Random Thoughts on Various Subjects

1. ROYAL WEDDING



Kate and William tie the knot after seven years. From everything I have read of them, they seem like a down-to-earth couple. I was really impressed that William asked that people make charitable donations to his foundation instead of buying expensive wedding gifts. These two are total class unlike that aging fop Prince Charles.

Weddings are for women, and I am a bit sickened by all the attention the females give to this spectacle. They spend all their time comparing this one to the wedding of Princess Diana without noting the irony of it. Women focus more on the ceremony than the actual marriage which in the case of Charles and Diana was a total disaster. They do much the same with their own marriages as if the fairy tale is all that matters. Utter fucking stupidity.

The bottom line is that I am not a monarchist, and I think the people of England should turn the Queen out it into the street. But at least there is one good thing I can say about the old bag. She is powerless which is what all heads of state should be.

2. BIRTH CERTIFICATE

Obama releases the long form. Conspiracy theorists claim it is fake. This only shows that evidence is never sufficient for the nutjobs unless it supports the conclusion they have already drawn.

3. BERNANKE'S PRESS CONFERENCE

A Fed chairman has to do PR now. And who can we credit for this new openness at the central bank? Ron Paul, of course.

4. OIL COMPANY SUBSIDIES

Obama calls for an end to oil subsidies. I am with him totally on this one. But he still sucks cock.

Minimalism Is Not Optional



I watch with some amusement and incredulity at Barack Obama and the debate over the budget deficit. What blows my mind isn't the debate over what to cut. It is Obama's dismissive words and attitudes about the whole affair. For Obama, it seems that cutting the budget is simply an option, and he has chosen not to do it. But cutting the budget isn't an option anymore than choosing not to get cancer. Reality has a nasty habit of having the last word on everything. President Obama and others in government are under a delusion.

This same sort of delusion exists among the rest of the public not just in regard to government spending but also their own lifestyles. We know these people. These are the ones with mountains of debt. All their credit cards are maxed out. They drive new and expensive cars they can't afford. They struggle to make the payments on a McMansion. They own a Jet Ski, a boat, and a motorcycle. But "own" is not quite precise since they are making payments on these items, too. As they struggle to get by, you suggest something like getting rid of the Jet Ski. Then, they say something like this, "I love my Jet Ski. I just couldn't live without it."

For the Jet Ski lover, no argument will work. There will have to be missed payments, repossession, and foreclosure. Until it all falls to pieces, reason will not work. Only reality and the consequences can shake these people out of their delusion. Trust me, I have had this conversation with many different people, and it is always the same. They believe they can continue to live beyond their means forever. My minimalist lifestyle is simply an "option."

I have been turning this over in my head this week, and I have reached the startling but sound conclusion that minimalism is not optional. Minimalism is essential. Minimalism is not merely a lifestyle choice, but the only lifestyle choice that works. Everything else is a delusion. It is people trying to pull off a balancing act with an anvil in one hand and an anchor in the other.



I have never been into the Jet Ski lifestyle. Part of it was lack of interest on my part, but the other part is the simple fact that I can't afford this crap. I have enough cash on hand presently to go buy one of these things, but the reason I have the cash is because I don't go around buying Jet Skis or any other consumerist crap. But if I buy a Jet Ski, I will also need to rent space to store it or move into a house with a garage. But for the cost of the rental space, I can rent a Jet Ski, ride it the two or three times it takes to get over the thrill of it, and turn it back in. Jet Skis are really boring. The thrill of one comes from owning one and inspiring the envy of your friends and neighbors.

The reason minimalism is not optional but essential has to do with the issue of sustainability. The environmentalists have taken over this word to some degree with doomsday predictions concerning global warming, peak oil, and the rest. I tend to be dismissive of these predictions because they almost always turn out wrong going back to Malthus. I just focus on the practical realities of the limits on time, money, and energy. I don't recycle, but I do shop at the thrift store and eschew the SUV. I try not to be wasteful because it helps me. I'm not nearly as concerned about the planet. In the long run, Earth will be swallowed in our expanding sun as it goes through its lifecycle. Separating my garbage is not going to change this.

Defying the limits on time, money, and energy is not sustainable. You can spend more money, but this will require you to work more. Working more takes more time which means less time to spend with the things you spent the money on. Work also takes your energy, so by the time the weekend comes around, the warrior in you opts to sleep in. People aren't enjoying a lifestyle so much as building a collection of stuff they don't have the time or energy to enjoy.

It is easy to pick on the Big Spenders, but time is as big a deal as money. I am very guilty on this front. I don't manage my time very well, and this leads to really bad habits like multitasking, eating in the car, eating at the desk, eating fast food, neglecting chores, etc. I compile ambitious To Do lists, and I get a lot done. But what I do and what I write down to do are vastly different. This leads to massive frustration and misallocation of time. When it comes to time, minimalism is not optional. It is essential. Choose the important things to do and eliminate everything else.

Energy is the other big one. Because people spend money and need more time to make money and more time to enjoy the things they spent the money on, they decide to cut back on sleep. They burn the candle at both ends. Then, they fall asleep at the wheel of their SUV flipping it and the Jet Ski they were hauling into the ditch. This is what happens when you spend too much, do too much, and sleep too little. The upside of this situation is you can let the repo man figure out how to get your shit out of that ditch.

The maximalist lifestyle isn't sustainable. There is no balance there. You can push it for a long time, but it leads to failure. Forced austerity sucks because reality makes your decisions for you. Minimalism is simply voluntary austerity. It is choosing simplicity while it is still a choice. But whether it is forced or voluntary, people end up better off for it. Minimalism takes the weight off of you. It lets you be free again.

There are only two kinds of people. You have minimalists, and you have future minimalists. You have those who embrace the lifestyle, and you have those who throw in the towel on their maximalist lifestyle. Success as defined by the wider culture is seeing how long you can maintain the delusion. How long can you defy reality? Even rich celebrities get smacked down by reality.

Sustainability is the key, and this is what minimalism gives you. It allows you to live in balance with reality. It forces you not to try and have more and do more but to enjoy less and do better with what you have. This is the only right way to live. Anything else is living in defiance of reality, and reality always wins. ALWAYS.

Q & A

Q: Why do you write?

A: I definitely don't write for the money. The more fundamental question is this. Why do you write when you aren't getting paid to do it?

The reality is that most writers don't do it for the money. This is because even bestselling authors often must work a day job to make ends meet. Unless your name is King, Grisham, or Rowling, you're just not going to make a living from writing.

Some bloggers pull off the trick of writing for a living, but the trick seems to be about simple living more than anything else. These guys and gals aren't getting rich from it. Journalism is another possibility.

It is pretty much established that getting rich from writing is a long shot. Even a guy like Nassim Nicholas Taleb makes way more money from his day job than his writing gig. If anything, writing is mostly a sacrifice.

I get creative satisfaction from writing. I'm not a musician or a painter. I just write. My life without writing would be quite empty. Writing fills the void. It makes what would be an ordinary and uneventful life more extraordinary.

I can't deny that I am sometimes tempted to drop the writing gig. Blogging soaks up a lot of time I could spend on things more practical like getting my chores done. But I don't do things that other people do such as hang out at bars, travel, or watch a whole lot of television. I mostly read and write which has been a constant in my life since I was young.

The other aspect of writing that makes it worthwhile is what it does to the rest of my day. In the back of my mind, I am always working on a writing project. Ideas are always percolating in my brain. This is why I don't get bored too often. I always have something to do.

A Breakfast Aphorism

The real secret to successful living is getting used to feeling exhausted all the time and ignoring it.

