#Idea – Money *Can* Buy Happiness / 13.02.19

There’s that old saying:
“Money can’t buy happiness”

The phrase is incorrect.
Though it perhaps serves a purpose:
Helping those of us who don’t have enough money
To feel better about things.

Anyway,
Here are some examples where money can buy happiness:

There is the first, obvious, example:
Money has the ability to alleviate your material needs
(…emphasis here on your ‘material needs‘, not your ‘material wants‘)
These include a roof over your head
And food in your belly.

This, by default,
Will increase your happiness,
By curtailing the things that make you unhappy.
Things like being hungry and exposed to the elements.

black and white ruins house photo Photo by Christopher Combe Photography

Disregarding the obvious and logical question
Around exactly how much you really need…
(…answers on a postcard, please)
This alone is a pretty good argument
For redistributing some wealth
From those who have ‘more than they know what to do with’
(…people who are long past the point where additional money creates any improvement)
To those who need only a little more to be noticeably happier.

I take the oft-cited example
Of the über-wealthy person
Who spends millions on luxury goods
That he’ll soon tire of.

Put another way
Why buy another shitty piece of modernist art
When you could feed an entire village,
Somewhere in the developing world
For a long time?
I don’t know.

Anyway
That’s the subject for another day, and I’ll leave it here.

article about money making you happy - black and white luxury hotel room
Photo by Finmiki (Pixabay)

Money can buy happiness another way too.
One that is tied closely to the first.
This, of course, is charity
(…with a few caveats.)

Studies seem to show that
Charity can make the giver very happy
If
The money is given voluntarily
In ways that the giver can see
Tangibly benefit the recipient(s).

In this way
Having more money (than you actually need) can make you happy.
The caveat:
You have to give lots of it away
And see the good that it’s doing in the world

Seems like a pretty good argument for giving more, don’t you think?

Cover photo by Hipnos

#Idea – There Are Limits to Diversity / 06.05.19

We celebrate diverse* perspectives
But with limits.

For example
We can’t celebrate diversity around
Our core values
Such as ‘not killing people who disagree with you’.

As such, diversity can’t really be considered an absolute
That we either ‘have’, or ‘don’t have’.
It’s more a matter of degree – about how many perspectives that we are ‘willing’ to allow.
Or how many perspectives are ‘practical’ within our society.

Indeed,
Where we draw the line between ‘acceptable’ and ‘not’
Helps to draw a distinction between cultures.

And
If ‘our’ line and ‘their’ line are too far apart.
The cultures will probably have trouble ‘getting along’.

black and white violence photo

Photo by vwcampin

You can see this clash of values (cultures)
Playing out today
And the consequent violence.

With thanks to Sam Harris for the idea

*Please note, I refer to diversity of perspectives, not ‘intersectional’ diversity.

Cover Photo by La caverne aux trésors

#Idea – When Was the Last Time You Changed Your Mind? / 06.05.19

Here’s a thought:
When was the last time someone said something
That actually made you change your mind?

If you don’t remember, that’s OK.
It seems normal,
Based on the very small, very informal research that I’ve done.

But consider
Making a note next time it happens
You’ll probably notice that it doesn’t happen very often.
If ever at all.

And why is that, anyway?

Photo by Leroy_Skalstad (Pixabay)

#Idea – Peak Humanity(?) / 30.03.19

If we look at the modern world,
The global labour market
And the relentless forward march of technology.

The fundamental growing economic problem
Appears to be
An increasing ‘oversupply’ of humans.

Here’s what I mean;
The trend of ‘human obsolescence’ seems to show
That less and less of us are ‘necessary’
From an economic perspective.

But, as we know,
There are more and more humans
More every year, in fact.

article about overpopulation - black and white city looking upwards
Photo by ArtisticOperations (Pixabay)

The question is, really,
Barring people making the conscious decision to ‘breed less’
(…which seems doubtful on aggregate)
What shall we do with this growing ‘oversupply’ of humans?

I don’t have answers
Though it would seem like
Some massive, mandatory redistribution of wealth would be required
From the few who are still ‘economically relevant’
To the many who are not.

And if not,
What becomes of the ‘have nots’?

Of course,
And all of this
Is to say nothing of
The resources we continue to use up
The damage we do to the world
And all the spaces
That we swallow with concrete.

And it all goes without saying,
Quite obviously
That there’s far more to life
Than being ‘economically useful’.

#ThoughtExperiment – The ‘Dickens Process’ But Worse / 06.05.19

Disclaimer: this is quite unpleasant if you think through it properly.

Imagine the far future
Imagine yourself long gone.

Imagine the person that you’re with
The person that you love (we assume?).

