When he didn’t elaborate, the Goth girl asked, “Do you mean ‘mission’ in some religious sense?”
He stood up and casually strolled around the front of the desk. “It could include that, but it’s much more.” Resting his butt against the front edge of the desk, he stretched out his legs and crossed them at the ankles. “The only man worth having is the one who knows why he exists. Even if he’s wrong in the absolute sense, it’s his conviction which carries him through. It’s the reason, when things go absolutely crazy, he doesn’t put the muzzle of a gun in his mouth and pull the trigger. Whether accomplishing anything is reasonable or possible, it won’t matter. A real man has something he has to do.”
He crossed his arms. “It’s more than simple goals, education, career. Those are simply the methods and means; the mission is the thing a man must do, from which he could never walk away. It doesn’t change even if the whole world dies and he’s left alone. If he has the least conscious awareness of that thing, he’s a real man. It gives him the confidence to face any challenge, and the wisdom to ignore things that don’t matter.”
He turned and faced the two young ladies who got huffy at his earlier comment. “That’s what draws a woman’s admiration. Even when she consciously fails to admire it, her instincts betray her, making her want a piece of that.”
He stood and walked around the desk to face the one remaining section of an old chalkboard attached to the wall. “Here’s what usually happens at your age.” Picking up a piece of chalk, he wrote a word on the board: cathexis.
His manner became slightly dramatic as he warmed to the task of explaining. Turning back to the students, he held up his cupped left hand again. “Your hormones are raging.” Most of the kids snickered. “It’s all fresh and new. A lot of raw emotion wells up in places you don’t even understand. There is something you desperately need, and it’s too big and too confusing. Taking your cues from our basic social assumptions, you attempt to take the most direct path you can see to getting what you need” — holding up the cupped right hand.
“You are wide open. In your deception, you are primed for a certain set of cues. When your radar thinks it has identified a target, you dive in for the kill. That you often find someone willing to play along has nothing to do with whether that person can actually meet your needs. Most of the people you encounter in this building are suffering the same confused mess of burning need, so everyone is just grabbing the first thing that comes along. But we filter it through false ideals of what we ought to want, bogus cultural expectations.”
He returned to his half-sitting position on the front edge of the old desk. “We think it’s magic. There is that one ideal object of devotion out there who can save us from our misery, and we have to find them and win their affections. It won’t matter if they actually notice us; someone will stumble into that spotlight and we are lost in obsession.” He brought the two cupped hands almost together. “If it so happens they actually engage us in any way, we think we have found paradise. Our ego boundaries collapse.” He demonstrated with this hands opening flat, fingers splayed.
“For a time we lose sense of who we are, lost in the ecstasy of the moment. Our friends notice, but we are so desperate to hang onto this bit of paradise, no price is too great to pay in terms of adopting whatever changes seem most likely to nail this thing down.”
More snickers of recognition.
“That’s what ‘cathexis’ means,” pointing a thumb at the board behind him. “It’s almost like a religious conversion. Our beloved becomes our demigod or demigoddess. Too often they’ll sense this, and take advantage of us. Even if only at some instinctive level, when you place someone on a pedestal, they will hardly be able to do anything different. They’ll consume what you have to offer, but eventually it gets tiresome and they’ll drop you like a used Kleenex. And when you are both love-struck blind, it’s simply a question of whose ego boundaries snap back into place first.”