt with some of these same matters, and afterward I was contacted by one of the students who had come to the event, a young woman who was writing her senior thesis about Harvard itself, how it instills in its students what she called self-efficacy, the sense that you can do anything you want. Self-efficacy, or, in more familiar terms, self-esteem. There are some kids, she said, who get an A on a test and say, "I got it because it was easy." And there are other kids, the kind with self-efficacy or self-esteem, who get an A on a test and say, "I got it because I'm smart."

 

Again, there's nothing wrong with thinking that you got an A because you're smart. But what that Harvard student didn't realize—and it was really quite a shock to her when I suggested it—is that there is a third alternative. True self-esteem, I proposed, means not caring whether you get an A in the first place. True self-esteem means recognizing, despite everything that your upbringing has trained you to believe about yourself, that the grades you get—and the awards, and the test scores, and the trophies, and the acceptance letters—are not what defines who you are.

 

 

She also claimed, this young woman, that Harvard students take their sense of self-efficacy out into the world and become, as she put it, "innovative." But when I asked her what she meant by innovative, the only example she could come up with was "being CEO of a Fortune 500." That's not innovative, I told her, that's just successful, and successful according to a very narrow definition of success. True innovation means using your imagination, exercising the capacity to envision new possibilities.

 

But I'm not here to talk about technological innovation, I'm here to talk about a different kind. It's not about inventing a new machine or a new drug. It's about inventing your own life. Not following a path, but making your own path. The kind of imagination I'm talking about is moral imagination. "Moral" meaning not right or wrong, but having to do with making choices. Moral imagination means the capacity to envision new ways to live your life.

 

It means not just going with the flow. It means not just "getting into" whatever school or program comes next. It means figuring out what you want for yourself, not what your parents want, or your peers want, or your school wants, or your society wants. Originating your own values. Thinking your way toward your own definition of success. Not simply accepting the life that you've been handed. Not simply accepting the choices you've been handed. When you walk into Starbucks, you're offered a choice among a latte and a macchiato and an espresso and a few other things, but you can also make another choice. You can turn around and walk out. When you walk into college, you are offered a choice among law and medicine and investment banking and consulting and a few other things, but again, you can also do something else, something that no one has thought of before.

 

 

Let me give you another counterexample. I wrote an essay a couple of years ago that touched on some of these same points. I said, among other things, that kids at places like Yale or Stanford tend to play it safe and go for the conventional rewards. And one of the most common criticisms I got went like this: What about Teach for America? Lots of kids from elite colleges go and do TFA after they graduate, so therefore I was wrong. TFA, TFA—I heard that over and over again. And Teach for America is undoubtedly a very good thing. But to cite TFA in response to my argument is precisely to miss the point, and to miss it in a way that actually confirms what I'm saying. The problem with TFA—or rather, the problem with the way that TFA has become incorporated into the system—is that it's just become another thing to get into.

 

In terms of its content, Teach for America is completely different from Goldman Sachs or McKinsey or Harvard Medical School or Berkeley Law, but in terms of its place within the structure of elite expectations, of elite choices, it is exactly the same. It's prestigious, it's hard to get into, it's something that you and your parents can brag about, it looks good on your résumé, and most important, it represents a clearly marked path. You don't have to make it up yourself, you don't have to do anything but apply and do the work —just like college or law school or McKinsey or whatever. It's the Stanford or Harvard of social engagement. It's another hurdle, another badge. It requires aptitude and diligence, but it does not require a single ounce of moral imagination.

 

Moral imagination is hard, and it's hard in a completely different way than the hard things you're used to doing. And not only that, it's not enough. If you're going to invent your own life, if you're going to be truly autonomous, you also need courage: moral courage. The courage to act on your values in the face of what everyone's going to say and do to try to make you change your mind. Because they're not going to like it. Morally courageous individuals tend to make the people around them very uncomfortable. They don't fit in with everybody else's ideas about the way the world is supposed to work, and still worse, they make them feel insecure about the choices that they themselves have made—or failed to make. People don't mind being in prison as long as no one else is free. But stage a jailbreak, and everybody else freaks out.

