Thursday, February 25, 2010

What is your green light?

From The Great Gatsby:
[H]e stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and far as I was from him I could have sworn he was trembling. Involuntarily I glanced seaward -- and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away, that might have been the end of a dock (25-26; emphasis added).
The New York Times recently featured an article entitled, "Gatsby’s Green Light Beckons a New Set of Strivers". As you think about what it is that you desire most, consider the responses of these urban and immigrant students in a Boston high school.

17 comments:

Sam H said...

About the article, I found the idea that a presumably (by her last name) Hispanic girl said, "I think this American dream is an interpretation of a white poor man’s dream." This struck me as odd, because it presumes that A) white men invented modern capitolism (which I buy into) and that B) all white men buy into it. I'm not so sure about the second part; there are lots of white people who don't necessarily only want money from their lives. I want to do something that I love, and want more than money. I was also struck by the fact that these students went to Boston Latin School, which, if it is like its sister in Chicago is a mix of incredibly intelligent people bound to succeed and incredibly wealthy people also bound to succeed.

As for what is my green light, I guess I don't know. After hours of thinking, I've come to the conclusion that I don't have one. This goes along with a blog post that I have been formulating for quite some time. I want a liberal arts education, and I take the fact that I'll be able to get it for granted. I know that I will succeed at whatever green light I choose, I take that as a given because of my upbringing. Ironically, this leaves me with no green light. Maybe it is a wealth thing; only for "poor white men." Maybe I don't have a green light because I' m lucky enough not to need one.

The Batman said...

My green light is quite simple: I want to be self-sufficient. I'm tired of living off of the backs of others (parents, taxpayers, etc.) and I want to be free of the strings that are attached to that.

Zoe C. said...

My green light is happiness. I think that is the most important thing in life. I know that is probably the most cliche thing I could ever say, but I really think it's true. It's great to go to college and be financially stable, as some of the students in the article states, but I think that all of that is useless in the end if you're not happy. I think people really underestimate happiness these days.

Zoe C. said...

My green light is happiness. I think that is the most important thing in life. I know that is probably the most cliche thing I could ever say, but I really think it's true. It's great to go to college and be financially stable, as some of the students in the article states, but I think that all of that is useless in the end if you're not happy. I think people really underestimate happiness these days.

Shirley said...

Sam's post actually applies quite well to me, as well. I have many advantages in my life that negate the NEED for a green light. But I have one, nonetheless. I want to be the best possible person I can be. It is quite an ambiguous green light, and, therefore, it is one I will have my whole life, because, unlike Tom Buchanan from "The Great Gatsby", I will never peak. My green light requires continual improvement.

Katie O. said...

I think the most interesting quote I found in the article was the one stated by a student. They said, "The American dream is not open to everyone...There are certain pathways, certain gateways.” Going back to the discussion we had in class about the accessability of success and who can achieve this. For this student, who goes to a school with "rigorous entrance exams and alumni who include five signers of the Declaration of Independence", she doesn't feel as though not everyone can acheive what they wish.
I think it is interesting that she feels this way since she probably will acheive what she wants, because of the opportunity she was given to go to a school like Boston Latin.

My green light would be to be able to work in the music industry. I have always loved music and I want to work with music in my career.

Ruchi said...

I found it interesting that most all of the "green lights" mentioned in the article are physically tangible, and often superficial things. Susan Moran explains that, "whether it’s professional success or wealth or idealized love — or a 4.0 or admission to Harvard,” your "green light" should be an achievement that makes you somebody you're not, or to achieve something beyond your reach.

In my opinion, these are both pretty terrible ways to classify motivation. Why would you want to be somebody you're not? And even worse, why would you want to achieve something that you admit is beyond your reach?

Personally, I don't think that my "green light" is anything like the examples listed in the first couple paragraphs of the article. (I didn't want to read any further because I heard there were spoilers :P) When I think about what motivates me, I think about doing what's right for me, surrounding myself with people with similar views. I motivate myself by being perceptive and pulling what I view as the good qualities from the people around me. This, to me, seems like the best way to get the most out of my life. Maybe that's not a real, concrete "green light" but I'm only 16; I guess don't know exactly what I want in the long run.

MMarin said...

I sort of had to think of this question a while ago when I had to do a meditation on 'hope' in one of my classes. The goal of the exercise was to focus on hope for 20 minutes or so, following the idea that "sadness is the absence of hope'" and defining hope as 'the one thing you want to happen in the future,' which is the equivalent of the 'green light' idea.

