Buying Happiness

“So if money can’t buy happiness, I guess I’ll have to rent it” – Weird AL

The phrase “money can’t buy happiness” is a phrase I like, but I don’t think it’s technically correct. Of course money can buy happiness, the problem is the happiness is often short lived. We’ve been programmed by advertising that all our problems will be solved by buying this next new thing, when the truth is we probably don’t need it and any happiness we get from buying it will quickly fade. 

The question is, if you want to buy some happiness then what’s the best way about it. Studies have shown that the way to getting the most out of your dollar is paying for experiences rather than things. 
This all came to my mind because I went to see Iron Man 3 last night. Usually I like to go to movies alone early in the day so I get matinee prices, but I have to say that an event like the opening day of Iron Man is an experience that’s worth the money. Just the buzz in the theater before the movie starts is practically worth the price of admission. I also got to see it with two friends and we’d both seen the last Iron Man movie together, so time was spent reminiscing about the good old days.

The thing about experiences is they have a way of growing on us with age. Even bad experiences can lead to happiness in the long run because they often provide us with good stories and can bond us together with the people we’re with.
So if you want happiness to last I’d say you should look for something to do, rather than something to simply buy. It honestly seemed a little backwards to my analytical mind, after all experiences end while the stuff we buy sticks around, but looking back over my life I don’t even remember any of the stuff I opted not to buy in exchange for the memories I cherish.

Of course the headline is a bit of a head fake, you don’t have to spend any money to have an experience, though it doesn’t hurt. So instead of looking at amazon try looking for local webpages that list events going on around you.
Now if you don’t mind I’m off to rest up for tomorrow and dream of my next adventure. I’d suggest you do the same!

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Writing to Redemption

I’ve mentioned previously that I’m working on my memoir right now. I’m doing it because I want to and I like the idea of being an artist. I’m not taking it all that seriously so right now it might as well be a glorified journal, which works fine for me. You might be better off journaling, but I find that I can’t stick to writing that no one will ever read. I don’t know if anyone will ever read these blog posts, but at least people can if they want to and they might get something out of it.
As I’m writing I feel like it’s effecting me in ways I never would have guessed. One benefit of a memoir over a journal is that writing your life story makes you sift back through your whole life, not necessarily just dwelling on the present. This is providing me with some interesting perspective. It’s also forcing me to confront some rather painful memories. I think a lot of people, myself included, can be haunted by our pasts but we refuse to aknowledge it. When the bad memories pop up we slam them down and put a lid on them, shoving them out of sight but not really out of mind. We may get these traumas out of the forefront of our thoughts, but I think they can be just as dangerous simmering in the background, casting a shadow over everything we do.

I’m right now confronting some of the things I’ve felt guilty for most of my life. I’m beginning to think that this guilt might have fed into my self-destructive tendencies. If I believe I’m guilty and need to be punished I might subconsciously punish myself or interpret anything done to me as a just punishment for my misdeeds.
You might have things in your past that you’ve never forgiven yourself for. By now I’ve forgiven pretty much everyone who has ever done me wrong over 5 years ago, yet I still hold myself responsible for things I did 20 years ago, long past the point where I’m sure everyone else involved forgot about the whole thing. By now I should be far enough away from these events to see things clearly and allow myself some closure but too often we just get so into the habit of avoiding and suppressing negative emotions that we never really deal with them and allow ourselves the healing we deserve.
I’m sure there are plenty of ways to face the past, I have simply happened on one that works better for me. I think writing a book allows me some distance, I get to treat myself like a literary character and I’m way more forgiving of faults in characters than I am in myself. I also know that a good story doesn’t just have a fall from grace, but a rise from the ashes. I’m not there myself yet, but the urge to write a good ending to my book seems to be giving me the energy and the permission to truly find peace with myself.
Think of your life as a book, what do you think you’d learn if you read it?

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Small Steps

I’m writing this in Microsoft word. I can tell because it just automatically capitalized the word Microsoft. Let’s try apple, looks like it doesn’t, but that’s not exactly fair. How about linux? Well, it doesn’t automatically capitalize it, but it does mark it as misspelled and suggest “Linux.”

