We are not nouns, we are verbs

Afterthoughts: Animal Farm by George Orwell

Afterthoughts: Death’s End by Cixin Liu

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“Oscar Wilde said that if you know what you want to be, then you inevitably become it. That is your punishment. But if you never know, then you can be anything. There is a truth to that. We are not nouns, we are verbs. I am not a thing — an actor, a writer — I am a person who does things — I write, I act — and I never know what I am going to do next. I think you can be imprisoned if you think of yourself as a noun.” –– Stephen Fry

For everyone I have met who are verb‘ing their way through life, I have probably met 100 who are aspiring to become nouns. This proportion may very well be down to my youth, my geography, and my decision to pursue a path down higher education.

I think myself a pragmatist, almost as much as I think myself an optimist, so I am not naïve enough to think we all choose to aspire towards a noun. I am conscious and receptive to the social pressures of making our own way in the world, mainly the need to support ourselves financially and provide support to family and friends when and if we are able.

The process of training up for a job, whether that be through some form of higher education or apprenticeship, is fraught with noun language. These institutions all have a profit-seeking motive, and the most frictionless way to evaluate how good a job they are doing for their students is by measuring what proportion end up in a noun state. How many are plumbers, lawyers, consultants, doctors, electricians, artists. The noun is more compatible with how life is lived since the industrial revolution.

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