Simple thoughts on the consequences of what has come to be the modern “normality”. This has been written after a long rant with myself about some conflicts that seem to govern the current reality.
On the run. Always.
- What do I do to earn more?
- Whose place can I take or who might I have to fool?
- What will others think if I don’t succeed?
Nowadays, people have come to associate the old “fighting for existence” with the more modern intense desire of achieving material success. Such a desire pushes one to worry not about basic needs, or about the philosophical causes of our unhappiness, but for not being able to defeat others on the social scale.
It is striking how some of us don’t see how they are trapped in a continuum with no way out. There are some who already have enough money to live their entire lives and yet still strive, blindly, for more. Not knowing why, or faking some kind of reason, they go ahead to accumulate more as if living happily with what they got is like defecting in the face of a more powerful enemy.
A trapped lifestyle
A strange race like philosophy is what guides the life of these people. Yes, they have a beautiful wife, some innocent, wonderful children, but each morning catches them awake, mindlessly preparing to run to their job, while everybody else is sleeping. As soon as they get to the office, it is their perceived duty to act as if they are in control, trying to express confidence and not let anybody know of their insecurities. In an attempt to impress, to talk pompously, their energy is drained and it is not long until they arrive home, tired at a nervous level. It’s dinner time, but thinking about the ‘really important’ issues of their jobs doesn’t let them enjoy the company of family members. Acting delighted, one eats, listens superficially and emanates opinions that for a simple observer would at least seem odd. Sleep is what seems to slow down such a chase.. But it starts all over again.
Unfortunately, this race is not ending, yet it requires focus and extreme amounts of energy — leaving people excessively exhausted, not knowing their own child on a personal level and decreasing their awareness so much that enjoying simple earthly pleasures like flowers, smells, purely natural beauty, or the mere sensation of breathing seems incredibly unproductive.
Each year the inner stress is amplified. Life becomes more monotonous, relationships stall if they don’t produce material results and life begins to dry. It passes over them, without conscious noticing.
The right balance
Bertrand Russell himself, who has written an extensive piece on various causes of modern age unhappiness, thinks that money should be a means of achieving freedom and safety. As soon as a certain level is passed material earnings do not increase our state of happiness at a similar rate.
Outperforming others in financial means, ostentation, parade and a strange desire for flashiness have lead us to an absurd existence. We have come to want to earn money for the sake of using it to earn more.
It’s also strange that earning money is seen as some kind of intellectual measure. I agree it requires the right combination between intelligence, chance and ability, but one that earns millions is not to be perceived as automatically more ‘capable’ than someone who has not concentrated on increasing his net worth.
The feeling of commonly perceived success does increase our well being and desire to live, but the root of this rat race one has to be very careful not to fall into is a result of social pressure — the pressure that The Main Way to reach happiness is through material means.
The worst part is reflected in our daily lives — We have come not to want pleasure for enjoying it, but to simply have at least as much as the other. That’s the result of mindless competition, a result that’s unavoidable, in my view, as long as ’success’ is seen as a singular purpose. Individuals are not necessarily to blame though. This has come to be the generally accepted lifestyle of First World countries. Life is competition, a fight where respect is given to the one who crushes. It seems to me that it’s nerve-racking to live in this competition mindset, as it poisons each second of our existence, even those when we are not working in an accelerated manner. The free time that we used to spend reading, listening to peaceful music or simply recognising the joys of living as a method to combat anxiety is seen as boring. And it is this boredom that creates a permanent need for increasing the pace, for more powerful stimuli and, in the absence of our attention, to disaster.
Simplest way to avoid falling into a competition trap? I found that foreseeing the best and worst outcomes of a situation helps.
It is by simply being present, aware and recognising the role of simplicity that I was most likely not to take the wrong path, at least so far. Knowing a bit about mindfulness also helps calm our external strives. And no, this doesn’t at al mean that I don’t aim higher, but it certainly means that I don’t want to do so with the hidden goal of overcoming somebody else.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this matter.