Daily life in America: what’s it like for you? When I tune out the noise and answer honestly, I realize that my days are praiseworthy. I am fortunate enough to have escaped poverty, violence, and ill health, and so I have peace, love, and happiness. I can walk in the park. I can drop in on a friend for a chat and a drink. I can create and sell my own product. I can give my loved ones big hugs and kisses whether they squirm or not. With just a few tiny seeds, I can grow nutritious food and cook it to suite my taste. My list of things to be grateful for in America is very, very long.
Of course, I cannot deny that frustration and hardship exists. I am reminded regularly that I am not made for this world of aggression, competition, and hate. But I cannot deny a certain pattern. These bad feelings are usually experienced when I try to follow society’s ill-conceived rules, ones that are incompatible with my personality. Tons of imaginary boundaries set by other people just aren’t agreeable to me.
Those who concoct the norms and set the trends are a shadowy population of rule makers. They are people I’ve never met, people I have nothing in common with, and people who I predict are far less happy than me. They are like Mylar®, helium-filled balloons: eye-catching, synthetic distractions.
With dazzling external appearances, they float to heights far above me and my firm position on the ground. That is until the day their vessels leak. Then they become shiny lumps of trash on the floor. Because this is the future for these over-inflated bags of gas, I must resist the temptation to follow them.
So what are these boundaries I write of? Below are ten. They exist in the form of messages, ones heard so often we naturally accept them as truth. They are nonsense.
#1. Increasing financial wealth is the greatest goal.
And if you have to be miserable to achieve it — if you have to trample, lie, cheat, obstruct, connive, and abuse — so be it. With money you can build your own marble-floored happiness club.
My alternative take: Chasing money means wanting more, and more is an infinite noun. Instead, I strive to know what is enough. Just enough. Enough food. Enough warmth. Enough love. With enough I am free to be satisfied, making it easier to give and share. My goal is attainment of the ability to see that there is enough.
#2. Selling the earth brings wealth.
This includes diamonds, gold, oil, gas, and coal. These are the stock trades, the commodities, the tickets to number one.
Pipeline project photo post on the Delaware Riverkeeper Network’s blog.
My alternative take: No one gains from disrespecting, degrading, or confiscating any piece of that which we reply upon for life.
#3. College is required.
The first measurement of your worthiness to society is the degree to which you were formally educated.
My alternative take: First and foremost, I refuse to measure, analyze, or credential my ingenuity or creativity. I simply let myself be as smart as I can be. Of course, college has much to offer the person who chooses a path to specialized learning. And it must be required for many vocations (doctors, etc.) But it’s not the panacea. The college admissions officer shall never have the power to delineate America’s skilled from unskilled, the intelligent from the dumb. And when a society brushes off every person without a degree, it suffers an enormous loss.
#4. People over 50 shouldn’t be hired.
The unripe represents the future. It can be more easily molded and has fewer health-related blemishes than the ripe.
My alternative take: Every generation is required. It’s true that older-and-wiser people will more quickly recognize exploitation. They know when to stand up for themselves. They can foresee problems based on experience. They realize their worth and demand to be compensated. These qualities don’t suite a model which prefers robots. They do, however, propel Equal Opportunity Employers with wisdom, loyalty, proficiency, stability, and more. Ask yourself: would Mark Zuckerberg be in the trouble he is in had he employed the advice of a less-naive generation early on?
#5. Learning depends upon an internet connection.
A man decides to try to disconnect from his smartphone for an entire weekend. When the trial is over, he realizes he was not addicted to his phone after all. He was addicted to all the learning, all the instant answers to the questions and curiosities that came up.
My alternative take: Corporate (Google) dissemination of all society’s knowledge is a very frightening likelihood, one that absolutely does not make us smarter individuals. We must retain time-tested resources, which include person-to-person teaching, offline documentation, editor-checked information, and personal observation. We must remember the power of independent learning and analysis. Plus, I refuse to hinge my future on some flimsy guarantee that the internet — or the electricity that powers it — is forever and always.
#6. Synthetic is better.
Every avid skier knows synthetic undergarments keep you drier and thus warmer during a winter workout. Pharmaceutical companies can treat larger populations with controlled formulations. Air-conditioned spaces set to the perfect temperature leave nothing to chance.
My alternative take: The average mind may not fully understand the chemistry of a natural substance or existence, but the body most certainly does. “Real” people require “real” food, clothing, and sustenance in a “real” atmosphere. Our inventions have their place, do doubt. But their convenience does not outweigh our organic need for natural things.
#7. The lowest price represents the greatest value and smartest purchase.
The key to a healthy balance sheet is to keep costs low. The key to sales is to always beat the competitor’s price. The key to maintaining a household budget is to find the cheapest price on everything you buy.
My alternative take: While such may be true in circumstances of inefficiency and waste, just about everything in today’s marketplace reached a tipping point years ago. Now, in order to deflate the price, so too must we deflate the quality. We’ve reached junk status, effecting even the food we eat to survive.
Further example: One refrigerator costs $500. It is expected to last 8 years. Another costs $1200. It is expected to last 15 years. The math says it would be smarter to buy two cheap refrigerators. That is until you factor in power-use efficiency, food storage life, disposal impact on the environment, and the pay scale and jobs the manufacturers and distributors support.
#8. Tales of lurid sex, bloody violence, and juicy scandal make us act.
An illustrative example is Facebook. The algorithmic structure examines your clicks and Likes, including your peeks into the absurd. This is deemed “engagement.” Then it delivers content to your news feed based on what got you engaged. Like television ratings, the system says we’re only getting more of what we want.
My alternative take: Empathetic people may not be able to turn away from a car crash, but that doesn’t mean we WANT to see more accidents happen.
#9. Peace and love is for the weak.
Animalism dictates that, if you want to succeed at your mission to dominate and reproduce, you must be the toughest bull in the herd.
My alternative take: It requires more intelligence and bravery to confront the future with grace than hostility.
#10. There is nothing I can do about it.
So many people have adopted a philosophy that is contrary to my beliefs that, as a minority in a democratic society, I must accept the results of the status quo.
My alternative take: The counter culture in which I find myself has enough vibrant members to keep me peaceful, loving, and happy every day. It too rejects the ugly trends and norms. All I have to do is stay focused. Let the balloons float aimlessly in their meaningless agendas; I choose to keep my feet firmly connected to earth, the conduit to the energy of all my grounded fellows.
It takes a lot of thought control to keep the worries at bay. It takes practice to recognize pleasing things, but I know doing so is what propels my attraction to happiness. It closes out false paradigms and opens the door to MY reality: a life in America that is full of wonder and possibility.