Imagine them
On their deathbed
Old, fragile, perhaps a little senile
Life ebbing away
Life flashing by.

In their delirious last hours
As they cry out your name
What would you want them to say about you?
How would you want them to remember you?

Resolve to be more like that person from now on.

Photo by arriba 

#Idea – Citizen – Consumer Crisis of Meaning / 06.05.19

There is a tendency
To think of people
More as ‘consumers’ than ‘citizens’
Though it wasn’t always this way.

As a result, you’re expected to consume (i.e. ‘take’)
Not to contribute (i.e. ‘give’)*
Or, dare I say,
You’re expected to contribute through consuming.

The result of this
This could be seen as
A zero-sum game:
Economy vs environment.
If you don’t buy, the economy suffers
If you do buy, the planet suffers
(…though this largely depends on how/what you consume, I suppose).

article about consumerism - black and white construction site
Photo by Joko_Narimo (Pixabay)

And it creates another issue.
An ‘all take, no give’ approach to existence
Which is existentially bankrupt.
It’s tied to a crisis of meaning
That I think has something do with
Why the people who have so much
Are often so unhappy.

We have a class of hard-working people
Who feel that their work has no meaning
But who keep working anyway
Because that’s what you’re supposed to do.

Like many of us
These people want to contribute
They want to give
They want to be part of something meaningful
But feel that they can’t
Because the onus and the pull
Is towards consumption.
And the fact that they’re all so fucking busy
All of the fucking time.
Keeping it all going.

article about consumerism - black and white wood pallets
Photo by sagesolar

Sure, there are transcendent moments
And exceptions to the routine:
Raising a child
Perhaps volunteering in one’s limited free time
Things like that.
But these are mere brief interludes
In the perennial workday.

And much of this, I think,
Comes down to this idea that everyone’s a ‘consumer’
Not a ‘contributor’, or a ‘citizen’.

You give so much of your time and energy
And you want something back for it in return.
But when you sell off
Too much of your time and your energy
You come to realise that
There’s not enough money in the world to justify what you’ve done.
And you can’t get it back.

And maybe by this point
You don’t have anything left to give anyway.

This is what ‘being’ a consumer has done to you.

*with the exception, perhaps, of making your tax contributions

Cover photo by anokarina

#Idea – Hold Lightly to Your Ideas / 31.03.19

It seems that some people
Were never taught the difference
Between ‘feelings’ and ‘evidence’. 
 
Put another way
How right a thing feels
Is not the same
As how right a thing is.
 
It seems obvious
But it must not be
Just look around you
And see what people do in the name of ‘righteousness’.
 
Also
There’s a horrible inverse correlation:
The people who are so certain of being right
(i.e. the most ‘righteous’ amongst us)
Are often the ones who aren’t.
 
The answer, perhaps
Is to be less certain of things
And to look at this idea of ‘righteousness’
With a certain amount of distance and wariness.

A strong opinion is no substitute for the truth.

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.” – Richard Feynman

Photo by anokarina

#Idea – Compassion Grows Slowly But Hopefully / 05.04.19

Humanity advances as far as you and I learn
To see another’s suffering as our own
Another’s happiness as our own
And to always think of others in what we do. 

All without the necessity
To think of some as part of ‘our group’
And others as outside of ‘our group’.

And perhaps we can, eventually,
Expand our circle of ‘personal’ compassion
From the small few we count as friends and family
To encompass everyone,
And perhaps
All living beings.
Eventually.

This, however, seems like a tall order
When we consider how evolution has shaped our minds:
Those old survival traits
Mistrust, tribalism, mob psychology
Those may take a long time to be expunged,
If they ever are.

black and white angry war photo Photo by alisdare1

Put another way,
It appears that
‘Unconditional compassion’
Is at odds with a good part of our nature
Our ‘evolutionary programming’.

But the scientists tell us
That we’re not done evolving yet
Genetically or memetically.

So, perhaps if we just hold on,
Don’t kill ourselves,
Don’t kill our planet,
We’ll get there someday.

Photo by JUrban (Pixabay)

#Idea – A Short, Incomplete Argument for Bringing Back the ‘Memento Mori’ / 04.04.19

Without regular reminders
On the shortness of life
And, as a result
The imminence of death 
You’re liable to undervalue life
Your life, the lives of those you love, and living beings in general.

Never was the phrase ‘taken for granted’ apter than here.

Of course,
When seen through the wider lens
Of sheer cosmic improbability
Life, death, our entire planet.
It’s all of almost no importance
And yet, it is all we have.

It would seem useful
To make a point of remembering this every day,
If you can.

“Death, when it approaches, ought not to take one by surprise. It should be part of the full expectancy of life. Without an ever-present sense of death, life is insipid.” – Muriel Spark