Wednesday, 1 February 2017

A Life of Variety

Our culture has a tremendous focus on working to achieve a comfortable life. Success (for the majority of people) is a steady position at a well paying job, a nice house, a family, and eventually retirement. When we look to the future, we are expected to have a structured and foolproof plan for how to get there. A pathway to college, a structured career choice, and a firm commitment to stick to this plan. Essentially, how to "win the game of life".

This is a lovely, comforting sentiment, but there is something strange about it. Even the most successful and comfortable people do not seem to be fulfilled. They may have more reason to be happy than any of us, but they report to be just as content as we are. To understand why, we need to understand how humans perceive the world around us.

If you were blindfolded and asked to hold a wooden box, would you be able to tell if I placed a pack of gum on top of it? Could you feel the difference in weight? The obvious answer to this question is, "It depends on the weight of the box". If the box weighed 1 ounce, you would feel the 500% increase when I placed the 5 ounce pack of gum on top. But if the box weighed 10 pounds, you would hardly be able to tell the difference.

This is because human beings do not perceive weight, we perceive changes in weight. It is our minds way of understanding the world around us. The same thing happens when you close your eyes in a car. You can not tell how fast you are going, but you can easily feel when the car speeds up or slows down. This is also why someone can come inside on a hot summer day and feel totally refreshed with room temperature air.

Human beings perceive changes, not absolutes.

So then why is it that we all want to be so damn comfortable? Why do we seek to live in the same house, in the same city, at the same job, with the same people, for the best 50 years of our lives? The reason people can have everything in the world and still not be happy, is that they have become used to it. Luxury becomes the new normal. It is comfortable. In other words, "That which is repeated, day in and day out, becomes invisible."

To me, a happy life is everything that "comfortable" isn't.

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