Lighten Up: The Philosophies of Contentment

Rocks: assholes of the desert

It’s difficult to be content these days. With information at our fingertips and shops and services catering to every possible whim, we’re used to getting just about whatever we want when we want it. This of course has the downside of making the slightest delay or inaccessibility instantly frustrating, and more and more we get irritated and angry with the slightest obstacle.

Of course, we didn’t invent frustration with mundane things. Back in the days when committing your life to philosophy was considered a noble and respected life rather than a one-way ticket to working at Starbucks, a few people recognized that life shouldn’t be about what it isn’t, but rather what it is.

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Quitting Is Okay

I quit

Quit school, quit your job, quit the race; “quit” has joined the ranks of unspeakable four-letter words. We’re always told to finish what we start, it’s drilled into us as we grow up: finish your homework, finish the game, finish your peas. And as kids, we need that. We start out as need machines driven by pure ego, and have to be taught how to focus, how to fulfill our commitments and do our best, and that we do in fact need to eat things that aren’t made of pure sugar.

The problem is, as we get older this mindset persists, even though the lessons are learned. We continue on the path we think we’re supposed to take because we were never taught how to quit. Not only is our thinking narrowed and stunted by never considering the alternatives, but when we do fail, we often get so hung up on the fact that we failed, it makes it that much harder to learn from why we failed. Our day-to-day lives all so often become victims of our ingrained sense of satisfaction at persisting.

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You With The Phone! Step Away From The Internet!

The never-ending list of things you don't actually need to know

In a recent conversation with a friend, we began talking about the issues confronting a sustainable world from a seminar she had recently attended. At one point in our discussion we touched on the the inherent problem with a democracy: people can be told what to think and still consider it to be their idea, thereby shaping the policy of a nation by those who control the information. The fact that we now have unprecedented access to a dizzying amount of data doesn’t actually help this; if anything, it makes us less able to decide for ourselves, but more likely to think we’re making informed choices. This then started me thinking deeper about the issues of this deluge of info, including why it was such a problem, and what might save us from death by information.

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The Doldrums

Photo: sickan85

Idle periods are an inevitability. Be it due to weather, injury, lack of money, or even just the inability to really motivate, there will be downtime in our lives. As I type this I’m in the middle of one myself, recovering from surgery to repair a torn tendon in my left shoulder from snowboarding in Canada. Given my shoulders seem to have a certain gravitational attraction to the ground, this was not my first time putting my arm out of commission; the moment I rolled over on my back, my shoulder spiking pain, I knew I was in for a long period of sitting around. And I was not looking forward to it.

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The Art Of Being Lost


 
If there was one thing I learned going on family excursions growing up, it was how to be lost. Hiking in the woods, driving in an unfamiliar town, you name it, we could get properly lost in it. But this was not because we had a poor sense of direction or poor map reading skills, quite the opposite; we simply took a “big picture” approach to directions, which at times would roughly encompass half a national forest into simply, “over there”. And we always found our way, because really, we knew where we were headed. We just couldn’t tell you with reliable accuracy where we were at the moment.

As I’ve expanded my travels on my own, this foundation has served me very, very well, particularly in places where there was very little chance anyone spoke English. Some of my best experiences traveling have actually been in the process of trying to figure out where I was and what to do about it. The real key is all in not just preparing to be, but expecting to be lost.

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Being A Computer Hobo

Being A Computer Hobo

Despite being a tech geek with a daily internet habit, I actually hate traveling with a laptop. While not the backpack-dominating bricks they used to be, they’re still a significant size and weight in your bag killing your posture. Additionally, laptops are a single point of failure: if it dies or gets stolen, you’re dead in the water, not to mention when your laptop walks away, who knows who now has your data.

So even if I’m still lugging my laptop around with me, I have focused as much as possible on “off-shoring” my computing, giving me the same access to my usual tools and data from pretty much any computer with an internet connection. By using install-free web tools, I’m left free to ditch the laptop if I so choose and become a computer hobo, living on the move off borrowed resources; all the freedom, none of the smell.

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