 

 

In A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce has Stephen Dedalus famously say, about growing up in Ireland in the late 19th century, "When the soul of a man is born in this country there are nets flung at it to hold it back from flight. You talk to me of nationality, language, religion. I shall try to fly by those nets."

 

Today there are other nets. One of those nets is a term that I've heard again and again as I've talked with students about these things. That term is "self-indulgent.""Isn't it self-indulgent to try to live the life of the mind when there are so many other things I could be doing with my degree?""Wouldn't it be self-indulgent to pursue painting after I graduate instead of getting a real job?"

 

These are the kinds of questions that young people find themselves being asked today if they even think about doing something a little bit different. Even worse, the kinds of questions they are made to feel compelled to ask themselves. Many students have spoken to me, as they navigated their senior years, about the pressure they felt from their peers—from their peers—to justify a creative or intellectual life. You're made to feel like you're crazy: crazy to forsake the sure thing, crazy to think it could work, crazy to imagine that you even have a right to try.

 

Think of what we've come to. It is one of the great testaments to the intellectual—and moral, and spiritual—poverty of American society that it makes its most intelligent young people feel like they're being self-indulgent if they pursue their curiosity. You are all told that you're supposed to go to college, but you're also told that you're being "self-indulgent" if you actually want to get an education. Or even worse, give yourself one. As opposed to what? Going into consulting isn't self-indulgent? Going into finance isn't self-indulgent? Going into law, like most of the people who do, in order to make yourself rich, isn't self-indulgent? It's not OK to play music, or write essays, because what good does that really do anyone, but it is OK to work for a hedge fund. It's selfish to pursue your passion, unless it's also going to make you a lot of money, in which case it's not selfish at all.

 

 

Do you see how absurd this is? But these are the nets that are flung at you, and this is what I mean by the need for courage. And it's a never-ending process. At that Harvard event two years ago, one person said, about my assertion that college students needed to keep rethinking the decisions they've made about their lives, "We already made our decisions, back in middle school, when we decided to be the kind of high achievers who get into Harvard." And I thought, who wants to live with the decisions that they made when they were 12? Let me put that another way. Who wants to let a 12-year-old decide what they're going to do for the rest of their lives? Or a 19-year-old, for that matter?

 

All you can decide is what you think now, and you need to be prepared to keep making revisions. Because let me be clear. I'm not trying to persuade you all to become writers or musicians. Being a doctor or a lawyer, a scientist or an engineer or an economist—these are all valid and admirable choices. All I'm saying is that you need to think about it, and think about it hard. All I'm asking is that you make your choices for the right reasons. All I'm urging is that you recognize and embrace your moral freedom.

 

And most of all, don't play it safe. Resist the seductions of the cowardly values our society has come to prize so highly: comfort, convenience, security, predictability, control. These, too, are nets. Above all, resist the fear of failure. Yes, you will make mistakes. But they will be your mistakes, not someone else's. And you will survive them, and you will know yourself better for having made them, and you will be a fuller and a stronger person.

 

 

It's been said—and I'm not sure I agree with this, but it's an idea that's worth taking seriously—that you guys belong to a "postemotional" generation. That you prefer to avoid messy and turbulent and powerful feelings. But I say, don't shy away from the challenging parts of yourself. Don't deny the desires and curiosities, the doubts and dissatisfactions, the joy and the darkness, that might knock you off the path that you have set for yourself. College is just beginning for you, adulthood is just beginning. Open yourself to the possibilities they represent. The world is much larger than you can imagine right now. Which means, you are much larger than you can imagine.

 

 

By William Deresiewicz  OCTOBER 03, 2010

The essay below is adapted from a talk delivered to a freshman class at Stanford University in May.

http://www.chronicle.com/article/What-Are-You-Going-to-Do-With/124651

 

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