[SOC]

I have been giving some thought to my popularity. When I talk about this, people think I am referring to blog traffic or number of Facebook friends. The truth is that my blog traffic is rather scant compared to so many other blogs out there. I do have a lot of Facebook friends, but they defriend me at the rate of ten a week as well. This popularity exists in the real world. My interactions with people are on par with my interactions here at the C-blog or on Facebook.

I like to think the reason people like me so much is my sunny personality and cheery disposition. But I'm not like this. I like to think it is diplomacy, but that definitely isn't it. I say what I think. The irony is that the people who seem most taken with me are ones who actually disagree with me the most.

The reason I am interested in this phenomenon is because it was not always this way. This changed for me only about five years ago. What changed in my life at age 35? Basically, my worldview changed. My worldview is what I call "secular individualism" which is basically that I am a freethinking atheist libertarian. Throughout my teens and twenties, I was a right wing Calvinist. I was very unpopular then. Hated is a more precise term. By the time I was 30, I had dropped all that shit seeing it for what it was--delusion. By 35, I started feeling like a rock star as I jettisoned religion and statism and developed a great deal of humility. I think this was key to my popularity.

My worldview makes me nonaggressive. I can be critical of other people. I am definitely opinionated. But I suspect people find in me a certain freedom and acceptance they don't encounter with other people. I believe this because this is what makes statists and religionists so damn nauseating. They are either judging you or telling you what to do or denigrating you. It comes out in their speech and everything they do. When you are around these people, they are either trying to make you feel guilty or look stupid. Naturally, these people piss me off, and I take special glee in cussing them the fuck out. You would think these reactions would make me unpopular, but they seem to make me even more popular.

I am a one man revolution. My worldview is what people want and need. They may not embrace it since the change is more than they can bear. But they recognize in me what they want in their lives. The sad thing is they all want my approval. They all want my love. I don't know why people are like this. I just know that I can't give my blessing to anyone or anything because it runs totally counter to what I believe. There are no popes in secular individualism. You are on your own. I'd rather be flipped the bird than have someone ask to kiss my ring.

My personality is about the same. I look the same and generally act the same. But I am definitely happier today than I was then. I got my mind right. That is the only thing that changed with me. I changed my thinking. My life was a search, but I found what I was looking for. It is the same thing everybody else is looking for. I think this is why I am so popular now. They want what I have.

It is fairly easy to have what I have. I give it away free on this blog. I don't have any secrets. A secret is where some guru charges you cash for knowledge you find later to be bullshit. But I can sum it all up in one word--freedom. People want freedom. They see me as being free, and this is what they want. They want to be free. I suspect this is the reason people idolize the rich, the famous, and the powerful. But I don't have money, fame, or power. If anything, I show that you can be free without those things. Freedom is the real prize.

SUNDAY

1. Spent Easter doing what atheists do on Easter--cleaning house.

2. Trump has a dust up with Seinfeld and says Jerry owes the Donald big time for appearing on that shit awful show called The Marriage Ref. For once, I am in agreement with Trump.

3. I don't want to burn a Koran, but I would wipe my ass with one if I ran out of toilet paper.

4. I would also wipe my ass with Donald Trump's hair.

5. Some guy defriended me on Facebook because of my taste in "negro" music. True shit.

6. Atlas Shrugged is now in box office oblivion as I expected. I don't see them making back that $10 million. No Galt's Gulch. No epic speech. Personally, I always liked Howard Roark better:



---
LINKS

I discovered this awesome blog today. The chick's name is Robin Cangie, and she covers a lot of the same subjects I cover here. I don't agree with her on everything, but I like what she does and encourage you to check her out.

Robin Cangie

39. Nothing produces results as much as taking action.

41 Things I've Learned By 40

[U.] Planet X. Plus, a Special Easter Message from the U-Man

the u-man is here in the HOUSE. prepare for a TRUTH TRANSMISSION!!!

the media does not touch this SHIT. why? because they are DUM. they are also in on the SECRETS. but the u-man EXPOSES all of it for you. i do this because i care. the c-man wants you to be HAPPY and not pay taxes and smoke DOPE and fuck animals and all that other HIPPY shit government haters like. but NONE of it matters in an APOKALYPSSE. can you smoke dope with your ASS in flames? no, because it is YOUR ASS that is smoking. the planet is headed for an UPHEVAL. planet x, BITCHES!!! it is coming.

part 1


part 2


part 3


part 4


part 5


it is EASTER bitches. this means you need to get your asses to CHURCH. jesus rose from the DEAD. it is TRUE. fuck ATHEISM. the c-man is going to hell to suck satan's slimy DICK. FOREVER!!!! praise jesus.

Random Thoughts on Various Subjects

1. GAS PRICES

I hear people bitching about gas prices, but they are fucking clueless about why they are high. Naturally, being stupid, they call for price controls and looting of oil companies. Pure economic illiteracy.

Gas prices are high for a variety of reasons. The first and most basic is the tax governments put on it. The second is Fed created inflation. The third is political instability in the Middle East. All of these things are government creations. Yet, the oil companies get the blame. This is why this country is fucked. The average man and woman in the street is a goddamn shit-for-brains retarded fucking fool.

2. DESIREE DAVILA



This chick runs her guts out at the Boston Marathon, vies for the win, and ends up in the most spectacular second place finish since Beardsley lost to Salazar. Davila is now the blue collar runner of the year for this. She was unknown and part of the Hansons-Brooks team that is the epitome of blue collar. With Brian Sell out of the picture, Davila has become the darling of the true blue runners. This babe has heart.

3. SOAP OPERAS

ABC cancels two of its long running soap operas, and fans are devastated. The solution is cable TV. As for me, I hate soap operas. I prefer something more culturally sophisticated like professional wrestling.

4. SPORTS

I am now virtually sports free these days. Other than reading up on the Boston Marathon results, I have stopped following sports like football, NASCAR, baseball, basketball, etc. I don't miss those things a damn bit. I hear stories from time to time on NPR about franchises in financial trouble, Barry Bonds getting convicted, or labor stoppage, and I wonder why they waste time on those stories. I have just gotten used to not having a "safe" subject to talk with people about and just run with politics even if it pisses people off. Fuck 'em. I've got lots of friends. I can afford some enemies.

5. APPLE FAN BOYS

People are puzzled about the iPad. Samsung, Motorola, and others are trying to come up with competing products, but no one wants them. Analysts don't know what to make of it. Is it a fad? Is it the iPod? Is it just Apple fan mania? I can tell you what it is.

The biggest competitor to the iPad is the Kindle, and the Kindle is winning. The Kindle is cheap. The Kindle has super long battery life. The Kindle is easy on your eyes. People say it is an apples-to-oranges comparison, but I don't think so. Here's why.

Laptops are horrible for reading especially when they scorch your legs. The iPad is simply a laptop without the scorching. But as a laptop, it sucks. It also sucks as a phone, music player, game machine, or whatnot. I have an iPod touch which I use. My most widely used app? The Kindle app. I have spent more on Kindle books than I paid for the iPod. The problem is that it hurts my eyes. I want a Kindle. I need a Kindle.

The iPad sells to Apple's faithful, but that's it. It is not a game changer. No one really wants one or needs one. What the market wanted and needed was a good way to read e-books. Jobs knew this but wanted a multipurpose device that did shit other than books. But there is now true need there.

Amazon has captured the reader market with the Kindle. That thing is a winner. Jobs will not capture the reader market with the iPad. I predict it will fail in the long term. In the short term, it is a neat toy to amaze your friends. But it is a shitty tool.

6. MADONNA AND LADY GAGA



I grew up with Madonna, and I admit that I like the songs she did. I also liked some of the outrageous things she did, but they were elegant and refined compared to Lady Gaga today. Gaga is Madonna as Maximalist. Why do I care?