It was very confusing for me (you would certainly need more than 20 minutes to do this sort of thing) and I couldn't think of one thing in particular that I specifically hoped for so I just focused on the feeling you get when you find something interesting/are creating something and something clicks/ make a connection between one thing and another/etc-- that sort of mental 'flow' feeling. Maybe that didn't make sense. I don't really know what I hope to have for in the future as a green light, as there are a lot of things that I enjoy doing now and could enjoy pursuing in the future, and want to try out. I guess as long as I'm working on something I feel is interesting/significant and inherently elicits the previously described feeling, I will have reached my green light. But I still have to figure out what the 'something' is, though (obviously).

Sam brings up an interesting point about needs, perhaps referencing Maslow's Hierarchy. That definitely applies here to a large degree. Although, as Ruchi pointed out, some of the things the kids in the article seemed superficial, perhaps what plays a role in that is, given our relative upbringing/SES to theirs, we don't have to worry about more concrete things that they might, and accordingly have less concrete green lights.

Sarah. said...

My favorite part of the article was when Jinzhao Wang said "His [Gatsby] is the real ideal of the American Dream." When we were filling out our opinionnaire earlier this week, I disagreed with those who associated "opportunity" with money and wealth. But, I find myself associating my green light with the best colleges in the country. My parents tell me over again that grades can only do so much in life, and I know they are right, but get sucked into the competitive mentality that encompasses New Trier. I think my green light right now is to stop associating being unbelievably stressed with being normal at a place like NT, because I would much rather enjoy what I'm learning and take it with me in life, rather than my GPA. I'd much rather achieve something that can't be associated with numbers.

Caroline C said...

My favorite "green light" given by one of the students was the one that said, "Make it to junior year". It was one of the only ones that focused in on that year. I liked how the student was taking their life one step at a time. I think this is important because you never know what could happen in your life. It's good to think of tomorrow as a part of your future. My "green light" in life is work hard, but have fun doing it. All of us can get so caught up with school work that we tend to mope around with a frown on our face. I would love for everyone to love what they do and do what they love.

Drew said...

When thinking about what my "green light" would be, I realized that, like a lot of other people have mentioned, it isn't a physical thing. My "green light" is to be able to experience the world outside of where I am now. When I go to college, I don't want to go to a place where the whole student body is composed of rich white kids. I want to be able to see the diversity of America, and the world beyond it. The fact that my "green light" is so broad is what makes it a hard goal. It isn't something that can be accomplished in one day, but rather through a lifetime of pursuit.

Ellie said...

I think that what Caroline said is very interesting. I think that if you are able to take life day-by-day while being able to look ahead into the future, then you have a good grasp on life. In some ways I get caught up in the whirlwind of everyday life and forget about the big picture. But at other times, I think so much into the future that I forget to enjoy the present. Thus, my green light is to be conscious of what I’m doing in the present and the future.

Lizzy said...

I completely agree with Ellie. My daily green light is to live every moment to its fullest, but at the same time, I don't want to wake up one day years from now and realize that i missed something important along the way. My green light is really to be able to look back when I am much older and to be able to really feel like I have fully experienced life.

DPark said...

Personally, my "green light"'s are more quantified and goal oriented. While other people say "be the best that I can", I have made certain goals with specific achievements and numbers. I actually have a list of tasks that I hoped to finish by Junior year (2 down already) but I've never thought my goals being more qualitative.

But after high school, I have no ideas in college. Now that I think about it, I think I should have a daily "green light", just so I have a short term goal.

Claire m said...

For me, a lot of my "green lights" come from volleyball. On my travel team we set goals each day in practice, both individual and team-related, in order to progress. I also have long term goals for volleyball as well, so all my 'little' green lights eventually make up a big one.

It's interesting how different the green lights are among the class. Some are limited, while others are not. It seems like it would be harder to determine whether or not a limited green light is reached. But then again, it would be very beneficial to have an unlimited green light, like living life to the fullest every day. I feel like a mix between these limited and unlimited lights would be most effective, because you always have something to work for yet still obtain the sense of accomplishment of reaching a limited green light.

nathans said...

My "green light", like Caroline said would be to be in an everlasting good mood, if that were ever possible. I also see it with a little twist, as I am a big realist. I think I would want to balance being as productive a citizen, consumer or entrepreneur as possible along with the maintaing of a good mood. Saying it in this manner makes it seem a little demanding, but like the article said you have to strive to be what you are not.

StoneA said...

Like Zoe, my green light is happiness.