Paul J. Meyer
One of the most thought provoking comments on mass-consumption that I ever read was, our consumption is not driven by our love of stuff. We have too much stuff because we don’t value any of it. It’s all disposable and we don’t really love any of it.
I believed my conscience gained consciousness between age 13 and shuttered it’s development by 19. By then, I was me and this conscience has driven my values and beliefs ever since. As I grew up and entered the workforce, compromises needed to be made, because I was much too idealistic to get a job that met my impossible standards AND paid the bills, so I adjusted my worldview. Now that I’m snugly nestled in a career and have a cool set of valuable skills, I’m finally reaching a point where I can be a more discerning so I’ve started listening to the little voice again–and man is she pissed that I’ve been ignoring her. I’ve been reading a lot of what I used to read to keep her satisfied, and I notice that whenever I start hitting the philosophy bottle, instead of feeling old when I can’t Plato like I used to, I feel fat, like I’m being weighed down by ideas that my lean ideal self wasn’t burdened with. I didn’t feel this bad when I was following my own rules.
One of my favorite guilt trips, because Catholic school, is I feel bad about my contribution to mass consumerism. Like, I want to be a minimalist but I just moved into a new house and I want to make it not feel so weird. Not weird because it’s empty, weird because it’s incomplete, yet I want to keep it sparse, so I just go around in circles. I’ve been reading some awesome zero-waste blogs lately to keep me from buying everything at Home Goods. Their message resonates deeply and rings truer than minimalism for me, and since I just finished moving a lot of crap from one house to another, the message also makes perfect sense. When I paid off my student loans, that’s how I did it, by focusing on what was really important. Squeezing resources, even artificially will do that. It makes you realize how much you take for granted and how much you waste.
At writing, I have maybe 30 pairs of shoes. I only have 1 pair of Chucks and I’ve had them for maybe 4 years now? They look 4 years old too. To replace them, I was thinking of buying these Doc Martens with a lifetime warranty. I figured if I buy this one pair and if they last me say 40 years it would be better than throwing away 10 pairs of Chucks. I haven’t bought them yet because I can’t decide on the color. I’m going to wear these for the rest of my life, this is important.
If you only have one of something, you should take care of it. Then why don’t we treat our life that way? Now I know what you’re thinking, shes doesn’t but I live life to the fullest. I like to think I do too. At least I try. But today I read this post on Cryonics and I realized, I really don’t. This part got to me. If you’re optimistic enough to believe that some day you’ll be thawed, you’ll have this awesome moment:
First, whether it happens 30 years or 2,000 years after you were last conscious, it’ll feel the same to you—probably a bit like a short nap…. You’ll probably be super disoriented, and someone will have to explain to you that A) you’re in the future, and B) the cryonics worked, and you’re no longer a person about to die—you’re healthy and rejuvenated and all set to start living again.
As a very not-heaven-believing person, I’ve always thought about how pleasantly shocked I would be if I died and then woke up in some delightful afterlife. I’d look around, slowly realize what was happening, and then I’d be like, “Wait…NO FUCKING WAY.” Then I’d promptly plant myself at the gates and watch other atheists come in for the fun of seeing them go through the same shock.
I imagine being revived from cryonics will be kind of like that. Maybe a few notches less shocking, since you presumably did the cryonics thing because you thought there was a chance it would work—but still a pretty big no fucking way moment.
Now that I’m considering getting myself popsiclized, I’m like dang, now I really really need to start living zero waste. The negative effects of over consumption won’t just be my great great….great grandkid’s problem. If I come back in the future I’ll have to suffer the effects as well. I should read really awesome books and write deep posts on my culture and take good care of myself because I might come in handy as a living artifact in the future.
I felt like this woman:
A woman who has signed up for cryonics did a Reddit AMA, and when one of the questions was about how signing up had changed her life, she answered, “The biggest change I’ve noticed is that I’m more careful. I drive slower and more cautiously/attentively, I pay more attention to what’s going on around me.”