I find maximalist expressions to be grotesque. Very rarely do I see a good thing get better from adding more shit to it. This is what Gaga does. She took Madonna's reinvention thing and now reinvents herself daily going to ever greater extents of absurdity and outlandishness. At some point, the poor girl is just going to exhaust herself. But she definitely has talent. I give her that.

7. CAMERAS AND COPS

Cops don't like cameras. Amazing. What do they have to fear? What do they have to hide? What are they doing they don't want us to see? And how are they able to break the law, beat people, incarcerate them, destroy evidence, and then drop the "charges" without anything being done to them?

The bottom line is that cops are crooks with badges. They don't mind putting you on camera and invading your privacy. Yet, they don't like having their "privacy" invaded. Cops are the scum of humanity, and we give them guns and power. Fucking amazing. At least drug dealers leave me the fuck alone.

FRIDAY

1. There is a rumor they have discovered the God particle at the LHC. Or it could be a piece of corn chip. Scientists can be such slobs.

2. The government lectures us on smoking, wearing seatbelts, wearing helmets, eating healthy, getting exercise, losing weight, not burning fossil fuels, etc. But they seem to never lecture us about financial literacy or responsibility. Hmmmm...

3. McCain opened his mouth today about the "heroes" in Libya. I now realize that Obama really was the lesser of two evils.

4. Paul Reiser has a new show on NBC? I must admit that I am truly underwhelmed by this news. I didn't think he could make anything that sucked as bad as Mad About You, but he has managed to top himself. Keep up the good work, Paul!



5. TIP FOR PAUL: Shave that melon.

6. Lindsay is back in jail. They should go ahead and put a name on her orange jumpsuit.

7. Obama says Bradley Manning broke the law. OK, I can go with that. Laws matter. Of course, they don't matter when walking all over the Constitution to start another fucking war. You can wipe your ass with those laws then.

"I run this motherfucker," Obama said.

8. There is one good thing I will say about Donald Trump. He makes Ron Paul look mainstream.

9. Obama celebrated Earth Day by tossing his copy of the Constitution in the recycling bin. There was a noticeable shit stain on it.

10. Fuck Obama.

The Class War



I hear lot of class warfare rhetoric these days. There are haves and have-nots. There are rich and poor. There are public sector workers and private sector workers. There are rich people who don't pay enough taxes and poor people who don't pay any taxes. It is one group versus another. This is what you expect when you have a government that is too bloated, redistributes income, and now contemplates deep spending cuts as the reality tsunami prepares to hit us. If you want to know what is in store for the USA, look no further than the riots in Greece and the UK.

I don't know what I should think about all of this. I am a working class guy. I pay a third of my income in income taxes and property taxes. As a single guy with no kids, I get zero deductions. I read about government bailouts of corporations, and it makes my blood boil. But this is politics. I want to explore a more fundamental element. What do I think of the rich?

I have to be honest with you. When I hear some rich guy whining about what he pays in taxes, I honestly don't give a shit. I'm not rich, and I pay taxes. I manage to live. I don't think it is right or good to have all these taxes. I think eating the rich is a stupid idea. But in practical terms and in an imaginary world where we had a flat tax or no tax, I feel no sympathy for the rich. There are people who work and struggle to feed their kids, and these fucks complain about the high price of BMWs. This is why the working class wants to devour the rich. It is because the rich are out of touch. They are a bunch of snobs who think they are better than the rest of us.



As a libertarian, I fight for rich people to keep what they earned. I also oppose giving them handouts through government subsidies and whatever tomfuckery the Fed pulls. I want to make it easier for them to be rich and to become rich through the free market. But their snobbery makes it hard for me to make that case.

I don't hang out with rich people. You're not going to see me at the country club with the cream of society. If you do, I'll be lugging golf bags or something for tips. But even if I was rich, I still wouldn't be there. I don't like those people. They are not my people.

My people are the blue collar people of America who work each day to earn their living. Are blue collar people better than those rich fucking snobs? Absolutely. There may be dirt under their fingernails. They are rough around the edges. But they do the dirty work that keeps the world going. There isn't a thing you do from operating a computer to driving a car to using a toilet that wasn't made possible by their hands.



Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged made the argument that the capitalists with their brains and imagination are the ones that bring the world into being. If they were to go on strike, the world would stop. This creative class of people are the Atlas upon whose shoulders our civilization rests. As much as I like that book, this notion simply isn't true. It gives too much credit to the creators and the thinkers and none to the workers. Just looking at all of the things in your life shows that the real Atlas of society are the working men and women who make it possible. Ideas are great on paper, but it takes labor to turn paper into reality. The Masters of the Universe quickly forget this fact. Let the workers of the world go on strike, and civilization wouldn't last a day.

Ayn Rand imagined the genius capitalists of the world escaping to Galt's Gulch where they live in their self-made prosperity to let the rest of the world slide into collectivist oblivion. This begs a question. Why don't Objectivists make Galt's Gulch a reality? Why don't they escape to some enclave in the wilderness and build Libertopia? This is because this fantasy is impossible. Every free market economist will tell you that prosperity comes not from single genius but from division of labor and comparative advantage. This is where Rand got it wrong. The moment Galt needed axle grease for one of his creations, he was going to have to get in to a pick up truck made by hands not belonging to him to go into town on a road he didn't pave to buy what he needed from the parts store that he did not build. The fact is that Galt's Gulch would be a hell of poverty if it was truly isolated. It would be the Stone Age.

We owe a great deal to the capitalists and the thinkers, but we owe equally as much to the workers who turn capital and ideas into reality. The problem with so many on the Right and among libertarian circles is that they give short shrift to these working class people. These people are neither appreciated for their work nor for their skills. They are unsung heroes. Yet, for all this disrespect, they take it all in stride. They show up for work each day. They wait the tables in the diners. They fix the engines on the trucks that haul the goods that end up in your home.

The future is grim for the thinkers. The reason brilliant minds achieve what they do is because of scalability and intellectual property. Scalability is what was achieved by the work of many hands producing copies of the original idea. Books required printers. Products required assemblers. Chain restaurants required cooks and servers. But the creative class is now little more than workers themselves.

Edison died a long time ago to be replaced by geeks who use their brains and turn over their work to some corporation. Programmers work for the likes of Apple, Google, Microsoft, and others. There are no Hank Reardens inventing great new metals. This is because Hank Rearden had his contract terminated when his creative work was done. This is what the pharmaceutical industry is now. Ideas are cheap and plentiful.

Creative work is there now. Musicians watch as people download their music without paying for it. They must now hit the road and perform as working musicians if they want to make a living. But the music is better. The same is happening in publishing. Newspapers have already felt the sting. Book publishers will be right behind them. The only reason creative people ever got rich is because of protectionism which is antithetical to the free market. Ayn Rand is rolling in her grave. The advocates of IP consider the internet the death of civilization and want it restricted. People should think about that. This shows that IP is not a boon to innovation but an enemy.

I feel that there is a seismic shift in the culture and our economy. If freedom is left to do its thing, I see creative types making on par with auto mechanics. This is because scalable work becomes cheap while nonscalable work becomes valuable. You can't outsource auto repair, but you can outsource knowledge work. You can't outsource farming or plumbing or electrical wiring. Houses are still built by hand. That work will cost more and become more valuable. Even accounting and legal work can be done with programs. Moving furniture can't.

This first wave of reality is hitting today's college grads as they graduate to unemployment and crushing student loan debt. Every one of them wanted to escape being a member of the working class--today's version of hell. The result is that they are now a member of the working class as they pour coffee at Starbucks. Others aspire to the bullshit jobs in management or government that produce nothing of real worth except PowerPoint presentations. This is the Parasite Class, and their days are numbered as well. They are the creation of economic bubbles, but those bubbles are popping with regularity now.

