– William S. Burroughs

Trying to ID the entity that is me when I know I am you and you are me even though I am by myself a whole lot of nothing outside that which is imagined or imagined to be me.  It’s a permanent condition I’ve tried many times in the past to shake loose.  When I let go, I spiral out of control like the pilot that becomes the plane.  Being out of control is not so bad considering being in control is a massive illusion, one I could do without.

And then I found out that happiness isn’t the reward for a life well lived but a mechanism used to control my behaviour. That, I’m told is the reality of being a human.

Damn humans.

I need to take a happy pill. That’ll sort me out. I get to retire from ordinary life and consign myself to the happiness bed. It’s not as plush as it sounds, trust me. There’s much sadness. I am sad. Sad tomorrow. Sad for the rest of my life which is to say I’ll only know joy, delight and profound contentment.

Life is nice among the normal people. I can be free, but my brain is programmed to want more than I already have which is to say I am a slave.

The real question is how much more significant is your life compared to mine? I’ll be experiencing your life tomorrow even though you told me your intensity of feeling would be beyond anything I would ever be able to comprehend. The price of being different comes down to basic wiring really. You flick the switch and the light bulb above the brain comes on. That happened over millions of years along with natural selection. Turn on or turn off? Tune in or tune out? Drop out or forever remain home with the lights turned off until some jackass comes and tells you you’re being selfish.

Can you relate?

Anyway, my eyes are getting heavy and this fresh cup of coffee hasn’t got me jacked in yet.

– clay

 

 

i gazed upon the gods being sold
in department stores and arcades

their light i have seen shimmering
against your skin and it is not my mind

i sing the virtues of dissatisfaction
drink from the blood of the bank

an innocent evil designated for Hell
invisible weight i carried for your love

We are torn between a nostalgia for the familiar and an urge for the foreign and strange. As often as not, we are homesick most for the places we have never known. All men are lonely. But sometimes it seems to me that we Americans are the loneliest of all. Our hunger for foreign places and new ways has been almost like a national disease. Our literature is stamped with a quality of longing and unrest, and our writers have been great wanderers. – Carson McCullers

Tomorrow I’ll be diving into a conversation about being an ethical hedonist.  I dug through my old notes and found a post I wrote in 2007. It’s a good start.  We’ll be making a podcast out of the conversation which I’ll post a link to here once it’s ready to go.  Until then take the quiz below and see if you too need to add a little hedonism to your life.

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Whatever happened to good old-fashioned hedonism, you know, the doctrine that states that pleasure is good and that pursuing anything other than pleasure is absurd and irrational? The only thing we pursue these days, it seems, is work, work, and more work, so we can buy more things we don’t need or have the time to enjoy.

The things we do enjoy – sex, drugs, rock and roll, fatty food, and cigarettes, are deemed to be not good for us and will shorten our lives.  The prevailing thought seems to be “If I avoid all things pleasurable, I’ll live a long happy life.” I’ve had just about enough of that.  Bring back the old school hedonism like the kind practiced by some of the greats like Epicurus, Cleopatra, Louis XIV, Catherine the Great, Dumas, Flaubert, Balzac, and Timothy Leary to name a few. I want to run through the garden naked, get drunk on good beer, and chase naked girls with flowers in their hair.  Sorry. I digress.

Here is a simple test, courtesy of Michael Flocker, to see if you’re in the machine too deep.

(If five or more of the following statements are true for you, then you are in serious need of hedonistic intervention.)

1. You no longer remember anyone’s phone number because they’re all programmed into your cell phone.

2. You email people at work who are seated within twenty feet of you.

3. You make itineraries for your vacations.

4. The idea of a full week without internet access fills you with terror.

5. You are bored at home if the television isn’t on.

6. You absolutely must watch the news every day to be sure the world isn’t ending.

7. You regularly watch sitcom reruns that you have seen countless times before.

8. You are unable to sit still and think in silence.

9. Your conversation regularly revolves around the lives of others instead of your own.

10. You buy shoes because they match your ipod.

“Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.” – I Corinthians 3:13

“You can’t eat for eight hours a day nor drink for eight hours a day nor make love for eight hours a day – all you can do for eight hours is work.  Which is the reason why man makes himself and everybody else so miserable and unhappy.” – William Faulkner

“I like my job and am good at it, but it sure grinds me down sometimes, and the last thing I need to take home is a headache. – TV commercial for Anacin

Do what you love and love what you do and you’ll never work another day in your life.  Well, that’s the dream anyway. But most of us normal folk don’t necessarily love our work – we like our work or tolerate it, but we don’t necessarily love it.  And of course there is a class of people who hate their work but do it anyway because they have mouths to feed and bills to pay and all of that.

Work.

Is it something that we have to do because we have constructed a society that forces you to work if you want to have the bare necessities of life – food, water, clothing, shelter.  We’re taught and conditioned to believe that the bare necessities are not enough (unless you’re Baloo).  If you want to be successful in life, then subsisting is not enough, you have to thrive, which in modern society equates to having the material wealth to buy the big house, drive the fancy car, go on holidays to exotic places, and have the latest tech and toys, eat out in restaurants, and all the rest of it (yes that’s a generic list, but take a look around you now, what do you see? How much of the stuff you own do you really need? Or do you have it because you can “afford” to buy it and you’ve convinced yourself or been convinced that it makes your life fulfilled somehow?).

Or is work built into our DNA? That we have to work in order to feel useful and human. And since we all can’t be farmers and hunters anymore, we need to turn our hand to something, thus work has evolved into jobs that help keep our evolving society alive. We’re like ants really.  I imagine some cosmic being taking a birdseye view of humans, would see just that – millions of people moving to and fro in basically the same patterns day in and day out.

This idea of work fascinates me. Especially how we romanticise it – that work gives us meaning, and meaning gives us purpose and purpose motivates us to do what we do every day until we die.

Ok, all of that was a preamble to share with you this cool podcast episode from The Kitchen Sister‘s new podcast in support of The Keepers series.  The first one is about Studs Terkel who wrote the book, Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do.

From the Kitchen Sisters:

In the early 1970s, radio producer and author Studs Terkel wrote a book called Working. He went around the country with a reel-to-reel tape recorder interviewing people about their jobs. The book became a bestseller and even inspired a Broadway musical. Working struck a nerve, because it elevated the stories of ordinary people and their daily lives. Studs celebrated the un-celebrated.

And here is the episode: