Contrasts

by Frost on September 6, 2011

Today has been an excellent study in contrast.

I can still feel the incredible weekend I just had in every part of my body. I feel three days of swimming, tennis, and frisbee in a pleasant stiffness across every muscle in my body. I can feel three nights of talking, shouting, singing, smoking and breathing in campfire smoke whenever I try to speak and my scratchy throat converts my voice into a baritone phone sex operator’s.  Most of all, I feel it every few minutes when a happy memory of laughing, playing and connecting with old friends intrudes on the work day I’m about to start, and snaps me out of the duller reality I’ve returned to.

All of these good feelings and memories look even better in comparison to my actual surrounding. Grey cubicle walls. Dirty beige desk. Ugly, bland, boring office decor. A basket of meaningless work waiting for me.

I don’t want to over-sell the melancholy of my situation. My job is actually pretty interesting, as jobs go. But after spending a weekend living as human beings are meant to live, I find it painfully obvious how far from that ideal we’ve been taken by modern city living and bureaucratic white collar employment. Why are people spending the vast majority of their lives doing things they don’t want to do? Weren’t we supposed to be making progress? Hasn’t life been getting better? That’s what we’re told. So how come the typical “successful” person spends 80-120 hours a week either being at work, commuting to work, or getting dressed for work? The 21st century man is farther removed from the things that make life worth living – family, friends, nature, physical labour, conquest, achievement – than he ever has been. But we’re supposed to be grateful for it, because we can surf the internet on our iPads for our two hours of daily freedom every evening.

We need to escape from this bullshit. We need to find alternatives to this life. We need a plan. The alternative is the slow, strangling death of lost hope and extinguished dreams that thousands of days like this will eventually deliver us to.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Nick September 8, 2011 at 4:46 am

true – better to have constructive ‘pain’ that leads somewhere, than a soul-destroying job that leads nowhere (well at least nowhere you want to be)…

Nick September 7, 2011 at 7:57 am

Yes, corporate work life sucks, but you did title this post “Contrast”. If what you did on the weekend was what you did all the time it wouldn’t seem so special, because there is no shitty office job to experience contrast too. Humans adapt and get used to things very quickly. Not saying you need a shit job to heighten your weekend experience, just saying that you will get used to a ‘permanent weekend’ and need something else different to experience the contrast effect. For example look at studies of happiness levels between those who win the lottery and those who suffer spinal damage: once they’ve adapted to their new situation people generally return to their basal level of happiness. Anyway not sure what point I’m really trying to make here but I had one when I started…..

Frost September 7, 2011 at 5:12 pm

Fair point that people’s baseline happiness usually resets after a temporary shock, but I still think it’s worth pursuing good things. I also think that some kinds of “pain” are healthier and more enjoyable than others. For example, writing for a gruelling 6hours = painful. Running through mud and barbed wire = painful. Cleaning my room = painful. But all of those are vaguely satisfying forms of pain. The experience of eating a huge meal and sleeping is heightened by the contrast of doing it after a heavy workout, for example.

Working eight hours a day in a pointless job however…

Chrome September 6, 2011 at 3:10 pm

I know that feeling of melancholy. Except in my case the weekend lasts about 6 weeks and the work day is the rest of the year. Sure, I still get some thrill out of working out, learning, reading and I get some value from college and my job but the contrast between hiking a mountain range with your best friends before retiring to a good beer later on and keeping to your schedule every minute of every day is impossible to explain in mere words.
However, I am using this “cubicle time” in order to chisel out a better life. Sure, I’m deferring my happiness to a later date, but I simply need enough time to acquire skills and materials before I’m able to pursue a better life. My only hope is that I won’t become a robot during that pursue, like almost everyone else seems to do.
I think that you’re one of the people that have a direction or a goal. You’ve outlined this in your first post here and from reading your blog I think that you’re on your way to escaping the trap of a boring and meaningless life. Being selfish. Having a goal. Acquiring tools to attain that goal (Game, working out, learning skills) are all themes you write about.
Just keep on writing and inspiring, man.

NomadicNeill September 6, 2011 at 10:55 am

Free market capitalism has done a lot to improve our lives.

But the downside is that it creates wants and needs that are inauthentic and empty.

Marketing and advertisements makes us feel like we aren’t worthy unless we buy those things.

But I’m sure you know this already.

The things you own, end up owning you.

Frost September 6, 2011 at 12:13 pm

I’m all about capitalism. In fact, I’ll even go one step further and say that the DECLINE in free markets is very much to blame for our spiritual poverty.

If we lived in a truly capitalist society, people could live and work and prosper, and find meaning in their lives outside of work and consumption.

But since we’re taught by our social democratic government and culture to worship government, people’s lives lack meaning. They try to soothe the spiritual pain this causes by immersing themselves in work and shiny toys. If we had a healthy social fabric, I think the improvement in living standards would translate into many more hours spent among friends and families at the cottage.

Arch September 6, 2011 at 11:14 pm

But the downside is that it creates wants and needs that are inauthentic and empty.

From a mindset of personal responsibility, none of that exists. When you start taking away people’s responsibility for their own choices then you start saying things like that.

Wants are superfluous and a choice. You can choose not to want and some people actually do. Needs “that are inauthentic and empty” are actually just wants. Needs can be reduced down to food, shelter from weather, and clothing. Anything beyond that is a want, including social interaction.

Marketing and advertisements makes us feel like we aren’t worthy unless we buy those things.

Again, they only work if you choose to allow them to influence your thinking. It’s no one’s fault but your own if an image has an effect on you, especially if its some silly advertisement.

Create your own purpose and choose to stick to your own values and you will be immune to all that garbage for the rest of your life.

Frost September 7, 2011 at 5:13 pm

Great comment, thanks for getting exactly what I meant.

Carmo September 6, 2011 at 10:22 am

“because we can surf the internet on our iPads for our two hours of daily freedom every evening”

Sad but true- the definition of success has really taken a nose dive. Can’t imagine what a “successful” person’s life will be like a decade from now.

Frost September 6, 2011 at 12:09 pm

That’s up to us to define!

If we buy into the mainstream definition of a successful life, we’re fucked. But if we opt for success on our own terms, the world is much more hospitable.

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