So, who are the rich now? That's easy. The rich are the banksters. Unlike entrepreneurs and real capitalists who put capital at risk, the banksters just move money around taking their fees. They get to gamble with other people's money and stick their losses to the taxpayers. Money is the ultimate scalable endeavor. Coupled with government power, it becomes a monster. We are supposed to love these fuckers for "creating" so much value. Yet, shouldn't they be blamed for destroying that same value?

The bottom line is that working class people get too little respect for the value they create while the rich get too much. I am OK with each class getting their due. I am not OK with one class getting what is not their due at the expense of the other. So far, this is exactly what is happening in our culture. At the bottom of the pile is the American worker. He is portrayed as being a simpleton and a fool, and he is. This is because he doesn't play the grand game of fucking people over that the rich and powerful play. The American worker is portrayed as a chump. Yet, it isn't so much because he is stupid. It is because he is honest. In a world of shitbags, honesty is a vice.

This is why working class people are better than the rich. Working class people don't go around fucking people over. Even when those working class people become rich through their hard work, they retain those values. The rich sad to say are nothing like Rand's heroes in her novels. They are shysters and crooks and often use Rand's writings to whitewash their dishonesty. Yet, their true worth is easy to estimate. What value do you create? How do you make the world a better place? I am still trying to fathom how Goldman Sachs does that.



From a personal perspective as a working class person, I can say that folks like me are generally happy and take it all with a grain of salt. I try to keep a sense of humor about it all. On Blue Collar Street, people might fall to their deaths. On Wall Street, they jump. The bulk of what the rich do is just fodder for our jokes and entertainment for the rest of us. Working class people are a cynical bunch, but they can laugh at the bullshit. Those riots you see in Greece and the UK are mostly students who have rich parents. Union members can be a loud bunch, but they represent a small minority of working people with numbers shrinking by the day. This is because most working people see the union as just another fuck over on the working man. The union is just another slice out of the paycheck.

For the most part, workers know their own value even if others don't see it. They see the rich and powerful as clowns. They experience that rare commodity known as happiness, and this is something that eludes the rich. That is the great mystery of it all. The rich inflate their importance, but they also inflate their miseries. This is why on Wall Street you are a failure if you only make $4 million. Working class people feel rich if they get some overtime. This stuff is relative. I just know I enjoy my days, and I sleep well at night.

Minimalism As Optimization



When I hear criticism of minimalism and minimalist living, one word keeps coming up again and again--BORING. Minimalism is boring. Hell, even I made this criticism. But I changed from that mindset. I saw minimalism as the answer to a lot of problems that I was having. Unfortunately, solutions tend to breed new problems, and minimalism does breed the problem of boredom.

The best illustration I have ever read about minimalism versus maximalism came from a minimalist blogger who I have repeatedly tried to find on Google but failed. His illustration had to do with alpine mountain climbing versus expedition mountain climbing. In the expedition style, you set up a base camp, bring in a lot of gear, hire a bunch of sherpas, bring supplemental oxygen, and lay siege to the mountain. This would be the maximalist approach.

In the alpine style, you take only essential gear. You rely on your fitness and knowledge more than your gear. You climb light, and you knock off the summit fast. This would be the minimalist approach.

Which way of climbing is best? That is hard to say. There are virtues to each approach as well as drawbacks. They accomplish the same end, but it seems to me that the alpine style is more optimized. It accomplishes the same end with fewer resources. This to me is the point of minimalism.

The purpose of life is to be happy which I define as flourishing. This is a life of meaningful and purposeful activity. This is a life of flow. Like climbing a mountain, you can take a maximalist or a minimalist approach to accomplishing the goal. Both achieve the same end, but I see the minimalist way as the more optimized approach.

The maximalist makes big plans. In order to achieve these big plans, the maximalist requires time, money, and energy. So, the maximalist puts together vast schedules and lists and whatnot. The maximalist needs lots of money to do stuff. The answer is to make more money. The maximalist buys thing from McMansions to cars to whatnot. The result is that the maximalist is never bored. He or she may be stressed out and frustrated but never bored. Pretty soon, life is consumed for the sake of the resources and not the other way around.

The minimalist rejects the big plans. The minimalist discovers that it is easier to use fewer resources than to use more. The minimalist pares down to the essentials. He or she achieves more with less. The result is less frustration. The downside is the boredom. I have mentioned this in previous posts as the syndrome of Post-Minimalist Emptiness. Its cause should be obvious.

Like with mountain climbing, the goal is to reach the summit. Similarly, in life, the goal is to achieve happiness. Happiness is the summit. The reason minimalists experience the boredom is because they take their eyes off this summit. Minimalism becomes the end instead of the means. Simplifying does not create happiness. It merely optimizes the pursuit of happiness.

The dilemma is easily resolved by deciding what makes you happy and then optimizing towards that goal. For me, my leisure time is composed of two main things. I read, and I write. So, I spend money on books and the internet. I do not play golf, so I do not buy golf clubs. But if I did, I would own some golf clubs. The problem is that people end up owning golf clubs, fishing rods, bowling balls, and on and on. This is because they dabble in various things trying to find something to do and accumulate clutter in the process. It is like collecting various items of equipment in the base camp but never climbing the mountain. By deciding what it is that you do and what you don't do, you focus your resources on those items that you need. You optimize.

People become maximalists because they lack focus. They think some additional project will enhance their lives. Then, it just becomes some additional product. Before long, they are working to pay for shit they don't need but still want. This would explain all those Jet Skis collecting dust. The minimalist decides to reduce, so reduction becomes the focus until there is virtually nothing left but boredom. We know why minimalists face boredom. But why are maximalists not bored?

Maximalists are not bored because they are always working. To acquire and maintain all that shit, they have to bust their asses all the time to pay for it, maintain it, and what have you. The things themselves don't bring happiness. It is all that work that brings happiness. If they just kept doing the work but decided not to buy all that shit, they wouldn't have all that frustration, stress, and anxiety. They would just have a shitload of money in the bank.

The opposite of happiness is boredom, and the best cure for boredom is activity. The best activity is work because it is self-sustaining. Minimalists end up bored because many of them are converted maximalists who wanted less stress, less clutter, and greater financial security. There is no end to maximalism, but there is an end to minimalism. Minimalism is a problem solved. The problem for the minimalist is to find a reason to work more that isn't material. That reason is happiness.

I strive to fill each waking moment of my day with meaningful activity. I used to believe that you needed a lot of stuff to do this, but you don't. There is no end to work, so I just work. My day is basically divided between working, doing my chores and errands, reading, and writing. I don't care about travel, vacations, hobbies, riding motorcycles, riding horses, restoring old cars, or any of that. I have done things like that in the past, but the pleasure of these things is short lived as a consequence of the hedonic treadmill. For instance, I have been whitewater rafting three times in my life. I have no interest in doing it anymore. It was momentary fun. The same is true of riding horses or motorcycles. I've done that shit, and it is boring.

Reading good books and writing still appeal to me. I've been doing those things my entire life, and they still do the trick for me. I do those two things so much that they start to affect the rest of my life in a negative way. I suppose you can call this "addiction." I would feel that my life was diminished if I was deprived of this world of words. But I can go the rest of my life without ever having learned to surf.

The biggest issue I have with this is telling other people what I like to do. If you tell people your weekend involved skydiving, hunting for moose, surfing, and partying down at a bar with live music, they look at you with approval. They don't look with the same approval if you tell them you caught up your laundry, wrote three blog posts, and got some work done even if doing those things was actually more satisfying to you than jumping out of a perfectly good airplane. I suspect that most of what we do (and buy) is for the sake of convincing others that we are living the good life.

