On Life Hacking

Klaus Kinski in Fitzcarraldo

There is a man who is driving a caravan into town. He sets up his booth in the square and the public begins to gather around him. Already, he has paid off a few people in town to give the himself the appearance of legitimacy and support. The banner above his booth reads Kure-All Tonic. He says it is the type of stuff that doesn’t go down easy but cures what ails you. He starts in with the usual bits. The bits about pain and suffering. The first noble truth. Do you have back pain? Liver problems? Are you waking up tired and going to bed anxious? Are you unhappy in your career? Do you want to extract more hours out of a twenty four hour day? How about your wife, would she like more precious moments with you? Do you need direction in life? Are you floating in the sea? Here is a buoy in a bottle.

Most of the crowd begins to nod in approval. One from the back says: I can’t fulfill my dreams! Nearly everyone acknowledges that the problems and difficulties this man has mentioned are their own problems and difficulties. Yes! I am tired! My spleen feels off! When I touch the stovetop I burn my hand! Then there is the next bit in this well-structured drama. For the sake of showmanship and brevity, the man skips over the second noble truth, understanding the cause of suffering. He moves right into the third noble truth, that there can be an end of suffering. Kure-All Tonic will do the trick. It doesn’t go down easy, one has to do the “hard work” of imbibing the thing, but it’ll fix you up. A man in the crowd with dollars lining his pocket speaks up: It’s true! I was walking on all fours, now I’m a tree-climbing kind of man. A sensual biped! Another one speaks up from the back row: It Cured my worry, cured my cankles.

By now the crowd is wide-eyed, fixing their attention on the man and his product. The bottle is well designed, with a clever slogan that packs a sharp punch, and the bottle feels light and portable in the hand for healing on the go. Breaking the enthusiastic chatter, someone’s voice rises above the crowd: I bought an elixir back in ninety-two’ from someone looks’ just like you! Didn’t do nothing. For this the man has a good answer: Oh of course, we’ve tried everything in the past, this program or that potion, but this one here is different. You see, this one is based on the wisdom of the old. This one has proven ancient formulas, refigured for our modern times. Everyone agreed that the past holds the answers to our current well-being. If it has ties to those far gone civilizations, then it must be one hell of a tonic, not some new trendy concoction. The presentation seems to be over and the crowd is stirring with excitement. Someone could be heard saying: He seems very legitimate. Look at that lovely sign he’s made, and the price — so low!

Except for a few rebellious types, everyone in the town signs up for a life-long subscription.

Some weeks went by and sure enough, Kure-All Tonic worked wonders. Townspeople immediately felt lighter, more fresh, with their mind’s empty and bellies full. At night, the old men who had stocked up on Kure-All threw their canes in the gutters and danced in the moonlight. Even a letter was written to the congressman: We would like to suggest that May be the month of Kure-All Tonic! The townspeople enjoyed many healthy and prosperous years all thanks to Kure-All. The headline of the local paper read: Suffering At An All Time Low. Years went by and trouble seemed a memory. People no longer felt the need to discuss their problems. What was there to discuss? People no longer felt the need to seek out new ideas. What good were new ideas? Local artists began to take it easy. Local authors began to enjoy the good life without an audience. The town’s church was boarded up with a sign that read simply: Take it Easy. Forever and ever, the townspeople moved briskly through their years in sharp productivity. Decades without incident, decades without conflict, deathless decades. Of course there were a the few rebellious types who didn’t imbibe Kure-All Tonic. They were reported to have gone through some of life’s usual struggles. They felt out of place, hanging around for a while and watching the ease of it all, murmuring to themselves streetside. These few eventually left altogether. Many years later, in a nearby town, one could be heard: Good for them.