One of the most disturbing parts of life, whether it be referred to as an American dream or some other double-entendre, is how pointlessly cyclical everything is. Every one of us is being tug-of-war pulled in at least two different directions: what we want to do vs. what we have to do. Whether work is a part of life that we love or hate, we end up spending most of our time punching-in hard at those tasks, more time than we do pursuing our personal desires.
8 hours a day, 5 days and 40 hours a week.
As much as I love math, numbers without context often makes for poor storytelling. I used to berate myself for not being more productive in the hours that I’m not at work, because there are so many of them… but the truth of the matter is that I have spent a shit ton of mental energy by the time I get home, I’m 8 to 10 hours less fresh than when I woke up that morning. Mental clarity affects my mood, my ambition, the core of everything that from which everything else may come to be or not to be. And so I am left asking myself, “why do we work so much?” Productivity is a foundational element of a functioning society, I understand and qualify this fact, else the world would be filled with nomadic tribes rather than cities, and even nomadic people have roles and responsibilities. Maybe what I’m really asking is, “is it really necessary to work as much as we do?”
Money is the currency of time. It’s not politically correct to outright say that one person’s time is more valuable than another’s, but we indirectly say it all the time. If a person makes $20/hr, their time is worth more than someone who only makes $10/hr, isn’t it?
I’m reminded of the movie Time, where instead of dollars or pesos, the world’s currency is based on actual time that people where on their arms. The premise is simple enough in that if you want a cup of coffee, you pay a few minutes, while a car might cost months or years. If a person runs out of time, they die. If a person is time rich, they can live indefinitely. I bring this parallel to the light of our conversation because it’s more similar to how the world works than it is dissimilar. We spend time working in order to make money, we spend money in order to keep living, that’s how it’s supposed to work anyway.
What disturbs me about all of this is the cyclical nature of our system. Everything that we are taught to need and to want end up being the largest time suckers of all. Owning a house is a big deal for Americans, a symbol that we are able to support ourselves and successfully exist independently. As much happiness and owning my home has brought me, I cannot stop thinking about how I’ll never make enough money to fully pay it off. If that wasn’t enough of a burden in itself, I also have to save money to pay for replacing all the necessary bits as they go bad along the way: windows, floors, furnace, AC unit, insulation, appliances, and so on. None of this realization is new, only my perspective has changed. This beautiful home, this apex of maturity, is also a prison, albeit a necessary one.
Owning a home isn’t as bad as it sounds, I only wrote it that way as the beginning of a comparison. Whether I’m paying off a house or renting some other place to live, I do have to live somewhere. What I don’t have to do is want more than the things I already have. I used to watch HGTV with a twinge of jealousy and longing, thinking that someday maybe I could have an extravagant $500,000 house. A wanting such as that is as vapid as it is a poor and unnecessary use of what little time we are given in this life. Feeling like this is what makes tiny houses so appealing.
If we work less and spend less, step outside the norms of what it means to be successful, would that be such a bad thing? Let’s talk more soon.