Lately I have been thinking about why people do the things they do. Why do they sweep off the porch (or why not)? Why do they make sure that both shoelaces are the same length? Why do they go to college? I would guess that most people don’t really have answers to these questions. Sure, most could provide a quick answer, but would it stand up against questioning?
Let’s take the college question for example. Many students would say “To get a good job.” This is fair enough, but the word “good” requires definition. It is often used synonymously with “lucrative” or “well-paying.” Now we’re getting somewhere. Do these students like to acquire stuff like wave-runners and big houses with pretty furniture? Or do they want to make sure that their own Tiny Tim always gets the surgery instead of crutches? Is that why they need a good job? Never mind the fact that ideally college would be attended to stamp out personal ignorance like a flaming lunch bag left on a door step. It just seems like something one should do. If their goal is to acquire the wave-runners and house, it is likely they are on the right track. If they are seeking personal well-being, however, they may be kidding themselves.
I would like to declare one thing; there is no payoff. There is no reckoning in the sense that one day someone will come up and shake their hands and say “Congratulations, you passed life! Enjoy the rest of your stay here on Earth.” Most everything in the world is subjective. I learned this in Alaska. I would judge people who lived in a small self-built cabin, living off caught fish and personally cutting wood for warmth as poor or unsuccessful. Many of these people were unlearned in the academic sense, but once again, who decided that recognizing a reference to Kafka was essential to a well-lived life?
It may be the opposite, in fact. The quest for personal success can be detrimental to search for well-being. If someone earns a lot of money, it is likely that their children will ask for that much more compared to other children. Their spouse will not thank them for their tireless work, but ask why they’re never home. And the last of the terrible news: people with college degrees are not any happier than those without.
Anyone could fly a float plane for a living, spending all their days in the crisp Alaskan air soaring over grizzly bears catching fish in the rivers below. Would it matter to them that jobs are being outsourced and they don’t have their TPS reports done? No. They just fly their shiny yellow plane. They see Alaska. They are happy. No one could tell them that they are a failure because the concept of success is completely subjective. Those who some call genius business tycoons, others call money-grubbing crooks.
Many people spout-off the old maxim “Money doesn’t buy happiness.” I have always only half-agreed with this. It is true in a sense, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t help one focus on the things that do bring happiness. The trick is balancing the ratio between things that work against you in your quest for happiness, and the things that help. Money is just one of the factors which could be a trial, depending what side the dice of your life falls on.
I don’t care how much society values hard work ethic, etc; I will never be convinced that a life lived in a cubicle is well spent. No one really cares what anyone does with their life. Many think they do, and they may pretend to, but they really don’t. Not everyone can be rockstars and astronauts, but I believe that everyone has an equal chance at happiness.