The minimalist lifestyle will appear outwardly boring to everyone else. But if you live it right, it will be immensely rewarding to you. You are the only person that counts when it comes to happiness. Forget about impressing others and go with what you love. It may be skydiving or stamp collecting or just workaholism. But optimize that life for the sake of this happiness. That is the point of minimalism. This is why less is more.

WEDNESDAY

1. Word on the Net is that Obama referred to Americans as "slugs" on a hot mic recording that CBS refuses to release. What a cocksucker.

2. Manning makes it to Leavenworth. No word if he will have internet access.

3. With all this government bullshit, who gives a fuck about a goddamn birth certificate?!

4. I was not born. I was hatched.

5. On 4/20, there is a massive shortage of Dorito's.

6. I suspect all that foreign intervention in Libya might--MIGHT--be just about oil.

7. Lady Gaga relents and allows the Weird Al Yankovic treatment. I doubt it will affect fans in a negative way considering the chick wore an outfit made out of meat.

HEROES-Ed Whitlock



As you get older, it gets easier to throw in the towel. You decide that you just can't do shit anymore, so you resign yourself to geezerdom and quit trying. You accept that the best part of your life is behind you, and you coast on down the hill. If this seems sad and pathetic, I agree. As a person entering his forties, I have been looking to people much older than me for vision and inspiration. These are people who are still kicking it strong and doing amazing shit in their fifties, sixties, seventies, and beyond. No one typifies this robust aging better than now 80+ Ed Whitlock.

Ed Whitlock is a marathoner. He has a sub-3 marathon to his credit. This is not that big of a deal until you realize he is the only person over age 70 to accomplish the feat. When you consider that people half his age don't even have the stones to complete a marathon much less go sub-3, it is an impressive feat. Whitlock did it by logging 100 mile weeks in training. His time rivaled that of Lance Armstrong when he ran his marathon.

Not everything is peaches and cream for Ed. He struggles with arthritic knees. He is an old guy. But you get the impression that he is doing a bit of humility whining. Upon turning 80, Ed completed the Rotterdam Marathon in a now world record time of 3:25:40 shaving 15 minutes off the old world record for that age group. He gets slower as he gets older, but he is still as competitive as ever even if most of the competition is now dead.

Ed ran in school, but he did not return to running in a serious way until he was 40 years old after a fifteen year absence. The guy made his living essentially pushing paper as an engineer in Canada. Running was something he started doing even before the first running boom. He was already middle aged when he decided to become awesome. He did not really catch the world's attention until his sixties when he started setting records for his age group. Then, he went sub-3 for a 70-year-old.

Whitlock is much respected in the world of running. Younger Kenyans flock to him amazed at his achievements. Most people would be glad to still be walking unaided at Whitlock's age. The guy shows what robust aging should be.

TUESDAY

1. They are moving Bradley Manning to Leavenworth. This is an "upgrade." No word if he gets to wear clothing again.

2. Donald Trump wants Obama's birth certificate. Obama wants to see the Trump haystack in a strong wind.

3. McDonald's is hiring, and people want jobs. A sad commentary on Obamanomics.

4. Obama blames speculators for high gas prices. Nevermind that tomfuckery in Libya.

5. Obama jokes that he is rethinking tax breaks for the rich after filing his 2010 tax returns. For some reason, everyone forgot to laugh.

6. NEWSFLASH FOR THE U-FANS: JFK asked for UFO files 10 days before he was assassinated. Not sure how the U-man will weave this new info into his Marilyn Monroe was murdered by Jack and Bobby conspiracy theories, and the assassination was a mob hit. Or maybe it was the military-industrial complex that did it. Or maybe Castro. . .

Anatomy of a Narcissist



Narcissus or Narkissos (Greek: Νάρκισσος), possibly derived from ναρκη (narke) meaning "sleep, numbness," in Greek mythology was a hunter from the territory of Thespiae in Boeotia who was renowned for his beauty. He was exceptionally proud, in that he disdained those who loved him. Nemesis saw this and attracted Narcisus to a pool where he saw his own reflection in the waters and fell in love with it, not realizing it was merely an image. Unable to leave the beauty of his reflection, Narcissus died.
WIKIPEDIA

Freud coined the term "narcissist" from this Greek myth of Narcissus to describe people with an excessive love of self. It is a popular term as my essay called "Altruism, Narcissism, and Egoism" has been a minor hit here at the C-blog for some time. People are keenly interested in the subject, but I don't think the people reading the essay or entering "narcissism" in the Google search book are narcissists. I suspect they are people who encounter or live with narcissists.

Wikipedia has a "basic ingredients" list for narcissists:


Positive: Narcissists think they are better than others.

Inflated: Narcissists' views tend to be contrary to reality. In measures that compare self-report to objective measures, narcissists' self-views tend to be greatly exaggerated.

Agentic: Narcissists’ views tend to be most exaggerated in the agentic domain, relative to the communion domain.

Special: Narcissists perceive themselves to be unique and special people.

Selfish: Research upon narcissists’ behaviour in resource dilemmas supports the case for narcissists as being selfish.

Oriented toward success: Narcissists are oriented towards success by being, for example, approach oriented.


I know people like this. You do, too. Here is a picture of one of these people:



When I read the basic ingredients list, Tim Ferriss immediately popped into my head. He has all these basic ingredients. I was watching a vid with him, Leo Babauta, and some others, and I was just amazed at how much of a dickhead he was. Leo was cool and humble while Tim had to drop that he drinks Turkish coffee he got from Istanbul and on and on and on. You can see the vid here.

I didn't intend for this post to be a Tim Ferriss bash, but he is the one narcissist that I know about that others know about. The other narcissists I know are people I encounter in my day-to-day life, but they act very similarly to Ferriss. The most overwhelming aspect that I notice about them is their capacity for self-delusion. As the list says, "narcissists' views tend to be contrary to reality." For Ferriss, this self-delusion is already documented. The guy clearly embellishes his resume and accomplishments and deals in things that are borderline fraudulent such as running a dietary supplement company or writing a health book that is quackery.




Ayn Rand is another one who exhibited narcissistic traits. She would have never considered herself a narcissist, but she did exhibit a high degree of self-delusional behavior. The most glaring example was to rewrite her biography as if she was like one of her godlike characters such as Howard Roark or John Galt. The reality is that her philosophy is a combination of Aristotle and Nietzsche combined with her absolute hatred of Marxism. Rand acted as if she was born with this worldview, but the reality is that she came to it over time. Randroids perpetuate these myths by virtually deifying the woman.

The one trait I see that is consistent in every narcissist I know is that capacity for self-delusion. These people are full of shit. They may or may not be successful in an objective sense, but their accomplishments are always embellished regardless of the reality. In addition, they have a low tolerance for criticism. Narcissists have fragile egos, and they do not like being challenged. Ayn Rand most famously demonstrated this by purging those she disagreed with from her Collective.

I wonder to myself if I am a narcissist or have any of those traits. I ask other people for their honest opinions on this, and they tell me that I am an anti-narcissist. I have a ridiculously low self-esteem. They always tell me that I need to stop hating myself. But they also say I am selfish mainly because I don't buy into the altruism thing. I can only say that I feel neither inferior nor superior to others. I don't use others, and I don't let others use me. But I can be brutally honest with both myself and others. I take a certain glee in humbling narcissistic dickheads.

I don't hate myself. I just try to keep an honest view of who I really am both good and bad. I surround myself with people who do not hesitate to tell me what they think. If my ego ever gets out of check, there are people in my life who put it back into check. Why does this matter? It matters to me because I am someone who has been deluded in the past both about myself and about things I believe. I gloss over praise and go straight to the criticism. At first, this practice stung, but I hardly feel the stings now. This produces a weird sort of pride in me, but I think it is a pride based in reality. I like the fact that I am strong enough to take such withering criticism or poke fun at myself or watch people wince as I am so brutally honest about myself. I am very much into self-deprecating humor and the admission of failure.

