Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Who Am I . . . REALLY! Part II

In Part I of this post about who we REALLY are, I explored the scientific facets of our tangible characteristics and traits and the superficiality of the human experience. I also indicated that, in my opinion, this superficiality is probably more prevalent in the developed societies or segments of a society. Those who still live a less developed, primal life due to the circumstance of where they were born and live their lives are much less complicated. I feel comfortable saying that tribal societies in Africa, South America, Asia and even parts of Eastern Europe are very likely not to be as superficial as the developed nations.

This can be attributed to a variety of things, however, I suggest that the primary reasons are because those living in the more primal tribal societies do not have to cope with the stresses of a system of complicated and conflicting laws, rules, regulations and other constraints, limitations and controls over individual freedom and actions. Additionally, they are not bombarded by constant visual and aural stimulation and static to buy, own, accumulate such a wide array of material "stuff" as to be mind numbing. Their needs are simple. Their pleasures are simple. Their lives are simple. That is, until we interfere with their lives and make them believe they aren't and can't be free and happy unless they have everything we have (that makes us miserable). I guess misery loves company.

Sure, there are things we can do for these people to help them to live healthier lives. But, are we really doing anything to help them be happier by showing them all the things we have and they don't so they feel miserable when they may have actually been happier before we entered their lives? Don't we do the same thing with our children? Each generation does their best to make life better, easier and happier for their children and in reality, what is happening is that we're weakening our children. They don't have to worry about living decently if they can't find their ideal job and be willing to begin their lives, as we did, in starting level positions and work their way up. If they can't find a decent job, they simply come home and live off mom and dad, often for years. They don't have any motivation to do whatever it will take to build a life. The same is true with the people in undeveloped societies. Instead of evolving as those developed societies did through years of toughing it out and pioneering, we simply want to give them everything. That immediately complicates their lives and their societies and pretty soon, they begin living in a superficial world.

Freedom Requires Not Passing Judgment On Others

Before I go any further, let me state right now that it is not my place in this life to judge what anyone else does, has or is willing to exchange for their personal freedom and happiness. The premise of our society is that it is a free society and based on a free enterprise economic model. We have to be careful when we use the term free society, because freedom is defined differently by different people and certainly any governmental, corporate or institutional organization limits freedom to serve its own purposes. Usually, these organizational structures want those individuals subject to them in some manner to believe that the organizations operate for the common good and welfare of all. Unfortunately, as these organizations grow larger, which is most typically what happens, they also become more defensive and self-serving so they can perpetuate their existence and growth. So, what often starts out as a benign situation can become a malignant parasite on society.

Here is another fact; we NEED most of the corporate and institutional organizations. They benefit society by providing a variety of products and services. They also provide job opportunities for the majority of the population who do not have (any longer) the entrepreneurial spirit, willingness to take calculated risks and the survival mentality that this society (and other societies) was founded on. In reality, everyone is self-employed. But, most people don't want to accept that fact. This is another example of the superficial traits of modern, developed societies. An employee is simply a person who is working to fulfill his or her own needs just as any entrepreneur or business model. They certainly don't care about the business owners' mortgage, rent, sustenance, clothing, etc. They are working for their own needs.

The only thing that differentiates an employee from a self-employed person is that someone else decides how much money they will earn, precisely what they will do to earn that money and, to some degree, controls the employee's time. The employer also takes care of making the tax deposits and some bookkeeping for the employee. An employee can do everything for himself or herself that the employer does, including shop for and buy into whatever kinds of "benefit" packages the employee wants. In fact, there are people who do exactly this. They are called "contractors," "independent contractors" and "freelancers." These people work for the same employers except they control how much money they earn, what work they will do and when they will work.

But, again, our society has grown, become more and more complicated and created paths that for most people seem like the "easy" path. But, there is always a price and there is certainly a price for being employed by someone else. Essentially, one is under the control of someone else when employed. So, these controls involve all kinds of laws, regulations and rules. They demand loyalty to the employer. This is also where certain other elements come into play like status, keeping up with the Jones' and other things that foster the layers of superficiality that becomes part of our day-to-day existence. Add to this the requirements of a spouse and family, external family commitments, community involvements and so on and pretty soon, we are lost in this morass of complexity and really don't know who we are because we're answering to a variety of masters. There is no time left to peel back the layers and seek out who we really are under all of this complexity.

