the cause of everything bad ever

It was June 15th, 2015. I tell you the date, not because it’s significant but precisely because it isn’t. There is literally no other way I can set the context of the following story.

Knowing that this date is not significant will play a role in the main argument of this article: over-indulgence is the cause of everyone’s problems.

Today, my dad and I went to Benihana, a theatrical-esque restaurant centered around the concept that your food is cooked right in front of you. It is frequented by those celebrating birthdays as it is slightly more extravagant than the works of a typical restaurant. My dad and I have been going here since I was a very young kid because we both enjoyed it. It was a good time, and the food was rather good. It wasn’t like the quality of the food was at the expense of a good show.

Anyway, we’ve had many dinners like the one we shared tonight, the only difference was that we were both a little bit older, a little bit different. I was a little more perceptive, and he was a little less parenty. Several times throughout our time at the restaurant, the staff gathered around a certain table and sung happy birthday to some happy kid. I should have been used to the spontaneous explosions of heavily-accented voices singing happy birthday, but one time the show caught me off guard, and as I looked to the table in the far right corner of the room, which we all occupied and from which that horrendous racket came, I noticed something:

The usual: happy kids and parents smiling and sharing joyous times and the unsuspecting 3rd wheeling couple that happened to be seated with the family of 5 but pretended to be just as much a part of the celebration as everyone else. I noticed something else though, something that sparked an interesting idea inside of me.

DISCLAIMER: I know some of my thoughts are of seriously questionable moral ground, but this is my blog, so I’m going to share them. I’m sure that you have messed up ideas too, the only difference is that I have the courage to share mine.

Basically, what I saw was a super happy, obese child really soaking up the moment, and blowing out the candles. The whole family was mostly obese. I don’t really have anything against obesity, except that I feel like most of society has come to accept it rather than try to combat it, which I find not only disappointing but also discouraging.

That observation made me think about over-indulgence and how it may end up being a large part of our species’ failure. Then as I was thinking about all of this, I realized that even more so than that happy child, I was being incredibly over-indulgent, and I began to see a lot of the things that I take pride in that happen to be archetypical examples of over-indulgence.

Let me just lay this out for you, so you can really see how much of a pompous hypocrite I am. There was no occasion for my dad and I to be eating at a place that people consider a place for celebration. I spent $40 on my entrée alone. The whole process took 2 hours. My dad and I drove separate cars to the restaurant.

The only thing that kid did was be happy and celebrate her birthday.

In hindsight, the only logical train of thought I can follow from the child to my conclusion about over-indulgence is that she and her family is obese, so they eat a lot, therefore they have little willpower, and therefore probably have problems. I acknowledge that this thought process is not only ignorant but just flat out stupid.

I’d like to take a moment to point out that even though this thought process is obviously flawed, it ultimately led to this crazy idea that I think is pretty cool and might, after writing this, help me understand life a little better. That is actually why I read: not for plot or character development but for radically new ideas that help me understand the world around me. In a succinct way, that’s what I want you to get from the articles I write. It’s not about the details that I include but about where your thoughts take the broad themes and lessons that come out of them and how you make sense of the stories I share.

Our culture holds the expectation that successful people will live in over-indulgence, that those who can spend an incredible amount of money will, but maybe that’s the problem. It’s a stale idea that money doesn’t make people happy, but I think it has the potential to do so. It’s not that money intrinsically has some unique characteristic that disallows it from making someone happy; it’s more like self-confidence. If you have it, you see things in a different way; furthermore, if you don’t, you can’t even imagine what it’s like from the other perspective.

The problem is that money itself doesn’t have the capability to make you happy, it’s what you do with money that makes you happy. (This is the case for everything involving money. Money in of itself is completely useless. It’s more about how you leverage it as a tool to get the maximal benefit). I think that most people don’t feel this way. People believe that money will solve all of their problems, but I believe that money can solve all of your problems if used properly.

Because of this perception, many people spend time trying to maximize their accumulation of wealth, rather than tying to figure out the best way to leverage money. Even though money can solve your problems, you need to be prepared in other ways to effectively use money to solve your problems. This seems to be much more difficult than the first approach because it is. If money did solve everyone’s problems, people’s perspectives on life would generally be right: do whatever it takes to make money. The fact is that there are several paths to solve problems and being so narrow-minded solves some problems but will not be able to solve all problems.

No one solution can solve all your problems, so finding an appropriate balance of tools to use like money, people, sleep, time, punishment, moral judgement, self-concept, etc diversifies your toolbox and allows you to take on more challenges that life throws at you. People are most happy not when they have no problems or challenges in their life — not sure if that’s even possible — but when they rise to the challenges and overcome the problems in their lives.