A Never Ending Chase. What Is It Worth?
Warning: I’m about to deliver some very unpleasant theories in this post. It may also get pretty long.
I took the last few days off of my normal routine to read some books. I don’t usually do this because I linger under the misconception that reading takes too much time. Now that I’ve renewed my library card I will hopefully start dispelling this erroneous belief of mine. I already had a good crack at it after completing approximately 800 pages (a little over half was admittedly fantasy fiction) in just under a week. Now larger and more daunting books don’t seem like such a hurdle. One of the books that I read was called “In Defense of Food :An Eater’s Manifesto” by Michael Pollan. I’ll admit that the book didn’t really take me into ideological territory that I hadn’t ventured before, but it was nice to dig a little deeper into a topic that Interests me greatly (One of the criticisms I often level against myself is that I have a wide breadth of topics and paradigms in my repertoire, but very little depth into any one of them). In short Pollan’s book discusses at length the history and effects of the wholesale adoption (in America and other parts of the world) of a paradigm he refers to as Nutritionism and the Western Diet that follows from it. And then he offers some clear and comprehensible eating advice that will help an eater avoid the negative effects of the Western diet, otherwise known as the western diseases (Heart Disease, High Blood Pressure, Type 2 Diabetes, Obesity Various forms of Cancer. Etc…). The whole book boils down into a simple motto that he explains more in depth in the final section of the book “Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants.”
I don’t want to give too much away because I think it would be more valuable for the theoretical reader of my blog to go and actually take the 8-15 hours to actually read and digest the implications of Mr. Pollan’s book. But I do want to highlight and elaborate on a point that he makes near the end of his book (literally within the last 20 pages or so). He describes the biggest challenge facing anyone who wants to follow the advice in the book. Eating a traditional diet (as opposed to the western one) often takes time. It takes time to select, purchase, plan, prepare, and sometimes even takes more time to eat. To be open and fair, this isn’t a huge step for me and my family. There are a few food allergies in my family which already preclude us from a menu consisting of anything processed, refined, designed, other than un-enriched all purpose white flour (which after reading this book we intend to move away from anyway.) But I guess it isn’t the food that is the focus of this post. The focus is time.
I hate bad analogies but I feel like america is a car with it’s breaks cut, or perhaps the driver just doesn’t care about any speed limit, perhaps there is no speed limit. As I already said this is a bad analogy. One could always ask where are we going then? Why do we want to get there? What the hell is speed analogous to? But I’m having trouble really figuring out how to convey the concept I’m experiencing. Still, I have to try. The muses demand it.
It’s like peer pressure, but more subtle. There isn’t someone standing near me and telling me I’m wrong and I need to do something different. But I can just sense that the way I do things is different from my peers, and that in this market, I’m going to fall behind in the short run because I deliberately and consciously go slow in my endeavors.
Because I take time to prepare my own food and eat healthy, I’m not spending that time online learning, connecting with people, building a brand, but in the long run I hope to avoid diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, and their associated costs.
I refuse to take on a mountain of debt for college. Because i refuse to do that, I am relegated to out of pocket community college and whatever other self learning activities I can squeeze into my already packed days. This means that I am overlooked for well paying jobs because I don’t have the bachelors paper to convince lazy HR people that I’m worth the investment.
I spend lots of time with my family, because of that I am more unwilling than usual to take a job that asks me to travel and be gone from home frequently or for long periods of time, or jobs that require 50+hrs/week. I’m sure those jobs pay better, but in the long run I hope to have a strong, vibrant marriage, and strong relationships with my future children.
I attend church weekly and pay tithing, which in the short run precludes me from jobs that would require me to work on sunday, and I’m also sacrificing an amount of money I’d rather not think about at the end of the year. But in the long run (rocky as my relationship with my church is) I feel dedicating one day out of my week to something other than work, and dedicating a portion of my paycheck to something other than the needs of myself and my family help me to keep things in perspective, break up the monotony of the daily grind, and stay conscious of my financial considerations.
In short, because I am willing to enforce professional boundaries between myself, my career, and everything else in my life, and not allow any one thing to pass those boundaries and devour the rest of my life in obsession and monomania, I inherently fall behind in the current economy, and feel the pressure.
Where does all that pressure lead? If we all succumb to those pressures what does it get us? I was at a company meeting a few years back and we met with the head honcho, the CEO of the company. The man was overweight, red faced, and talked mostly of how busy he was flying here and there meeting with all sorts of other companies and venture capital firms, and was trying his best to grow the company. Oh and P.S. you aren’t getting a raise this year, we are going to give you a performance based bonus at the end of each quarter (Temps, sorry you are excluded, and no raise for you either) and the bonus, no matter how you slice it is never going to amount to what you could have had in raises. My friend leaned over to me and nodding toward the CEO said in a muffled whisper “If I ever get to that point in life, shoot me.” Mostly he was referring to the morbid obesity… But all the same, I don’t envy the man, for all his money, he couldn’t buy health, or free time, or relaxation and enjoyment, or even save his marriage which was falling apart.
Yes, bad anecdotal evidence is bad anecdotal evidence. But here it is more useful as a way to point at something, a sense I’ve got, that we are working harder and more time than I feel we should in this modern age of plentiful technology and time saving devices. Why? Perhaps we are all looking for relevance? Perhaps we are all looking to convince each other that, yes we as human beings do deserve to eat and have a place to sleep at night. Yet for all our trying, a person can devote 40 hours a week to providing a service that (while I don’t personally participate in it) the vast majority of Western Societies use (The fast food industry, for example) and we still pay that individual less than what is required to live on, all so a select few individuals can pocket the extra money in profits. Then what do they do with that money? They either invest it in other ventures to try to get themselves more money, or They funnel some of it into charities to help out the very same poor people that work at the bottom rung of their corporations. We are schizophrenic on this point here in Western Society. We treat the average worker like shit in order to maintain profits, and then turn around and spend those profits on charity overhead in claims that each person has value and worth and that we must intervene in their lives so that they can help themselves.
What is it worth?
We keep chasing our tails faster and faster, eating poorly till we get fat and no longer have the energy to really explore beyond our own rear ends.