The pitfalls of sociability.
I spent 30 years being miserable and unhappy. There was no obvious reason, everything seemed to be going for me: good studies, friends, esteemed job… Hell, I was even getting laid. But beneath the façade hid a fearful, spineless creature, toiling in the pitch dark of suffering. I don’t want to labor the point too much. I was lucky enough to be shaken out of this rotten existence. I broke loose.
Not everyone is fit for a socially acceptable life. I would argue no one is. This is family’s primary purpose: to cookie-cut us into resilient, all-weather workers, programmed to smile when our soul is beaten down. Crying in public stopped being socially accepted at the onset of the industrial revolution. We attend pub gatherings, barbecues, weddings, stag-do’s, hen-do’s, office parties; we participate in such festivities with the same piousness as going to church. We revel in acceptance, safety. Yet deep down we know it’s all wrong, we know it’s messed up. But hey, don’t think too much, here’s another beer, mate.
Sociability is just a big smile, and a big smile is nothing but teeth.
~ Jack Kerouac
A lifestyle like this requires great stamina and endurance. Some are able to fight a good fight and go ahead in life — they prosper. Others are not well equipped for battle and succumb to pressure, stress, self-defeat. But make no mistake: it is a fight, and everyone is bound to lose sooner or later. Why? Because all things we cling to in our socially prescribed lives— everything — eventually fades away: friends, partners, children, family, money, cars, iPads, hair, teeth, mobility, memory. And then we suffer, because there is nothing left.
Now here’s the thing: it occurs to me I don’t need to join this violent fight to begin with. Consider what’s at stake: I
strive all my life getting educated, fitting in, networking, getting mortgaged, getting promoted, raising kids. For what? Granted, a fulfilling life requires effort, energy expenditure, and so it should be. Still, we really need to take another look at the difference between fulfilling vs. plain difficult.
Below is what I believe makes me happy. The title may seem preachy, pretentious etc. The worst vice is advice, I’m not giving advice (who am I anyway?) I am only opening up. Hell, I may be full of shit. Take the best and leave the rest. Here it is.
An inexcusable approach to happiness:
1) Move to a place where people generally live above the poverty line. As long as there is enough to cover my needs, there is not much stopping me from being happy. Any extra income over and above what it takes to cover those needs (needs vs. wants) does not contribute to higher happiness. Don’t take my word for it. Economists increasingly say this is the case.
2) Don’t get tied down. Have as little as possible. Buying a house will not make me safe or happy. It might make me a mortgage slave, making it difficult for me to move (see point 1) or take other risks.
3) Don’t make a family yet. When our baby smiles at us it makes it all worthwhile, right? We are hardwired this way; we are mammals. Raising kids is 99% stress and 1% ecstasy. Besides, does the planet look like it needs more?
4) Do whatever I love, and only that. Assuming I have enough to eat and there is no bank pointing the gun down on me (or screaming mouths to be fed), then there is nothing stopping me from being content. Happiness is lack of fear. What could possibly go wrong?
“Excuses are like assholes, Taylor. Everybody’s got one!”
I keep hearing people say: If only I was not married with kids and had a house to keep, then I would do such and such. We love excuses. When it’s raining I convince myself not to go jogging. When it’s warm like now, I skip jogging at Hyde Park to avoid getting sweaty. Breaking through is hard. By not tying ourselves down with obligations, evolving becomes that much easier. Devoid of excuses that keep us toiling through our short existence, making nothing of it.
What do you think?
Creatively maladjusted author and blogger, Jivamukti yogi, ethical diet advocate and corporate drone, Max Zografos loiters internet cafes, libraries (anywhere with a roof and Wi-Fi really) for hours on end until he finds inspiration to write or gets kicked out, whichever comes first. You can find him on www.maxzografos.com.