I don't want to live in a deluded state of mind, and I find that the number one reason people fool themselves is because they want to make themselves feel better. They want to like who they are, so they imagine themselves better than they actually are. They lie about themselves. They refuse to admit to mistakes or errors. They cannot be questioned on anything. In an epistemological sense, this is dangerous. This is why scientists have peer review.

Some people may defend narcissism because it motivates these people to be high achievers. But I don't see it that way. I have seen narcissists who were both very successful and total failures. I have also seen humble people who were both very successful and total failures. What I do know is that humble people are liked by others more intensely. Not being a dickhead does wonders for your popularity.

This leaves me with the last issue. What do you do with the narcissists in your life? For me, the answer is obvious. Get rid of them. The one thing I've learned about narcissists is that they are boorish as fuck. You get tired of hearing them lie about themselves. You can't take any joy in anything they say because in the back of your mind you are asking yourself if this is true or just more bullshit. If you question them on the bullshit, they flip the fuck out. But they don't hesitate to denigrate the fuck out of you because this feeds their egos. In short, dickheads don't make good friends. You can afford to lose them.

[SOC]

I have so many things going through my head at the moment that it is hard to pick on any one thing to write about. I just got back from eatin seafood with my girlfriend at Captain D's. I eat a lot of fish these days. I like salmon, sushi, tilapia, mussels, shrimp, and crab. None of it is fried. When it comes to protein, the ocean is tough to beat.

I also eat a lot poultry. Chicken and turkey are good. I don't eat this fried either except I will eat fried turkey on Thanksgiving. Fried turkey is damn tasty. I highly recommend it.

I do not eat four legged animals, mammals, etc. This isn't an animal rights thing so much as the fact that fish and poultry are lean meat. Pork and beef tend to be fatty. You can get lean ham and roast beef, but I just stick with the poultry and fish.

I also like fruits and vegetables. I eat lots of vegetables with dinner, and fruit is always for dessert. I also like getting veggie pizza or just green peppers and black olives on the pizza. Mushrooms are good, too.

I don't like candy or sweets. I do eat carbs, but this is usually breakfast cereal and whole wheat bread. I like rice and pasta. I don't drink sugary sodas or tea, but I do drink the hell out of Diet Coke, Diet Dr. Pepper, Diet Mountain Dew, and assorted knock off drinks from Walmart. I sweeten with either local honey or Splenda.

Some changes I have made recently include drinking hot tea usually with honey in the afternoons. I gave up iced tea a long time ago which is unusual for a Southern man like myself. People put too much sugar in it. I might try it unsweetened and see if I get used to it. If I do, I might kick my soda habit. Something to think about.

The best diet advice I ever got was from triathlete Mark Allen who counseled people to go to the grocery store every day. He pointed out that this is required to eat fresh foods and vegetables. Plus, most people eat out too damn much. Going to the grocery store takes about as much time as waiting in line at McDonald's. This habit of daily grocery shopping breaks the habit of eating from fast food places, convenience stores, and vending machines.

Quotable Quotes--Mark Twain Edition (part 2)



The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.

Don't say the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream.

It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.

There are lies, damned lies and statistics.

Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.

In the first place, God made idiots. That was for practice. Then he made school boards.

I've never let my school interfere with my education.

Drag your thoughts away from your troubles... by the ears, by the heels, or any other way you can manage it.

Education consists mainly of what we have unlearned.

Everything has its limit - iron ore cannot be educated into gold.

Everything human is pathetic. The secret source of humor itself is not joy but sorrow. There is no humor in heaven.

Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable.

Familiarity breeds contempt - and children.

Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.

Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn't.

Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.

George Washington, as a boy, was ignorant of the commonest accomplishments of youth. He could not even lie.

Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.

Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I've done it thousands of times.

Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company.

Golf is a good walk spoiled.

Good breeding consists in concealing how much we think of ourselves and how little we think of the other person.

Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.

Grief can take care if itself, but to get the full value of a joy you must have somebody to divide it with.

He is now rising from affluence to poverty.

Honesty is the best policy - when there is money in it.

[U.] Bohemian Grove

what do you think of world leaders buggering each other in the ASS?! sick ain't it? this is what happens at BOHEMIAN GROVE. plus they worship the DEVIL. alex jones drops the TRUTH!!!



Random Thoughts on Various Subjects



1. ATLAS SHRUGGED, PART 1

I had planned to go see this flick last night with my girlfriend. I expected bad reviews from the likes of Roger Ebert and other leftard types, but I had to rethink completely when libertarians like Kurt Loder also panned the movie. I decided to wait for the DVD and save my cash.

The problem with the movie is the source material. I think the greatest libertarian work of fiction is 1984 even though Orwell was not a libertarian. I think V for Vendetta is better. Atlas and Ayn Rand always took themselves too seriously. This is why her characters are wooden, the dialogue overdone into speeches on philosophy, and the plots more soap opera than cinema.

Good art is in the eye of the beholder, so I think there will be those who love the film and those who hate it. I read the novel, and I liked the ideas in the book. I enjoyed reading it, but I didn't get the same satisfaction as I did when I read 1984 or The Count of Monte Cristo.

This novel should have been turned into a miniseries for TV, and they should have hijacked the project and changed it into something better. If Ayn Rand had possessed a sense of humor, this novel would work well as devastating satire on our modern age. But she lacked this sense of humor. Ayn wanted to be taken seriously which is why the novel fails as literature.

I am a writer, so I know that not everything turns out great. When I write something, I feel like I am rolling the dice. Sometimes, I win. Other times, I want to scrape my chips back into my pocket and go home.

I will wait and see what the box office does on this one. If it makes money, I will shut my mouth.

2. THE BUDGET AND TAXES

Boehner is a sell out. No surprise there. The Democrats want zero cuts. No surprise there either. Obama is calling for raising taxes on the wealthy. This does not shock me. The only true believers are the tea party Republicans in the House, but they are outnumbered.

In order for things to change for the better, they must first get as bad as they can possibly can. No meaningful cuts will ever be made until the USA goes into default on its debts. In the interim, you are going to see inflation and higher taxes. Eventually, the whole thing will collapse as it is happening in Europe. We need this collapse. People rarely learn from reason. They need the leather strap of hardship and experience across their asses to ever get the message. This nation is going to get that lesson, and it is going to sting like a bitch.

3. THE DONALD

I think I would vote for Donald Duck before I voted for Donald Trump.

4. THE CIVIL WAR

There are two myths about the Civil War. The first myth is that the South fought for states' rights. The reality is that Southerners fought to preserve slavery. The second myth is that the North fought to end slavery. This is not true. The North didn't care for the most part. The North fought to end states' rights and succeeded.

I have no problem with demonizing the South in that conflict because much of it is deserved. I do have a problem with elevating the North into some kind of moral champion or turning Lincoln into a saint. These guys were as racist as Southerners and seemed largely intent on keeping their tax slaves in chains. History is written by the winners, so the North gets to say how great they were. But it isn't true. The aftermath of the war shows this as Northerners exhibited as much racism as the Southerners. Today, racism is more rampant in northern and western cities with cops going after blacks in a way that is virtually Jim Crowesque. This is why blacks are coming back to the South. Things are better here. Southerners feel guilt while the rest of the country doesn't.

I can only speak for myself, but I find more in common with black people than I do with whites from the North. The most irritating people I find here in SC are Massholes and Connecticut Yankees who I wish would go back North. This is because Yankees are overbearing people who feel they have a moral right to set everyone straight. This is usually done through zoning regulations. Between the union lovers and the big government busybodies, Yankees are annoying as fuck. It feels good to punch one in the face.