Sorry, I’m easily distracted. You see, this is really switching it up for me. I don’t have word on my personal computers and so I’ve gotten in a habit of writing everything up in Google Docs. Even when I’m at school, like I am now, I usually use Google because that ensures that my files will pretty much always be available to me. That is until Google decides to rise up and enslave us and holds our files, email and personal information ransom until we bow down to them. But at that point I don’t think files like this will be my main problem.

So you’re probably asking yourself why I’m using word right now, well you probably aren’t but just play along. You see I have this habit of sitting down at a computer to get stuff done and saying to myself “well I’ve got to log onto Google if I want to write anything. And while I’m on Google I might as well check Gmail, and while that’s loading let’s just pop into Facebook and just see if I have any updates.” You can see how the little things like this can start snowballing out of control. The really nefarious thing is that my line of thinking isn’t exactly incorrect, if I did everything I listed it really shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes. I usually only have one or 2 emails that are really interesting and it only takes me around 30 seconds to delete the emails from group on I allow myself to keep getting “just in case,” and it would take me a similar amount of time to check my usual Facebook updates. I start off with a bit of truth, that what I’m proposing should only take a few minutes, and using it to justify something I know isn’t true, that ultimately I’ll only end up surfing the web for 5 minutes rather than 25 or 50.

I’m constantly reminded of the story of the witches in Macbeth. Now, I don’t have Wikipedia and it’s been a while so I’m going off my head here, but I remember the gist being that the witches tempt Macbeth with dreams of taking the crown by telling him two true things and one untruth. This is similar to how “psychics” work, throwing out vague statements that you’re bound to see in yourself until they have your trust and then weaving fantasy based off the rather trivial truths they’ve established. The human mind is a messy thing and has a tendency of ending up with the wrong conclusion, and it takes a truly conscious effort to correct ourselves to keep from falling prey to the many appealing fallacies out there.

Right now I honestly feel a little like a drug addict going through withdrawal. Opening up a computer and not going straight to email and Facebook just feels wrong. This is a clear sign that something has gone pretty wrong with the way I’ve allowed my mind to be wired, constantly strengthening poor habits and allowing them to subtly take control.

They say acknowledging you have a problem is the first step to solving it, and while I definitely agree with that I’d say the biggest step is actually making a real effort to change your problem. There’s a lot of people who know they have problems, I think we all know some kind of addict who keeps talking about changing but never makes any little to no effort to actually change their ways.

I just put my hand on the mouse to correct a spelling error and without even thinking my hand moved the cursor to open up the internet. It really is strange to realize how much we allow our unconscious to drive our actions, pushing us through the same pathways we’ve always been down until we become entrenched in them.

But I’m still a firm believer that until you die it’s never too late to change. I could definitely just get depressed and start sulking about talking about how much I’ve wasted or how things will never change, focusing on my failures. But I know that won’t get me anywhere, you have to look ahead if you want to get where you go. If you keep looking to the past you’re not in control, your past is in control.

Today I say that I am in control. The old me may still come back to haunt my thoughts from time to time, but I will not allow him to control my destiny.

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Late Night Thoughts

It wasn’t too long ago that almost everyone constantly wandered around looking at the natural world. They’d see the fields, the mountains, the seas and the stars and say “look at the glory of God reflected in His handiwork!”

Walking around the city at night I’m not surprised that the world seems more and more godless, all I see around is the glory of man. The glowing lights, the roaming masses of metal, the towering masses of concrete, rebar and steel that put the tower of Babel to shame. I see how we’ve taken a wild world and seemingly tamed her.

But then I look down the alley ways and I see the trash piled high. I see the piles of plastic that for billions of years this world never knew, the stacks of paper that at almost any other point in history would have been trees, and the old electronics that were so recently top of the line but are now worthless. I think of the billions of people across the world, producing, expanding and consuming.

I can’t help but wonder how much this planet can sustain. I think of the old myths, warning man of the fruits of knowledge, the invention of fire and of flying too close to the sun. We’ve built towers so high that they must stand out like a middle finger aimed right at any God who created us as part of this Earth. This isn’t the earth we found when we stepped out of the trees onto the plains of Africa many millennia ago.

