The Referendum is a phenomenon typical of (but not limited to) midlife, whereby people, increasingly aware of the finiteness of their time in the world, the limitations placed on them by their choices so far, and the narrowing options remaining to them, start judging their peers' differing choices with reactions ranging from envy to contempt. The Referendum can subtly poison formerly close and uncomplicated relationships, creating tensions between the married and the single, the childless and parents, careerists and the stay-at-home. It's exacerbated by the far greater diversity of options available to us now than a few decades ago, when everyone had to follow the same drill. We're all anxiously sizing up how everyone else's decisions have worked out to reassure ourselves that our own are vindicated -- that we are, in some sense, winning.
Quite a lot of what passes itself off as a dialogue about our society consists of people trying to justify their own choices as the only right or natural ones by denouncing others' as selfish or pathological or wrong.
Tim's married friend:
It's not as if being married means you're any less alone.
One of the greatest compliments I have ever given anyone I dated is that being with him was like being alone.
Wow, life is boring.
In our unending search for panaceas, we believe that happiness and "success" -- which, loosely translated, means money -- are the things to strive for. People are constantly surprised that, even though they have acquired material things, discontent still gnaws.
Paradoxically, as cures for boredom have proliferated, people do not seem to feel less bored; they simply flee it with more energy.
It seems that happiness, like peace or passion, comes most freely when it isn't pursued.
I have no bicycle, no car, no television I can understand, no media -- and the days seem to stretch into eternities, and I can't think of a single thing I lack.
Mason, Waters, Wright, and Gilmour:
And you run and run to catch up with the sun, but it's sinking
And racing around to come up behind you again
The sun is the same in a relative way, but you're older
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death
It has always been this way. Finite. But at forty-five you realize it.
Yes, only in the forest do you feel at peace,
up in the branches and down in the terrific gorges,
but you've seen through everything else.
You've fled in terror across the frozen lake,
you've found yourself in the sand, the palace,
the prison, the dockside stews;
and long ago, on this same planet, you came home
to an empty house, poured a Scotch-and-soda,
and sat in a recliner in the unlit rumpus room,
puzzled at what became of you.