Our Culture's Script
We want our lives to be a work of art and reflect the beauty and meaning of our values. Most of us in search of meaning in our lives will naturally absorb our culture’s script for us:
To create a beautiful work of art, you must feel good. To feel good, first you must make good money. You need to go to school and then get a good, stable job.
Once you get the job, start maximizing convenience. Pay for things you no longer want to do, including mowing the lawn, making meals, washing your car, fixing your house, going to the store. You work hard so you don’t have to do these things.
Also, make sure you are as comfortable as possible. Get a nice big house you can be comfortable in, a nice, new car with leather seats that feel great, and stop at the ice cream store and give yourself a treat that makes you feel like a kid again. You deserve it because you work hard.
You won’t be happy unless other people respect and want to be like you. So when you get a car, get something that will show everyone how hard you have worked. When you go on vacation, make sure it’s something totally awesome that will show how you have great taste and can afford the finer things in life. You want to be the best you can be. You’ve worked hard for this.
You need to be happy. That’s what life is about. So make as much money as possible and spend that mainly on three things: convenience so you can focus on the things that really matter, comfort so you won’t be distracted by annoyances and pain and can focus on enjoying life, and respect so you can be validated that you have done something meaningful with your life.
What’s wrong with this? Well, nothing if it works. The problem is, when we think through this approach we don’t actually see anyone reaping its benefits. Instead we see millionaires that need more. Actors who are on drugs. Affairs. It’s an absolute mess out there. There’s never an end. There’s never enough.
This isn’t a good way to create a life of meaning and value.
It’s a great way to sell stuff though.
This script does nothing about the biggest human problem: no matter how much you have today, you always need more. Once you realize that, the above description becomes silly. You’ll never have too much convenience. No matter how much comfort you have, you know people who have more and that makes you feel…uncomfortable. There will always be someone who gets more respect than you do. Your needs are insatiable.
This is unavoidable.
The solution? Accept insatiability as a fact of life, dealing with it on a regular basis, and you will have a shot at sanity. How do you do this? Keep reading to find out.