5. BARRY BONDS

I think Barry Bonds is an asshole. I think he used steroids. I do not think he should go to jail. The government needs to stay out of sports. As for sports, I don't see them winning their war on PEDs.

Living in the Future

Imagine a kid starting kindergarten. He is told on day one that his overall goal is to graduate high school in 13 years. This is the GOAL. Then, for the next 13 years, he suffers to attain the goal. Finally, he walks across the aisle and receives his diploma. He can finally be happy. 13 years of misery for those few seconds of satisfaction.

If this tale seems ridiculous, I agree with you. That's the point. No kid ever thinks like this. Kids are smarter than that. They just go to school. This idiocy is reserved for that much greater group of fools--GROWN UPS.

Grown ups are designated by their goals. Grown ups have direction. Grown ups have responsibilities. Show me a grown up who doesn't have goals and directions, and I will show you a person who lacks maturity. Goddammit, happiness must always be in the future. The present is not to be enjoyed. The future is what matters. You've got to plan, save for retirement, build your nest egg, blah blah fucking blah. You know the speech. You've been hearing it in some form or another since you were in high school.

All of this nonsense is the fallacy of living in the future. Happiness and the good life are always over the horizon. Happiness is something achieved as an endpoint. It is never found in the process. It is found only in the completion. The result of all this forward thinking is that life in the present is endless misery. Everything is judged in relation to those future goals. The irony is that even when you achieve those goals you wonder what the big deal was.

I'm not big on goals. I like having a direction, but I'm more about the process than the completion. The endpoint is just that brief pause for me as I load up for another project. Like that kid in kindergarten, I know that my job is to go to school every day. I can get psyched about graduation, but that is not going to carry me for the next 13 years. No matter how you slice it, life is always lived in the present. The present is all that exists. You can prepare for the future, but you can't actually live there.

On my job, I'm given a list of tasks to complete each day. Some days that list can be very daunting. But I learned the answer a long time ago. The way to eat an elephant is to take one bite at a time. This is how I approach my work. All work is done in the same manner. You methodically go step-by-step. My antidote to worry is to work as hard and as fast as I can. This never deviates. If I fail, I look back and see that I did my best. The rest is what it is. Most of the time, I am surprised by the results.

I take this approach to the whole of my life. I don't dwell a lot on goals. I immerse myself in the process. I find that the things I accomplish in my life come not from force of will but by force of habit. I am what I repeatedly do for good or ill. I focus on the present and the future takes care of itself. The result is the same level of achievement but with more flow and less stress.

This idea comes from the Cyrenaics. I am very critical of this group of thinkers, but I've learned to see the good in their thinking as well. The Cyrenaics gave no thought to the future. I think some thought to the future is wise, but it should not be overwhelming. This is because life is what happens while you are making other plans. Live in the moment. Seize the day.

If all of this seems free spirited, it isn't. I believe in making a decision once, and then forgetting about it. For instance, if you decide to become a physician, you go enroll in college, take premed, take your MCAT, go to med school, etc. This will take years and mean enduring hard work, poverty, and what have you. The real goal isn't becoming a doctor. The real goal is learning to like school, work, and not minding as your peers start careers earlier than you.

The focus on goals is a New Thought myth. It is the belief that goals are achieved through will power. Will power takes motivation. Motivation requires thought. Thought requires dreams. These dreams lead to goal making, daydreaming, and a bankruptcy of the present. This focus drains the present of all the joy and sets up unrealistic expectations about the future. When that future comes, it never matches the fantasy. You realize too late that life is what happens while you are making other plans.

When you live in the present and experience flow, you find motivation in the activity, and it is the activity and not your will power that makes things happen. Most of the time, you should just work and see what happens. This is the philosophy I apply to this blog here. I just write, and I wait to see what happens. I have written things that I thought were going to cause a big splash. Those were quickly forgotten. Other things I wrote with hardly much thought at all, and they became a big deal to a lot of readers. But if my goal was to be Mr. Top Blogger, I would have abandoned this project a long time ago. I just write and enjoy the work, and if other people like it, that's cool with me. At the end of the day, I can't make people like my work, and I don't know what they like. I only know what I like, and I serve that interest.

THURSDAY

LINK

You can have sunk cost in physical items, investments, relationships, jobs, and pretty much any area of life.

The key is in realizing that what you’ve put in is gone. You can’t get it back. The only question left is, “is it worth chasing that initial investment with more time, money, and energy in the future?”


Minimalism & Sunk Costs

The Puritans and Leisure



As C-blog readers know, I have been contemplating and struggling with trying to reconcile a life of simplicity with a life of robustness. We live in a time of material abundance, but minimalism is now the antidote to the problems created by that abundance. Minimalism is about deliberate use and abstention from certain material things. It is not new since this is a problem the Puritans and other colonial Protestant groups dealt with. We can see some of this clash today with the Amish and their disdain for much technology. I am probably the only blogger that makes this connection between minimalists and these religious groups. I mine their heritage to find clues for how to live today though in a decidedly much secular way.

The idea that we should live in a deliberate manner as opposed to a haphazard manner may seem bizarre and restrictive. But religious types aren't the only ones who do this. Secular folks do things like become vegetarians or adopt running, cycling, weight lifting, and other things into their lifestyles. We have people who drink, and people who don't drink. These choices may make sense or be extremely stupid. But the question comes down to this. Is it better to live deliberately or to live chaotically? Obviously, living deliberately is the choice of most as it appears that everyone wants to live in a better way. Even diehard smokers consider cutting back on their habit.

Deciding how to live is a personal matter, and I am not inclined to force my lifestyle choices on other people. But I do criticize certain ways of living but less from judgment than from prudence. I think certain ways of living are dumb because people have expectations that can't be met by those ways of living. For instance, you can't be financially secure and also spend money in a lavish way. You can't sit on your ass all day and also be in shape. You can't smoke crack all day and also have a flourishing life.

I think the Puritans had some good ideas on the subject of work. The subject of play is another matter. Ambivalence is one word that can be used. Hostility could be another. Either way you cut it, having a good time was not high on the list of Puritan priorities. However, the Puritans did concede that leisure had some worth as a means of restoration, health, and intellectual development. If the leisure activity did not meet these requirements, it was considered frivolous and to be avoided. The result was that the Puritans condoned reading, spiritual practices, and socializing but frowned on gambling, sports that people gambled on, dancing, drinking, and other revelry. Needless to say, they were not always successful in suppressing these things.

Leisure and how it is used is a matter that causes a bit of conflict for many minimalists especially in regard to the internet. We have Leo Babauta stressing focus. Other minimalists complain of distractions. Then, there is the fact that many office workers rip off their employers all day long by secretly surfing the internet instead of working. All of these things deal with the fact that people like to goof off. The problem is that people then have a difficult time deciding what is productive work and what is goofing off. For instance, playing a game is considered wasteful but designing a game is not considered wasteful. These things are relative.

The problem with distinguishing between productive uses of leisure time and frivolous uses of leisure time is having criteria for making the judgment. By reading about the Puritans, I have been able to steal a threefold set of criteria for deciding if what you are doing with your leisure time is worthwhile or just a waste. These criteria are rest, physical development, and mental development.

REST

The most elemental part of leisure is taking a break. The body needs rest, so it is OK to sit down for a spell. It is definitely good to get adequate sleep. The body needs these things, and very few people sleep too much. If anything, people sleep too little which is why they drink coffee or do other stimulants (usually illegal) to maintain consciousness. Without a doubt, whether you are a crass hedonist or a eudaimonist, being awake is preferable to being asleep since sleep is akin to a temporary death. But going without sleep for extended periods proves to be counterproductive, so taking a nap is fine in my book. I take naps when I feel especially tired, but overall, I don't sleep that much. I get four to five hours each night and not much more. Naps are strategic recharges, but I don't get anywhere close to eight hours of sleep each night/day.

