We Are Living All Wrong
Toward a life well-lived.
Posted Jan 13, 2021
On seeing the title of a recent Psychology Today post, We've Got Depression All Wrong, it struck me that many people are living all wrong.
Being broadly optimistic or pessimistic is foolish: Realism leads to the best decisions. Yet American culture prides itself on its optimistic spirit. Of course, one can appropriately be optimistic or pessimistic regarding an individual issue, but the across-the-board tendency toward optimism, e.g., "Things work out for the best," is indeed foolish.
For an antidote to excessive optimism, consider reading some of Schopenhauer's essays and aphorisms, for example, “If children were brought into the world by an act of pure reason alone, would the human race continue to exist?"
Pursuit of happiness
A person could be happy having lots of sex, watching sitcoms, and getting loaded, but their life could hardly be called well-led. The life well-led is about contribution: spending as many hours as possible using one’s best talents and skills to maximally improve humankind.
Many people are pulling out all the stops to squash dissent, for example, the Left’s Cancel Culture and the Right’s religious intolerance. Per the Tom Lehrer song, National Brotherhood Week: “The Catholics hate the Protestants, and the Protestants hate the Catholics, and the Hindus hate the Moslems, and everyone hates the Jews."
At the risk of sounding like Rodney King, can’t we all just get along? We should not just tolerate but be open to the wisdom that comes from our opposite pole.
Eating, Substance Abuse
Of course, it’s sad to see gluttonous, obese people or a sloppy drunk or stoned person. And ironic, okay laughable, are the many people I know (perhaps it's just because I live in the San Francisco Bay Area) who are assiduously vegetarian and organic yet overeat and abuse substances. The dangers of alcohol are well known, while those of, for example, marijuana, are far less publicized. And yes, food is a pleasure but the consequences of overweight are legion. It’s worth the effort to eat mindfully: healthy yet tasty, and slowly (I admit I fail at that) so you can derive more of food's pleasure while extending lifespan and healthspan.
It’s hard to understand why many people do work they find soulless or even unethical mainly because it pays more than a middle income. After all, we spend the best hours of our day, the best years of our lives, at work. And in many large-population states, half of the income beyond middle-income is lost in federal and state, and sometimes local, income taxes, and in Social Security, Medicare, and Workers Compensation taxes. And often, such people spend the after-tax half on things that yield their lives little improvement: a fancier zip code, breakdown-prone luxury cars, frou-frou clothes and jewelry, and five-star vacations.
It's wiser to take the time to find work you’ll find more rewarding even if less lucrative and then be smart about spending, especially on those mega-expenses: housing and higher education.
If people take reasonable precautions — locking doors and windows and not sauntering the neighborhood at night — differences in safety between a tony and a modest neighborhood are too small to justify the mammoth cost difference.
If you can push aside status (overrated), making the most of a community college and then perhaps transferring to a public university, will yield similar net learning and career benefits at a small fraction of the cost. For example, at a community college, a top student could elect challenging courses and would stand out to professors and administration affording leadership opportunities and door-opening letters of reference and a likely high GPA. That would enhance prospects of employment and of admission to a more prestigious college as a transfer student than possible as a freshman. Plus, teaching quality, on average, is better at community colleges because faculty is hired and promoted mainly on teaching ability, not on how many research dollars they'd add to university coffers.
Humans will always fall prey to human failings, but perhaps calling these out will help us toward a life better led.
I read this aloud on YouTube.