No gift is entirely free. You exchange your future for another’s expectation; to take the handout is to become a part of a story that’s never entirely yours, to dress yourself in the hand-me-downs of your ancestors. You take on the customs of your class, as my father had when he performed the thoroughly ritualized theater of my disinheritance, and as I would too, someday. I also began to understand that the system or society — whatever one wants to call it — actually had a high tolerance for failure, indeed required it. A few go up, but most sink down and subside into irrelevance, stonelike or cowlike life. At every level, in neighborhoods, teams, jobs, schools and universities, there is a sorting, a sifting, or a threshing. The individual strides into her or her own over the bodies of the fallen, not even recognizing them as bodies, much as I’d plowed my way over the crisped, fallen leaves on the windy paths of Riverside Park.
The Scientists by Marco Roth comes out soon, finally
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