If Not Now, Then When?

That's an age-old question. I've been listening to people talking about really going after their dreams when they retire. Unfortunately, some people don't make it to retirement. Two years ago I learned that a friend I had started going to elementary school with and went all the way through high school with had passed away, just several months before his planned retirement. Several years back another friend from the speaking profession turned 60 and decided to retire, bought a nice motorhome, was preparing to take off on his travel adventures with his wife (who had been an MS victim for many years) and, he had a massive heart attack and both their dreams were dashed. Another close friend, like a brother, bought a brand new quarter million dollar motorhome and he and his wife, both speakers and consultants, were living full-time and traveling to their assignments in the motorhome. He contracted a very rare degenerative muscular disease and one year later, he was gone, age 61. There are a lot more stories I can write about like that, but I think you get the picture. We just don't know what tomorrow has in store.

Now, if you're reading my blog and can honestly say that your life is full, rich, free, you're living your dreams right now and you are truly happy, then you probably have already dug deep into your soul. You've sincerely asked yourself the question "who am I . . . REALLY?" You've likely done the hard work of finding the answer and you've made the course direction changes necessary to reach this state.

Most likely, you still don't know who you are, really. Few people ever actually dig deep enough, deal with the hard questions and answers, face the (sometimes ugly) truths about yourself and then make the changes absolutely necessary to find your own Nirvana here on Earth. The hard part of this is dealing with the "truth" about yourself. This is especially true if you live in one of the developed countries I've indicated. We, as a society, have become accustomed to trading our freedom and our happiness for acquiring all the superficial things that are made to seem important. Watch (or read - a dying art) the news. Look at the proliferation of literature on personal and professional development - how to be more successful in your career and in your personal life. Look at the variety of products bombarding us day in and day out. These include clothes, shoes, cars, athletic equipment, "labor saving" appliances, kitchen utensils, furniture, electronics, etc. Think about the services like facelifts, tummy tucks, Zumba classes, golf lessons, cruises, dating services, etc. This doesn't even scratch the surface. But, look around you and see how people are drawn into all of this stuff.

Watch how they are drawn into Paris Hilton's lifestyle, the Kardashians, Honey Boo Boo, never ending news sagas like the Martin-Zimmerman trial, the birth of a child to a couple in England that has the entire world gaga! Once again, this goes on and on. It's voyeurism at its best. Frankly, whenever I see and hear all this bullshit cluttering the airwaves and tabloids because there is so little of redeeming value to really tell people about, I simply say, "Who cares?" Actually, there is lots of things of redeeming value in this country and the developed world to tell about, but the populace has become so morally and intellectually void and corrupted by voyeurism, sensationalism and living their lives through others who have capitalized on titillating people's prurient interests that they don't have a real life of their own any longer.

People pay insane amounts of money to buy fancy sneakers because Michael Jordan's name is on them. Women pay outrageous amounts to by designer clothes made in some sweatshop in underdeveloped nations in Asia or South America. Then when something nasty happens in one of those nations, they express "righteous indignation." But, it was okay for you to pay $200 for a pair of jeans, made by some young teenager in a sweatshop making $2.00 a day. People pay a fortune to by Apple products, which may be innovative, but are not without shortcomings and are made in far eastern factories with low cost labor working long hours, often in less than conditions anyone in this country is willing to work under. But, they need that little Apple logo so they can be "cool." People need bragging rights. They need to keep up with the Jones' even if they don't know or like the Jones'. They are competitive and don't need to use commonsense, they simply need to be "the first on their block" to have the latest, greatest whatever it is.

This is how we define ourselves in our current society. It's not about truly discovering the true values that really define who we are as people. It's about all the superficial crap that is shoved down our throats by sports moguls, entertainers, (mostly) stupid reality shows, incessant blathering and harping by people in infomercials and 24/7 selling channels. It's what makes it possible for Costco, Sam's Club, Walmart, Target, Lowes, Home Depot and so many others to not only be profitable, but to be obscenely profitable.


