The mere act of trimming the fat from our deliberate, ironic lives can complicate the matter: we simply forget how to live amid trying to live simply. No one dances through life like a John Prine song anymore. Everyone lives like they’re more important than they actually are.
BEING SELFLESS IS ALMOST ALWAYS SELFISH. If one looks hard enough, there’s almost always an unspoken, underlying motivation behind “selflessness.” I attended college surrounded by students who wanted to “make a difference in the world” through journalism; many are currently exercising their English degrees in the fields of education, technical writing and – ahem – marketing. It turned out for most of us that journalism includes publishers and producers who want to make money more than we want to help the helpless – even if doing so were actually as possible as we once believed.
The goal wasn’t abandoned because it could not be accomplished. The goal was disregarded because it wasn’t pure to begin with – and that became blatantly clear once we needed solid health insurance, retirement plans and enough of a cash flow to carry a mortgage. It’s true – I was among those who only wanted to help the helpless because it would make me feel good. Others secretly wanted the glory or the legacy or the reputation or respect. I certainly wouldn’t have turned any of that down.
Are people who make no effort to conceal their desire to help only themselves any less admirable? Maybe, but they’re probably more productive than their counterparts …
… and that’s probably because they’re not wasting time trying to be something they’re not.
WE ARE COMPLICATING THINGS. It is astonishing, to a degree, how much effort folks put into finding romance. I get it: the desire to find love supports practically every psychological and social triangle, circle, cycle or any other geometric term that’s been theorized. Christopher McCandless needed love. Meursault needed love. Even Adolph Hitler needed love.
But studies (I apologize for crediting “studies”) suggest Americans spend between 25 and 75 of conscious thought on finding and keeping love.
Perhaps “exhaust” would be a better word to use in this case than “spend.” I can accept letting romance occupy 25 percent of one’s thoughts, but can you imagine being the person representing the 75s? It’s exhausting just thinking about it.
How does a 75er find time to actually live?
Before I go further, though, I should add that I am not exempt from this. I’m nearly 30 and not even close to a relationship, let alone something permanent. I’m bothered by the fact my daughter’s likely going to grow up without a mother figure because I haven’t found love and this has occupied some of my conscious thought. Hey – I am human.
But it only crosses my mind a couple of times per week – only when triggered by something in particular. Fact is, my thoughts are occupied by work and my schedule as a parent, which seems to grow more complicated every day. The little pocket of capacity for conscious thought I have left is usually filled by sports.
For the most part, I’m content just living my life … just carrying on.
IS LIVING A LOST ART? I posted something a while back regarding high school and college commencement speeches almost always having something to do with professional advancements. No one teaches students how to live, I stated.
I believe that’s a significant handicap – even a barrier – to the progress of man, for it stifles his or her lust for life. How important is lust for life? That’s tough to say. But when we come across folks with noticeable lust for life, we’re almost always envious and almost always smile. We naturally appreciate things that are sincere.
Here’s the challenging question: what is living and how do we teach it? For starters, living is not:
- ignoring one’s family
- working more than playing
- concerning one’s self with matters he or she cannot control (worrying about love, for instance)
Living might be:
- trying new things, such as different foods or routes home from work
- making decisions because they feel right
If more persons worried about living, their professional and personal lives would likely fall into place – and they’d be happier. Separately addressing issues within their professional and personal lives, on the other hand, leads only to lopsided lives – and that’d make them merely content.