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The Warsaw Voice » Society » February 23, 2012
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From the Editor-in-Chief
February 23, 2012   
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It may seem that we live in times that are commercialized through and through. “Having” has triumphed over “being.” You’re only worth as much as your bank account or your money-making skills. The rat race begins in preschool—just look at the number and types of extracurricular activities that kids take part in. Parents start battling to ensure the best possible financial future for their offspring very early, with great determination and at huge cost. Children are the most important investment. If you love your kids you must try to ensure they are as well adapted to the labor market as possible, foster their money-making skills, equip them to become a thick-skinned, rapacious go-getter. If all this signifies happiness for you, then “having” is at the top of your value system.

Or is it? Quite a few people falter on this road due to fatigue, disappointment, illumination, and fall into the trap of banal thinking: Is this the best way? Is this actually in keeping with my nature?

Steve Jobs, the computer wizard, passed away recently. He gave the world a great deal, not just in material terms. He was admired by many, probably envied by many too.

Wisława Szymborska, the Polish poet, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature, died Feb. 1. An elderly single woman, an avid smoker. Her story was complicated; she had a rare sensibility and a great sense of humor, vast reserves of wisdom and an ability to stand back and take stock of life. She was the one who summed up death with the words “you can’t do that to a cat.”

We stopped in our tracks. Probably not out of grief at her death—she was 88 after all, and had lung cancer. And not because we recall her poems, since most of us have never read a single one of them. But she was a symbol of a different set of values, different longings and emotions than those that are the stuff of practical life: maybe more beautiful, maybe better, maybe not; certainly different; and obviously essential to us all.
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