Please don’t take me for a luddite, I love all this as much as anything. I simply wonder how long all this can continue on. We ride a great wave onward and upward, one that has been building since before recorded history, but all waves crest. I look at the pigeons the rats and the roaches, living like we once did, treating all our glorious constructions like rock formations or forests. I wonder if someday we won’t live like that again, in the ruins of a civilization that flew too close to the sun, thinking it inviting up until the very moment it slapped them down.

It’s not like I’m doing anything to stop this. As far as I’m concerned I look around and all I see is humans acting according to our nature, and I have no faith that will ever or could ever change. I’m just along for the ride, riding this wave as far as it will take me. But just as it’s human nature to build it’s human nature to wonder. So on a night like tonight, wandering the streets and taking in this world I was born into I can’t help but wonder how long it will last.

How long we’ll last.

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Less Pain, More Gain

As of today I’m 4,421 words into a book I’m writing. One of two books I’m working on right now actually. Honestly since I’ve started this blog and committed to developing as a writer I think I’ve written about as much as I had in the previous 4 months combined. I should note that I go to art school, we don’t do a lot of writing here. I think most of my writing since coming to this school has been facebook and emails.

Still, while I’m happy about this I’ve had this gnawing annoyance in the back of my mind over the fact that I’m being so productive in this area while stagnating or slowing down in others. My plan for the books I’m working on was always to pluck away here and there over the case of a few years, between three and ten, I have more time sensitive goals.

Part of the reason for this motivation is probably novelty, for me it’s always easier to work in the beginning when everything’s fresh and new, but my interest drifts quickly.

Then I realized what I was doing, I was being productive by procrastinating. I was actually putting off other work that I had set in my mind as high priority to “goof off” writing. This isn’t to say it’s a great thing, I really should have been more focused on my homework today, but it reminded me of something Khatzumoto at All Japanese All the Time talks about, the more practicing a skill feels like playing, goofing off or procrastinating the more likely we are to do it. The more we put it up on a pedestal and start putting this crazy pressure on ourselves the more likely we are to avoid it, if simply to avoid the mental anguish of dealing with the stress we’ve burdened ourselves with.

This isn’t to say that everything in life can or should be like just like play, firefighters, surgeons and front-line soldiers certainly can’t enjoy this luxury. But the more we can approach our life with this attitude the more we’ll want to work toward our goals, while conversely the more we make our goals super serious and super important the more our natural laziness can push back.

The goal isn’t to pretend reverse our natural stream, to swim against the current of our nature, but to go with it while consciously channeling it where we want to go. Of course there will always be times when we absolutely have to get serious, but if you’re like me you can only be serious and focused so long, the trick is minimizing the time we have to spend in this mode while still constantly growing.

If you want to exercise try signing up for a sports league rather than just going through the motions on the machine, or do what I’ve seen online and place a treadmill in front of your TV and play video games while running so you can have your digital cake while burning real calories. If you’re studying a language start watching TV, listening to music and playing video games in that language. Or you can just watch stupid youtube videos in that language. If you’re a writer think of your story like you’re watching a movie and the only way to see what happens next is to finish the next page. Or imagine you’re doing a TED talk and your words are being eagerly devoured by the crowd.

These are just suggestions off the top of my head, every person is different and works slightly differently so your milage may vary. Once again, sometimes pain is unavoidable and should be faced, but I reject the idea that just because something is painful it isn’t magically the right way to do things. If that were the case we should all still be hunter/gatherers.

It’s the people who had lazy minds who still put the work in who made life what it is today. You just need to find a way to use your laziness rather than letting it use you.

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Watching Your (Information) Diet

It’s been 5 days since my last post. 

I feel like I should have some really good reason for not taking 30 minutes and writing even a quick post these last 5 days, but I don’t.