Now, lest I come across as a hypocrite, I'm guilty of watching too much television, TV and cable news, listening to public radio and watching public TV (with their, now, monthly incessant begging for contributions in exchange for WAY overvalued "gifts"). And here's the worst part, all this stuff is addicting . . . as it's meant to be. Just as people can be addicted to booze, drugs, gambling, sex, porno, eating, etc. the, now, flat-screened, one-eyed "huckster" sucks us in and attaches itself to our eyeballs and brains. I like the State Farm Insurance TV commercial with the man and the woman where he says, "Where did you hear that?" And she replies, "On the Internet! They can't say anything that isn't true on the Internet?" There it is! The intellectual level people are being dumbed down to. I've done it before and I MUST do it again. I must break away and stop watching all this TV and listening to the ongoing talk on radio.

Let me also say, again, so I'm not taken as a hypocrite, I don't have any problems with a profit motive. I've been a lifelong entrepreneur and one of the driving forces behind everything I did was a profit motive. The problem for me, and you have to make up your own mind about this, is the difference between earning a profit from something that truly enhances someone's life at a reasonable price for the product or service offered as compared to blatant exploitation of the herd mentality that seems to prevail in our, so-called, "advanced" society. But, like beauty being the eye of the beholder, value is also in the mind of the beholder.

So, what is really important to you? What value do you place on the one and only life you have? What value do you place on, in my opinion, the most priceless commodity we possess, our time? Do you want to live where you live because it's what you REALLY want or do you live there because you've been conditioned to believe that this is a status symbol indicative of your success in life? Are you doing work that you honestly feel has redeeming value? Will the fruits of your labor not only provide you with what financial support you need to meet your real requirements but agree with your value system? Do you REALLY love and are you passionate about what you are doing or are you REALLY doing it solely for the money and do you REALLY need all that money? Are you in debt? Did you get into that debt in order to have things that you couldn't really afford when you, for whatever reason, decided that you MUST HAVE IT NOW? How do you feel about still paying on that debt when you may no longer value that item or even use it? Did it actually bring you the happiness and fulfillment you were sure, at the time, it would? These are some of the really hard questions you need to be asking yourself.

To Thine Own Self Be True

I'm sure you've heard the quote from Hamlet (Shakespeare), " This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man." Who are you kidding or fooling? If you're not being true and honest to yourself, then you cannot be and are not honest with anyone else including your spouse, kids, parents, relatives, neighbors, friends, employer and co-workers . . . no one. So, if you're living a superficial life that conforms to all the marketing hype and all the inconsistencies of the average modern lifestyle, are you being true to yourself? Are you afraid of what you'll be missing if you really peel away all the levels of superficiality and live the life and dreams that REALLY represent the values and what's important to you? Digging down to truly find these answers and making hard decisions to discard the superficial layers and simply become the you that you really want to be deep down. It could get ugly. You could lose friends, have to give up your job, be ostracized by your relatives and despised by your immediate family if they are addicted to the superficial.

There are quite a few people in our society who are being true to themselves. They choose to live very different lifestyles to what the mainstream, average individual and family lives. They often live very simply, occupy considerably less space, require significantly less money, live in locations that inspire through nature rather than over stimulate through 24/7 noise and light pollution, congestion and a mind numbing over abundance of choices. But, once you know who you REALLY are, you'll be able to decide what works for the life you truly want to live and you'll feel you're being true to yourself. There will be an adjustment period to whatever you choose. There will be stress. There may be a learning curve. It's probably not a great idea to go "cold turkey," but create a plan with a timeline and go through the "withdrawal" from your current life to your REAL life. Maybe this sounds scary. From my own experience, I found it to be scary. But, the best way to overcome fear is to face it head on.  

So, "Who Are You . . . REALLY?" There's no better time than right now to find out!


Linda Sand said...

I don't need my Apple computer so I can be "cool"; I need it because fewer hackers bother with this lesser market and because Apple doesn't make me stay in administrator mode so it is inherently safer. I have electronics, sure, but I was a holdout for along time--I didn't get a cell phone until I had a double knee replacement which might make it necessary for me to call for help wherever I was; then I kept that phone for more than 10 years--until I needed one that could be a hotspot during my travels. Be careful not to tar us all with the same brush, please.

Ed Helvey - Professional Nomad said...

