The morning news was on when I came into work. Usually I ignore it as background noise, but something caught my attention: people dancing around like idiots for therapeutic stress relief.
Apparently that’s a thing where I live.
At first, I thought “how did things get to be this way?”. But then I asked myself: “what do they know that I don’t?”
Despite the promises of modern conveniences, we are more stressed out than ever. It’s SO bad, that people have to come together to hop around in the mornings just to relieve it. That might be strange to the average person, but these sorts of things are going on all around us.
Chances are that YOU engage in one of these odd rituals.
ASMR is another such “technique” of stress relief or sleep aid. Nearly everyone outside of the so-called “ASMR community” thinks it’s odd. And understandably so. It’s mostly attractive women (and some men) making noises into a sensitive microphone. On its surface, its seemingly sexual. And because it’s odd, most can’t subject themselves to it; it’s too weird listening to a woman whispering in your ear, telling you that “everything’s going to be okay”. I’ll admit, ASMR works on me, so I’m not immune to doing weird things to settle down.
But this is life in 2017….where millennials are buried under a mountain of student loan debt and having disappointing careers, that we have have to jump around like madmen and listen to women on YouTube just to handle stress.
Happiness comes at a premium, and we’re told that we can’t afford it.
As you know, I often speculate over the reasons for our mental health crisis. Were human’s always this way? Have we gotten better at detecting signs of poor mental health? Has shifts in society compounded stress and anxiety? Is it man or circumstance?
The answer lies in there somewhere. But one of the biggest lies ever told is this idea that life is getting better…that technology has benefited everything and everyone…life has been made easier.
I’ve previously called this lie the “arrogance of modernity”. Technology doesn’t make life “better” or easier…it only creates the parameters of contemporary life.
The human mind, in all likelihood, is made to suffer. It was forged through millions of years of survival. It’s to its benefit to find fault in everyday living.
Yet in our point in time, we are aware of this (through science and technology, so it does have its value….but I’m kinda shitting on my own point here) so, to a certain degree, we have a choice in allowing our fault-finding mechanism to dominate our lives. Countless philosophies and schools of thought have taught us that the root of suffering is found in want and desire. Examples of this are found in Buddhism and even Stoicism. To end our “suffering”, we must free ourselves from desire and want nothing…or live a simple life. (In many ancient disciplines, the material world gets thrown under the bus, but that’s another story. The principles still stand). But by freeing ourselves from the confines of material gain, we finally have a choice in our own happiness.
This whole concept runs counter-intuitive to our Capitalist-influence d Western values. If we were taught to want less, the system would collapse. So we’re told want MORE and DO MORE. Because this System is so effective at manipulating human affairs, that’s how it morally justifies itself; people naturally stress over over material necessities, and it essentially operates like the old carrot off the stick trick. That’s why it was so easily embedded into in our moral code.
(did that paragraph make sense?)
Want more. Do more. That’s the Western ethic.
But what if you didn’t play?
What if you wanted LESS?
I read a blog recently that gave step-by-step instructions on how NOT to be a loser. Unlike most people, I have a positive opinion on losers. They seemed to have figured out that this world is essentially a large Stanford Prison Experiment, and they were unfortunately selected to be a prisoner. They could attempt to climb out of their situation by adopting the “Want more. Do more” ethic, but what would be the point? Rise up a few steps only to find yourself with a new set of problems?
Is freedom and happiness found in denying and acting AGAINST your current predicament? Or is it found in acceptance?
Now clearly there are MANY problems with that argument. Most notably the predicament of the slave: so a slave will only find freedom and happiness in ACCEPTING his condition and NOT by resisting and climbing out of it?
But let’s not confuse the conditions of the slave and the loser. The slave’s motivations are justified: by resisting and fighting his way out of it, he is able to determine the conditions of his own happiness and freedom. By simply accepting his condition, he is furthering his own enslavement.
By LOSER, let me specify: someone like me. A person that’s underachieving, doesn’t make enough money, has no friends, and spends too much time on the internet. Under the “Want more. Do more” ethic, I am a Loser because I do everything I can to subvert that. Yet, at this moment, I am happier than I’ve been in a long time.
In this Loser’s case, what would be the gain in resisting? So that I might own a house? I’ve lived in a lot of houses. They’re overrated. Or So that I may become a manager and make more money? Been there, done that, and I hated it. Most people want more than their parents ever had. I’m probably one of the few that want LESS. By leveling up, I would only be subjecting myself TO enslavement by the corporation, expensive personal property, etc.
Therefore my freedom and happiness is found in acceptance.
One of the alarming things I heard while in rehab was that most of the kids (they weren’t literal kids, just younger than me) wanted to be billionaires. I guess that shouldn’t be too surprising because who wouldn’t want to be a billionaire? But a few believed it to be a mindset or a discipline….that if they adopted a certain attitude of their favorite billionaire (Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerburg, Bill Gates) then they TOO can be a billionaire!
First off, if Elon Musk or Mark Zuckerburg are your heroes, then you have shitty heroes. Although I frequently use Steve Jobs’ technology, Steve Jobs was an asshole. Maybe I’m just not impressed with technological advances like everyone else is. But that maybe neither here nor there. Secondly, having more money for the sake of having more money isn’t a very noble goal. And thirdly, these kids are probably going to be in an out of rehab for the rest of their lives thanks to disappointment.
But I think the biggest issue plaguing us is that we de-valued our own opinions. What we think of ourselves is not as valuable as the opinions of others. It doesn’t matter if WE think we’re successful, only others can make that determination. Therefore we have relinquished power over our own happiness
And that concludes Part I of this essay. I’d like to say there’s going to be a Part II, but we all know that’s horseshit. So thanks for reading.