Tag: unconventional life

When was the last time YOU decided?

Life at age 4 is a strangely beautiful thing. I do not remember the details of my own life at age 4, nor do I know the details regarding the life of any present day 4-year-old. It’s probably a lot of running around aimlessly, and asking questions; the proverbial “why”. As I observe more and more of my friends having children, and remember my own childhood, one distinction between life at that age, and life as an adult, or even as a teenage comes to mind. 4-year-olds, having yet to enter school, rarely spend any time sitting around wondering what they should be doing. From what I see, the average 4-year-old has some kind of box of toys they just simply dive into. Either that or they are running around the yard. The commonality is, though, these 4-year-olds are not looking to someone else’s guidance when determining what they should be doing or what they should be thinking about and such. There is something simply magical about it.

I think I was 7 or 8 years old the first time I approached one of my parents and simply stated “I’m bored”. Little did I know that this would become an all too familiar theme throughout my life. Boredom is a concept I am quite fascinated with, as I have a personality type that is particularly prone to boredom. But, what is boredom? There are several theories, some involving people being afraid of their own thoughts, some believing it’s a healthy manner in which our brains ensure they are using their full capacity, and yet others stating it’s a symptom of an individual lacking imagination or creativity.

The final theory is the one that is the most disturbing. It suggests, in the most blunt terms possible, that a person being bored is really a person being boring. But, how did that come to be? How would we have transitioned, each one of us, from our 4-year-old selves, to these people who, given spare time, cannot even think of what we would like to do, or what we would like to think about?

One quite disturbing possibility is inadvertent, well-intentioned conditioning. At age 5, most of us enter a world (school) where the way we use our time, what activities we take part in, what topics we fill our minds with, is suddenly determined by someone else. This is quite a significant change from the days where the only instruction we received would be the occasional behavioral correction from our parents. It is possible that, having now been relieved of the duty of determining our own activities, day after day, year after year, the skills of self-determination we developed as a child simply atrophy. So accustomed to having an external forcing determine what we should be doing, and what we should be thinking about, we lose the ability of self-determination.

I see this process manifesting in high school. With the exception of a few leaders, and a few loners, most people join in peer groups, and accept a great degree of outside control from others. It is common for one “leader” to determine the activities for the night, and some combination of trends, pop culture, social norms, and the “in crowd” to determine most else.

Our present day society offers adults plenty of opportunities to continue to avoid having to determine their own thoughts and activities. Jobs are very much still structured so that anyone that wants to can have their boss or supervisor determine all their tasks for them. In fact, as much as things are starting to change, the world is still harsh for those of us that do want to have some say in what kind of work we would like to be involved in.  That covers 40-60 hours of the week.  For all else, outside of work, there are plenty of opportunities to turn to social media, news feeds, television, and advice, both solicited and unsolicited, to determine where our hearts, minds, and energy should be focused.

That leads me to one question, for all adults out there. When was the last time you decided what you were to do with your time, an hour, a day, or even a week?  By this, I am not talking about looking at a list of options and making a choice.  I mean choosing something you want to be doing, or thinking about, with no other influence besides your thoughts, feelings, and inspiration, much the way a 4-year-old would.  And, when was the last time you acted on something, without worrying about what is considered appropriate, what others expect from you, or what “needs to be done”?  While there is a reality to life, and we all have responsibilities, I have a feeling that pretty much every adult today has at least enough wiggle room to do so every once in a while.



Do You Need a Job?

Our society places a lot of emphasis on jobs. Often times, when meeting new people, the first question one would ask is, “What do you do”? In the “adult world”, at least 90% of the time, the inquirer is referring to work, what your job is. Being without a job is nearly universally considered either a lesser state of being, or an issue that needs to be solved. Governments all over the world track unemployment statistics, lament when the number increases, and celebrate when the number declines. In popular culture, unemployed people are referenced as having some sort of issue, being less than ideal individuals to date, or having some sort of degenerate rebellious streak.

Today, as we enter a world where more and more tasks that once provided jobs for many are automated, I postulate the question, do you, or anyone else, really need a job? After all, jobs did not always exist, they developed as a means for labor division as civilization gradually advanced thousands of years ago. But, even nowadays, there are people who survive without a job. There are those who got lucky and inherited large sums of money, those that found other sources of income, such as starting their own business, or investing money really effectively, and even those who live off others for various reasons.

What is it that jobs provide for us that makes nearly all human beings feel as if they need them? Jobs provide, or have the potential to provide three main benefits. Most obviously, jobs provide income; money, which allows us to have the basic building blocks of life, the base of the hierarchy of needs food and shelter, but also allows us to live the lifestyles we desire. For many, this is the main reason for going to work. The other human desires jobs can provide are fulfillment and community. By fulfillment, I am referring to the innate aspect of human nature that makes all of us desire to use our time, energy, and talents to produce something meaning. And community is the need for social interactions.

Nearly all jobs provide people with the means, for which to live, which in the modern world mean pay rent or mortgage, and eat. However, the renegade entrepreneurs of the world, the outsiders that have found other income streams, and those that live off the grid honing primitive survival skills have shown us that a job is not the only manner in which to achieve this end. In fact, there are probably creative individuals right now coming up with completely different and interesting ways to generate whatever income, food, shelter, water, etc. they need to sustain human life.

As far as the other two human desires, fulfillment and community, unfortunately, in this world, a majority of “jobs”, and even many “careers” do not provide this. In the era of education inflation, unnecessary bureaucracy, and large corporations, more and more people find themselves with jobs that are simply not fulfilling. When not fulfilled at work, it is hard to find community there as well. Additionally, high turnover rates and increased use of technological resources for meetings and such make it yet more unlikely that one will find community at work.

A job that provides means, fulfillment, and community is still probably the most efficient manner for human beings to fulfill those three needs. However, it is not the only way. As more and more people find their careers not matching their expectations, and the work they do no longer necessary, it may just be time to think outside the box and consider other ways to get those three needs fulfilled.