Everything takes on so much more importance. Out of all the people frozen in time, maybe not all of them will be revivable. Maybe something will go terribly wrong and it will only be a handful out of thousands that make it. Maybe one will be ordinary me. That’s a lot of meaning to give one life.
That’s when I realized, I wasn’t living life to the fullest. I bet a lot of us are relying on the bystander effect. Someone else will do it, so I’ll just sit here and watch. I’ll live an ok life because I don’t need to do anything greater, other people have it covered. But what if so much depends on you and your life actually matters?
The thing is, you don’t have to go through or even consider cryogenics to come to this realization, because your life does matter and the only one that doesn’t think so is you. You think you’re interchangeable and can be easily replaced but if you stop to really consider you’d realize what it means to only have one shot to get it right, you only have one life. Just like that pair of shoes, you need to choose the color of your life wisely. You only have one life that is unlike any other life, that may or may not impact the future, just by surviving. But when you think about it like that, don’t you want to do more than just survive?
That’s heavy, but it helps to re calibrate your worldview. This realization helps you understand how much things and people are actually worth and how much we’ve gotten used to throwing things away, when other people, even ourselves, don’t matter not even to ourselves. I believe the remedy is to do the opposite and to treat everything with the respect it deserves. The way to start is by treating yourself and your life with reverence and to revel in the joy of possibility. Maybe it will be your life that makes a profound impact. Maybe it’ll be simple like, you’re going to be some important person’s grandparent or maybe it will be because of your deliberate actions toward something important.
‘Slack’, which allows a person to use more of their cognitive and emotional resources, comes from having a cushier social and financial safety net, according to Sendhil Mullainathan, a professor of economics at Harvard University, and Eldar Shafir, a behavioural scientist at Princeton University. Slack is often a better indicator of potential success than grit. It’s the reason the impoverished single mother, gritty and hardworking though she might be, is likely to have a tougher time succeeding than a young man from an affluent family. Her relative lack of slack means she has less room for error; even if she is equally good at recovering from setbacks (the quintessence of grit), she will simply face both more arduous and more numerous setbacks, leading to a faster depletion of willpower.
You soon see how privilege can exert influence in goal-driven behaviours. In this light, the notion that hard work and passion are all that is necessary for success begins to seem woefully naïve. In almost every case, but particularly where slack is in short supply, it’s advisable to plan for a setback. ‘It’s important to plan in advance to fail,’ do Vale told me. ‘Perhaps we should call failure something different – a moment of indulgence, a moment of rest, a saving of willpower.’
Your belief at the deepest level about how you relate to the universe and your duties and destinies here, this becomes the wellspring of your feelings – those become your thoughts, and those becomes your actions.
As I see it then, the formula runs something like this: a man must choose a path which will let his ABILITIES function at maximum efficiency toward the gratification of his DESIRES. In doing this, he is fulfilling a need (giving himself identity by functioning in a set pattern toward a set goal), he avoids frustrating his potential (choosing a path which puts no limit on his self-development), and he avoids the terror of seeing his goal wilt or lose its charm as he draws closer to it (rather than bending himself to meet the demands of that which he seeks, he has bent his goal to conform to his own abilities and desires).
In short, he has not dedicated his life to reaching a pre-defined goal, but he has rather chosen a way of life he KNOWS he will enjoy. The goal is absolutely secondary: it is the functioning toward the goal which is important. And it seems almost ridiculous to say that a man MUST function in a pattern of his own choosing; for to let another man define your own goals is to give up one of the most meaningful aspects of life — the definitive act of will which makes a man an individual.
Hunter S. Thompson
This really sums up the conclusion I’ve come to lately. No matter how hard I try or how carefully I organize myself for peak efficiency, it won’t all ever get done.
The trick is in the choosing, prioritizing and scheduling. The more I do it, the more it’s like, well DUH! Of course this is how things should get done.
This post sums up my thoughts on the topic exactly.