Modernity has an ideal. Young, healthy, independent. Oh, it’s not a secret… the secret is the extent to which this ideal has overtaken. Let’s discuss the modern ideal, or as I call them, the arrow people.
Physical youth is not necessary for an arrow person, but the trappings of youth are. Excellent health, adventurousness, and a certain hunger of the soul. One should not be too sure of one’s place in the world, but one should possess a passion to change it. You can be an idealized person in modernity if you have all of those characteristics and silver hair, but you can’t be an arrow person if you marry young and are content with who you are – even if you’re no more than 25. The “youthquake”, to borrow a phrase from the 60s, is about the “quake” more than the number of candles on the cake. Youth makes you fly faster, more willing to try for ever more difficult to hit targets.
One must be healthy to be an arrow person. This is absolutely essential. Ill health slows you down. Arrow people are ashamed of any lack of health, any consequences of age or accident – all must be overcome. Someone, somewhere has managed these details, and so therefore must every arrow person. Just as important as being healthy is pretending to be healthy. Your doctor can fuss at you annually about your blood pressure and stress levels, so long as you have the right amount of body fat and great hair. Attending to stress-related health issues is something for one’s fifties – after one has hit the mark.
Independence is the primary characteristic of an arrow person. Ideally with just enough family to root them on from the sidelines, but no reciprocal duties to those family members, an arrow person is free to throw themselves at any target at any time. Arrow people must become independent and stay that way. Needing help is anti-arrow. Giving help is not much better – the target is to earn enough money to have someone else take care of the duties that bind.
Perfection for an arrow person is a young adulthood spent experimenting while climbing the tower of income and achievement, thirties and forties getting those pesky interpersonal needs taken care of (marriage, children) but employing someone else to do the dirty work, fifties and beyond travelling, relaxing, and pursuing health. Arrow people don’t stay home with the kids or make time-sacrifices to care for elderly parents or ailing spouses. Arrow people take jobs where ever the money is best, with no thought for those in their communities who might depend on them. (Which is fair, because arrow people avoid extensive involvement in community, as it ties them down. They network for mutual gain instead). An arrow person is always in pursuit of the target.
Americans are the quintessential arrow people… but were we always? We were always trying for independence. Give us our freedom! Yes. That. But did we always want to be free from family, from community, from the nets of life… or did we yearn to be free only of laws with which we disagreed?
Arrow people are valuable, it’s true. But not everyone can be an arrow person, and we have forgotten how to make a good life without preparing for endless flight. We have forgotten why the pathbreakers break trail. And we have forgotten that happiness lies in the company we keep, not merely the trails we make across the sky.
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