We all yearn for a simpler life.
I really believe that to be a true statement. So what’s the problem? We’re intelligent creatures, aren’t we? If we’re all so smart, why is it that our pets are the ones spending their idyllic days napping and snacking, and then napping again?
Because our work ethic won’t allow it.
If our lives are not in a continuous state of perpetual busyness, we feel guilty. Even when we are “relaxing,” our minds are on constant monitor-mode – keeping track of our endless to-do lists.
Her: I should balance the checkbook and call about the book sale Saturday and I’ve got to get that oven cleaned and I need to buy some kitty litter and I haven’t changed the sheets on the beds in a while and I have to get those seedlings started…
Him: I need to make an appointment to have the car radiator flushed and I haven’t read those new Terms of Service the bank sent about the credit card and I’ll have to remind Dad about those drill bits he borrowed and the lint vent in the dryer should be checked again…
Are we incapable of just sitting quietly for 15 minutes doing absolutely nothing without feeling like morally-reprehensible slackers who are not shouldering our share of the load?
The load of crap that we subconsciously carry with us every minute of day, everywhere we go, as part of everything we do. The load of crap that we’ve been brainwashed with since birth called The (Almighty) American Dream. The load of crap that is ingrained in every American’s psyche as follows:
hard work = material prosperity = happiness
There are not many higher compliments you can give a person than to say he or she is a hard worker. It’s an accolade that highlights many a retirement send-off speech…and eulogy. It seems to be an unwritten constitutional law, because we are expected by everyone to work hard to acquire “material prosperity” and then spend our “down” time maintaining it all. Taking it easy is simply not the American Way!
The irony is that most of us realize that hard work very rarely leads to happiness. Unless you’re one of the lucky few who actually likes her job, it tends to be the one major thing getting in the way of happiness. An unexpected day off from the slog of 9-to-5 makes us as giddy as children let out of school for a snow day!
And most of the time, hard work doesn’t lead to material prosperity either. According to Wells Fargo, the average 50-something today has only accumulated $29,000 in nest-egg savings – which translates into an average retirement income of about $180 a month, assuming he can find a way to earn 5% on his savings and only live for 20 years after he retires.
This is the average financial “reward” for thirty to forty years of full-time hard work?? Ask yourself: will the full-time hard work really make me happy? Will the things I can buy with all those hard-earned paychecks make me happy? Will retirement when I’m too old (and probably too poor) to really enjoy it make me happy? And yet, we continue to pretend we believe in The American Dream. We’re an entire country that refuses to acknowledge that the Emperor is not wearing any clothes!
Here’s what I suggest. First, re-read the Parable of the Mexican Fisherman here. (Notice how you feel about the fisherman. Do you wish you could trade lives with him? Or would you feel too guilty trading lives with him even if you could?) Second, give some serious thought to the phrase “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
And then decide: Whose definition of happiness are you going to pursue with your life and all that personal “liberty” – the one you believe in (if you’ve had time to define it for yourself) – or the one you were taught to believe in?