PHYSICAL DEVELOPMENT

Getting exercise is also an important part of leisure. Going to the gym or running a few miles is good for the body. Unfortunately, most people including me tend to neglect this aspect of leisure. I think the reason we do this is because we turn exercise into another chore. People can't walk the block anymore. They have to be in training for a marathon. People can't do daily calisthenics. They have to be pumping iron as if they are Schwarzenegger. When it becomes this serious, it becomes daunting. The result is that people hit the couch. Yet, they could easily get in some crunches and push ups in front of the tube while watching TV shows. But because this exercise isn't a "real" workout, people don't do it at all. They aspire to become gym rats and end up being guilty couch potatoes. This is how those fitness centers make all that money for charging people to not come in and work out. It makes about as much sense as renting a house you never live in.

MENTAL DEVELOPMENT

The final aspect of leisure is mental development. This is mostly reading books though it can also involve certain vocational activities such as making pottery, woodworking, and what have you. I am a big believer in lifelong learning, so I think the internet, books, watching Discovery channel, and other media consumption is beneficial in developing your mind. Games can also help in mental development. Chess, puzzles, and strategy games also develop the mind.

This threefold list of criteria fits well within Aristotle's philosophy about flourishing. There is a lot of room for doing things with your leisure time that benefit you. But the point of these criteria is to show you what is a waste of your leisure time. For instance, I noticed some years ago that I no longer enjoyed drinking alcoholic beverages or hanging out with my drinking buddies. I turned to being sober 24/7 and have not regretted that move at all. I also don't regret not having the 24 hour party people in my life. The Puritans would smile on this.

Another thing I have noticed is my growing disdain for the weekend warriors. I seem fine with someone running a marathon on a Saturday morning, but for some reason, I think golf is just a complete waste of life. This is because the physical benefit from the activity is negligible. The same can be applied to hunting and fishing, riding motorcycles, etc. But I tend to look favorably on mountain biking, rock climbing, and other pursuits that involve a great deal of physical exertion. This is because those activities improve you physically while playing golf or riding your Harley is just a frivolous waste and often just a prelude to drinking.

In the realm of media consumption and games, I notice that I don't care for watching sports anymore. I also don't like stupid games especially that Farmville game on Facebook. When I do play games, it tends to be Scrabble or other brainy pastimes. I don't like card games because they are not intellectually stimulating but are just games of chance. The same is true of video games. I can play chess online and find intellectual stimulus. I don't get the same from playing some first person shooter game. In reading, I tend towards non-fiction and cerebral fiction.

I try not to be puritanical in these choices since those old school cats could be ridiculous at times. I see music, socializing, and art as being neutral. They add seasoning to the dish of life. But other activities are the junk food of life. Living deliberately requires that we keep the good and eliminate the bad. I think any activity that does not contribute to rest, physical fitness, or intellectual development should be eschewed in favor of those activities that do contribute to these things. This would be learning to play chess instead of poker. This would be taking a nap to relax instead of smoking a bunch of dope to feel relaxed. This would be playing a basketball game instead of watching a basketball game.

I can't decide what is beneficial for each person. I think watching episodes of Dexter contribute to moral understanding which is part of intellectual development. I don't think watching UFC accomplishes the same objective. Of course, this begs the question. Can't we do things purely for fun? The answer is no.

Doing things purely for pleasure is hedonism, and as I have pointed out, hedonism is not happiness. If it was, crack smokers are happy. This doesn't mean that a flourishing life is a life without pleasure. There is great pleasure in flow, and I would argue that there is greater pleasure in that way of living as opposed to either crass hedonism or refined hedonism. When I have indulged in watching sports, playing cards, and other similar fare, I am always left bored and disappointed. This is the reason why I don't take vacations. I can't think of anything that would eat a week of my life that would be as rewarding or as satisfying to me as being at work.

The Puritans were sensitive to the religious nature of their activities, but as an atheist, I don't have these hang ups. But I am sensitive to engaging in activities that are optimized for my flourishing. I like work because these decisions are made for me. I am always doing something worthwhile at work. Free time becomes a burden to me because I have to choose. I usually choose poorly which leads to regret, frustration, etc. I don't think I am alone in this regard. But I think my threefold list of criteria answers this dilemma. If the activity does not contribute to your physical or mental well being, you shouldn't do it.

---
NOTES

Sober Mirth and Pleasant Poisons: Puritan Ambivalence Toward Leisure and Recreation in Colonial New England

[SOC]

I don't feel like writing this. It is really early on a Tuesday morning. In two hours, I will be going to work. I just did some laundry. Been awake since 1:30 am. I can only sleep about 4 hours.

I have been battling a cold with Dayquil and hot tea with honey for the past week. I feel drained.

I haven't hit the java yet. I wonder if writing these SOC posts is worth it.

I am still considering the issue of post-minimalist emptiness or the PME as I call it now. Here's the deal. I have always seen the biggest flaw in Epicureanism as being a tendency to stagnation and boredom. Minimalism is the modern lifestyle that most approximates Epicureanism. But obviously, Epicurus must have faced this issue himself. He must have had an answer.

I see Aristotle as being the way. Again and again, I come back to that guy. I think we find happiness not in simple things but in the robust pursuit of projects. Minimalism solves problems and ends many frustrations but leaves us bored. This boredom is the PME.

We are happiest and at our best while striving for some goal. Our goals should challenge us. Devoid of these goals, our lives stagnate. You can call this stagnation "tranquility," but it sucks. What we desire is flow. Flow is everything. Without flow, we die. We become cows eating grass.

The goal of my present thinking is to take advantage of the virtues of simplicity and combine them with a life of flow. For example, the practitioners of simplicity are best represented by Zen Buddhists. Much of what they seek seems identical to what Epicurus was about. The practitioners of Aristotle's eudaimonistic philosophy would be the Renaissance people like Leonardo or a guy like Bernini. The synthesis of the two would be a group like the Puritans.

The Puritans had certain features. They were simple and modest. They worked hard. But they were voracious readers and very worldly as compared to their Catholic counterparts. Of course, they were religious which complicates things. But they eschewed hedonism in the conventional sense. If Puritans lived today, they would condemn the party people and the weekend warriors and the endless consumption. But they would be big fans of the internet. Of course, the bulk of their reading was and would be religious in nature. Other than that, they show us good habits to practice and develop.

I've been putting together three lists, and I designate them with letters. The first list is the N list. These are things that I negate completely from my life. This would be things like partying, being a weekend warrior, and the like. This is also known as my "Not To Do" list.

The M list are things I minimize. These are things like clutter, material possessions, etc.

The D list are things I maximize (or need to maximize.) This would be things like work, fitness, and academic pursuits. Basically, it means work, working out, and reading as much as possible.

The problem with minimalism as practiced by so many is that it is a one-size-fits-all approach. Minimalism works great for finances. But then, when you decide to chunk your library because all those books are "clutter," you end up making a huge mistake. Puritans were big book lovers. They consumed a lot of media but not to the detriment of their work.

As an atheist, I substitute spiritual practices with secular practices. Instead of praying, I write. Instead of reading the Bible, I read philosophy, science, and history.

The goal is to have both a simple life but a fulfilling life as well. I think the overall ethos that should guide our decisions is whether or not the activity makes me a better person in the eudaimonistic or "flourishing" sense. Despite their errors, the Puritans were a flourishing group of people. I think they pulled off that balance between simplicity and fullness.

I will continue to explore and experiment with this stuff. My goal is to become a secular Puritan. Time for coffee now.