J Paul Getty, relationships, and leaving home

I’ve hesitated to write another post because I wasn’t sure what to say. But enought with putting things off! I’ve set several things into motion that I consider part of my project.

I’m planning a vacation to visit my friend Aline in the Netherlands, then go with her back to Italy where we met (this is my head telling me ‘if you don’t do it now, will you ever do it?’). And I’m considering getting more involved in circus arts this next year (my need for something to do, and something to work towards. My decision to apply for grad school might loosely fall under that category as well!). I see myself making progress, all gripes about work and money aside. But, I intended to talk about the autobiography of J. Paul Getty in this post, so let’s move on to that.

Though currently only halfway through the book, I’ve already drawn some rich observations from Getty’s words. As a brief explanation, Getty was the son of an oilman, became one of the world’s richest men in the oil business, and died in 1976. His astounding art collection is also housed in a museum by the same name, which is how I initially heard about him.

He was one of the most successful businessmen in the oil industry, received a world class education at Oxford, traveled the world extensively, and had made his first million before the age of 24. He speaks of going into the admissions office of Oxford with a recommendation from the President of the United States, and of conversations with close friends who are dukes and princesses, and influential figures of various countries. But a shocking fact that stands out to me is that this successful man was married and divorce a total of five times.

In hindsight he says he is envious of those who could make a marriage last, a skill he never seemed to learn. He says that “before marriage, many couples are very much like people rushing to catch our airplane; once aboard, they turn into passengers. They just sit there.”

I connected these thoughts back to another book I have been reading, “The Good Life” by David Matzko McCarthy. In the book he speaks of the prevalent notion of usefulness in the US; what serves a particular purpose is only good so long as it maintains its usefulness, a contract being an example. “This narrow logic of usefulness is not reserved for corporations and commerce. It is how we operate in politics and how many of us approach friendship, marriage, neighborhoods and church”.

The truth of this statement is tragic, and at least in the work world, I am finding it to be very applicable. But when this attitude creeps into other relationships, it certainly seems to spoil them. The author goes on to say that Americans tend to build up a long list of acquaintances; people who were once in our lives, but now it is either no longer convenient or “useful” to keep in touch with them. Leaving college seems like a crash course in “who are my close friends”.

According to the author “detachment is understood as freedom… According to the expressivist, we find ourselves through our ability to be detached and to attach ourselves only when such attachments are advantageous to us”. Furthermore, “in order to become an adult we must leave home”, and distance ourselves from everything we’ve been brought up with, to see if it still “works” for us or not. Why do I think that by leaving home and going out on my own, I will suddenly grow up and become mature?

More later…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s