Friday, February 26, 2016

Living Life is More Interesting Than Television

Which is better, watching someone else's life or living your own?

Two fairly recent articles generated similar responses from Internet drones.  In the first, a fellow in Canada buckled down and worked three jobs and paid off his mortgage in three years.  In a second, a fellow describes how he slowly built up his own company after years of hard work - failing several times before succeeding.  He worked long hours and had to sacrifice much of what most "employees" think is normal - watching television for four hours a day, hanging out with friends and whatnot.

In both cases, the "comments" section of each article were full of comments along the lines of, "Well, you missed out on a great social life!  You gave up all your favorite television shows!   Sure, you have a lot of money and success, but at what cost?"

It is an interesting comment on a number of levels.  First of all, it is sour grapes of the first order.   People console themselves that while they are not millionaires, at least they've watched the latest episode of Downton Abbey and have their Facebook page up to date.  They've traded real life for an ersatz one and console themselves that what they've traded away wasn't worth much.

Second, it illustrates how there are really two kinds of people in the world, real people and replicants.   Actors and an audience.   Leaders and followers.   Doers and the done to.  The vast majority of people in the world are really, really worried everyday about what their friends think of them and moreover what people they don't even know think of them which is why Facebook is so popular - no matter how dreary and drab your life is, Facebook makes it look fabulous.

These are the folks who had a ball in High School because to them, the "learning" and classwork part was secondary to the annual sock hop and homecoming ball.  The social aspect of life was super-important, and the reason for being there was tertiary.  These same people are the "drones" you see at work who spend all day gossiping and backbiting and doing everything except working.

Now, granted, for entertainment they love to watch the movers and shakers of the world.  On television, the drones are rarely portrayed (except as crime victims or as clowns).  What people want to watch is folks who actually are living life and doing things whether it is the latest American Idol or Tony Soprano.

So the irony here is that the guy who is running his own business likely missed every episode of Celebrity Apprentice because he was too busy living that life.  Except of course, on television, "reality" shows are all fake.  His real life is far more interesting as he has real money - his money - on the line, and not only is he not "apprentice" to some blowhard like Donald Trump, he's the boss.

Get, I dunno.  What a drab and boring life he must lead.   I think he'd be better off at a 9-5 government job and watch 4.6 hours of television a night (the national average).   Yes, I am being sarcastic.

To some people, the idea of working two or three jobs at a time while going to night school seems like "hard work" or an onerous task.   The idea of starting your own business seems too risky and too much labor.   The idea of re-habbing a house and renting it out is too time-consuming.

But having done all these things I can say with authority that they were the most invigorating times of my life.   Risk-taking (and in retrospect, they were small risks) stimulates the brain.  Hard work - and reaping the rewards of it - is one of the most satisfying things your brain can do. 

The most depressing things I have done in life?  Loafing around, watching television, spending too much time on the Internet.   These are things that don't make you feel good about yourself, but rather worse.  When you lay in bed until 10:00 AM, it may seem "relaxing" at first, but in reality it just makes you feel bloated and groggy.   Accomplishing things is so much more satisfying.   

Or at least to some of us.   Perhaps the replicants obtain satisfaction from sloth.   But I doubt it.   Because I think when you get down to it, the drones of life are just depressed people and they turn to things like television or "socializing" to drown out the deafening silence in their lives.  Or they go on spending orgies in order to feel better about themselves (but it rarely works).

Of course, not all of us can be business owners or rock stars - or can do it forever.   Running my own business was fun, for a while, but I eventually tired of it.   Being an employer is no Swiss picnic, I can tell you that.  And as for being a landlord, I was smart enough to get out of that deal when I did (before the market crash).

So if you don't have a "real life" to keep you stimulated, what do you do - besides watch television?  Some folks have hobbies.  Restoring an old car or throwing a clay pot can give you a sense of satisfaction that comes with creating something.  Whether it is knitting a sweater or painting your house, taking action in your life and letting your brain see that it can alter its environment is important in fighting depression and having a sense of self-worth.

So who are these people who shout down success?  Depressed people.  And while it is unfortunate that people get depressed, bear in mind that depressed people - like other mentally ill people - can be very annoying and in fact, very, very evil.   Misery loves company as they say, and depressed people often want to shout down anyone who is happy and well-adjusted.  Don't listen to them.

The "social life" thing is also interesting to parse.  What exactly is a "social life" anyway?  Going out to restaurants and bars or having back-yard beer parties with your friends?   This is what the television tells us to do - and not surprisingly, these messages come from their advertisers.   There are some folks who like to "hang out" nearly every day with a group of friends, which was what I did in High School and College.   I am no longer in High School or College.

If you live a fulfilling life - are busy with your work or other pursuits, you don't have time to "hang out" every day with people.  Sure, you may socialize on occasion - which makes those occasions all that much more special.  But doing the same thing over and over again doesn't make it better or more interesting.  And socializing is one of those things that is actually better in moderation.

I guess for some people, a "social life" is a way of dealing with loneliness and again, shouting down the deafening silence.  If you are insecure in life, it is better to be insecure in a group, as they provide reinforcement and a sense of self-esteem.   This is why a group of teenagers will giggle and snort and make fun of you at the shopping mall but an individual teenager is scared to death of you.  Safety in numbers.

And I say this from experience on both sides of the equation.   We all do these behaviors - I am not castigating anyone, but everyone, including myself.    Understanding this, however, is key to personal happiness and success - I believe.

If you find yourself constantly shouting down more successful people in life, ask yourself why.   Maybe what is really bugging you isn't them, but your own life.