Coming to Terms With Gatsby: The Poor Boy Done Good, or What Have I Become?

“There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy and the tired.” ~ The Great Gatsby

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The world we live in is constantly moving; we are expected to keep up, to push harder, and remain on top of change. As celebrities like Philip Seymour-Hoffman kill themselves, Justin Bieber gets arrested for childish stunts and drinking cough syrup, and Bob Dylan lip-syncs a bad Chrysler commercial, I have to ask myself just what our lives are about in 2014. What can anyone hope to accomplish in an era when an overnight war can occur in EVE Online that costs the loss of virtual starships worth $500,000 in real-world money? What is the real anymore, anyways, anywhere?

June will find me in Bangalore, India. I will be participating in a Leader’s Quest workshop wherein participants will explore what it means to live in one of this planet’s most poverty-stricken, yet forward moving countries. We will examine not only the business relationships between corporations and people on the ground, but also attempt to gain an understanding of that that all means to an increasingly global world; a world where corporations are empire, governments are filled with clowns like Rob Ford, and people are left to either climb the ladder or fall off into the abyss. We can join forces with the corporation that best suits our personal aspirations, so that we may rise more quickly and reach the 1% before we are too old, too tired, too dead.

Which brings me to Gatsby….

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F. Scott’s Fizgerald’s literary character, Jay Gatsby, is one of my favourite examples of how we can strive to become a person different from the rest while keeping our eyes on what we are really in the game for. Perhaps you are in it for $100 bills (like Jay-Z asserts in his rap on the recent movie soundtrack) or just maybe you seek a love like Daisy. Regardless of the reason for cloaking your intentions, selling your soul, pandering your time to the gods of business, we each make a decision to become someone else. The best of us know when to either walk away or go all in; the rest of us are left on the highway strewn with the bodies of forgotten singers, politicians and actors.

So when you read about poor Justin Bieber or question Miley’s tongue to twist movements, or even reflect on why Indian call-centre workers leave the countryside to sit in cramped rooms for 17 hour shifts only to spend their money on Cristal and shiny objects at the nearby dance club, think about yourself. What have you sold? What have you done lately that meant more than the consumption of things you do not need?

For my own part…I still love Gatsby. I can always imagine myself one day owning a lavish mansion like the one I am standing in front of in New Orlean’s Garden District (Anne Rice’s former home). I can imagine owning a closet full of beautiful shirts on perfect hangers with space to breathe. I can hear the roar of my Porsche 911’s engine as I sink into the leather seats. I taste the finest Californian Cabernet Sauvignon next to my Kansas City porterhouse in New York City. I feel the weight of my silver rings as I strum the perfect G chord in Madison Square Garden where I play a few covers with Jack White the Third to close the show. I may only ever imagine such luxuries, but then, as Lorde asserts, I will always be “driving Cadillacs in my dreams.” Dreams are what keep us human, and make us better than greedy animals at the trough. Gatbsy had dreams, and so do I.

The imagination is what gets us through the mindless meetings, the drive-thru waits, the subway car that never comes and the random salesperson chatter when you just want to see what is new and now. What does Gatsby teach us? Why to never surrender your imagination, Old Sport. Never give in, never give up, never, ever give way.

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