Honestly I have trouble keeping track of the amount of time I waste with fluff and junk media.  I define fluff media as stuff like TV, movies, internet and the like that aren’t particularly bad, but aren’t particularly helpful either. I’m a pretty big sitcom fan and I’d put most of them in this category. We might need some of this stuff to give our minds a break, but I think most of us could do with a little to a lot less. My main source for fluff is reddit, which is a great site  in short bursts but it ultimately is a bit like drinking your media out of a fire house. After a while everything blends together, after 2 hours of reddit I’d have a hard time naming more than a tiny fraction of what I actually saw while browsing the site.

Junk media is like junk food, it actually hurts us. Lately I’ve been thinking of the news more and more as junk media. It seems like every morning I check the news and I’m hit with a torrent of bad news that just makes me feel bad. I already know the world can be a harsh place, is reading about the latest abuses all around the world really helping me? Some of this stuff is necessary in small doses so we have a better view of the world, but you can definitely get hooked on it and end up with a skewed view of the world.

Frankly I need to admit I’m an internet addict and cut back on it. Ultimately I think I can achieve moderation, but right now I’m having trouble. I’m going to cut myself from the internet for 3 weeks, until the end of my school year.

I’ll still be updating this blog, I need to get online to check a few things a day but ultimately this should only take 15 minutes. I’ll just write my blog posts in word and copy and paste them rather than writing them online like now. 

Ultimately though I want to be more conscious with my time and my media intake. Just like we need to watch what we put in our mouth if we want a healthy body I think we need to watch what we put in our head if we want healthy minds. 

I’ll leave you with the three broad

  1. Quantity
  2. Quality
  3. Usability

Basically the ideal items of a media diet would be thinks that are high quality while taking up a minimum amount of your time and being applicable to your daily life. This isn’t to say that you need to take a zero tolerance attitude, sometimes you just need to turn your brain off and give it a rest, my main suggestion is to simply try and be more conscious about what you’re taking in rather than going about it mindlessly.

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What do you want your memoir to say?

Usually you hear the question in the title posed something like,”how do you want your eulogy to read?” Or, “What do you want to be remembered for after your gone?” If this line of thinking  inspires you, then by all means think that way.

I personally find this line of thinking kind of morbid, and I’m a naturally morbid person. I honestly don’t think I’ll care that much about my eulogy or how historians will talk about me centuries from now, I imagine I’ll be too dead to pay attention to the world of the living. Instead I’m interested in what people will say about me when I’m living. I chose memoir rather than biography because frankly, I’m the person who I most need to impress.

Think about the celebrities you know of, about all those behind the music documentaries you might have seen. You probably noticed, like me, that the people we as a society heap praise upon the most actually have the hardest time living with themselves. Even if they somehow are able to thrive off the approval of strangers there inevitably comes a day when things begin to change. Old fans move on, critics sour, the sales go down, the list goes on and on. Think of the groups that used to play stadiums that now tour state fairs. 

This isn’t to say you should straight up ignore what other people think, we’re social beings and we need each other to make it through this life. By all means care about other people and try to do your best to help them, but don’t rely on them for your self worth. I’m not a parent, but I know from experience as a child that the job can be thankless. You can sacrifice everything for your kid and they might still resent you. The trick, as I understand, is to believe in yourself and what you’re doing.

I have to admit, I need to work a lot on this. I barely know the meaning of the term “self esteem.” A dear friend of mine had me repeat positive affirmations with her and it physically hurt to say them. The simple words “I am not a bad person” felt hollow and painful. Lately I’m moving forward bit by bit, it’s hard but I feel like I’m headed in the right direction.

One step I’m taking is working on a memoir. I’m still young, no matter how I feel, and I’ve seen so little that the thought of writing it kind of makes me laugh. Ultimately it doesn’t matter, I like writing and searching through the past for the story I have to tell is helpful, and I think it’s bringing some things into clarity that will help me further on.

I want to write more about this later, but for now I’ll leave you with these thoughts: What do you want your memoir to say? Why aren’t you writing yours now? If you said it’s because your life is too boring, what are you going to do to make your life a story worth hearing?

If you trust this site the average human life is 28,000 days long, and I’d wager every life that long has a book worth of stories in it if someone would just take the time to dig in and pull them out. And until your dying day you’re shaping that next chapter, make it a good one.

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