Thanks for your thoughts. Indeed, I don't include everyone and I attempt to leave latitude. I noted that I'm as guilty as anyone (and maybe more) in making choices, taking actions, etc. that were not driven by better decision making. The list would be too long to include here. It's not my place to judge what decisions others make or why they make them. I just view the results and wonder why. Why stand in line for hours or overnight to buy the latest iPhone that typically costs more than Androids that do everything the iPhone does. But, there is at least one thing I can do that they can't. It relieves me of one extra stress I don't need, the fear of my built-in battery going dead when there's no place or time to recharge it. So, I, as an Android user, NEVER have to rush my last few calls because my battery is going dead - then search for a place to recharge it when I'm in transit. I simply change the battery and put in another that weighs virtually nothing and takes up zero space. And best of all the phone typically costs a hundred/hundreds less. I have many friends with iPhones. They tell me how they love them, but there's nothing their iPhones can do, so far, that I can't do. Oh, and I don't believe I've ever seen people lining up for hours or overnight to buy most Droids.

As far as Apple and Windows computers, because there are more and more Apples making it into the market, which is great for Apple, more and more hackers and makers of viruses are targeting the Mac OS. It's still fairly small, but it's growing and growing enough that anti-virus software companies are now making software for Macs because the attacks keep increasing. Apple and Macs are fine computers and the operating system is fine, too. But, my son, a prof. graphic designer and Web designer for many major companies including Amazon, T-Mobile and Microsofthas said many times when asked which he prefers - he says he uses both platforms, but he's never had any project he couldn't do as well or that he couldn't accomplish on a Windows computer. He goes on to say that he can crash a high-power Mac computer as easily as a Windows computer. So, he (like me) owns Windows computers simply because he can own two or three powerful Windows computers for the price of one comparable Mac. He always has instant back up computing capability and he doesn't have to take a computer to a Mac store to get it fixed. Much he can fix himself and he can find very capable (as have I) computer repair people that are more cost effective and usually as fast or faster than the Mac store.

But, this is about everything in life. I got my first cell phone because my second wife and I both traveled in our work. We seldom traveled in the same direction or time. We got them to keep in contact. However, my first cell phone saved my son's life (another long story) and I knew right then that I'd never be without a reasonably current cell phone for the rest of my life. So, I've been a cell phone user for 21 years. I've had 7 phones over the years. The last 3 were smartphones. Like you, I use mine as my Internet connection when wifi is not available.

So, different strokes for different folks. I've just reached a point in life where I can observe the "human condition" and look back at my own life and realize that I WAS one of them and now, only by the grace of God, go I. I now wish I had all the $$$ I spent during my lifetime buying stuff that, as I look back, I really didn't need - and in many cases - didn't want. I just got it because I could, it was cool and I felt I had to keep up an image. As Shakespeare said in "A Midsummer Night Dream," "What fools we mortals be." And, as Marcus Porcius Cato said, “Wise men profit more by fools than fools by wise men.” I dare say Jobs, Gates, Walton, Dell, etc. would qualify as some of those wise men.

Boonie Boonster said...

Well, you've certainly had your Howard Beal moment! (Recall Sidney Lumet's "Network", from 1976.)

Unfortunately you haven't given me anything to argue with. Everything you said is true.

Keep writing.

Ed Helvey - Professional Nomad said...

Thanks, Boonie --

I don't look for arguments. I value you everyone's opinions and the right to have them. And certainly I hope people don't feel they have to be disagreeable to disagree with me. But, I'm glad you found my words in tune with your own attitudes and opinions. I appreciate it.


graynomad said...

Great article. I (largely) came to my senses when I was 45, I sold everything, quite the job, built a motorhome and hit the road. As the old gag goes I started with nothing and I still have most of it left.

I suspect many of our friends/colleagues thought we were crazy, and I know for certain that they are all still working at the same jobs, meanwhile I've had 14 years of travelling around Oz. By the time I reach "retirement" age I'll already have been doing as I please for 20+ years.

We stayed with friends last year, they were fitting out their new house and trying to decide between the $1000 and the $2000 kitchen tap. WTF! $2000 for a bloody tap.

My two main vocations were computer geek and photographer, and they are still my main hobbies. Good hobbies for a life on the road but bad hobbies if you want to reduce technology dependence as I would like to do. Unfortunately both those pastimes are heavily dependant on computers and I can't see any way out of that short of taking up charcoal drawing :)

I've been doing some contract electronic design for the last few months and the pocket money has been nice to get, but it's all still sitting in PayPal because I can't think of anything I want to buy. That's good I suppose, but then I ask myself why am I doing the work, it's a commitment that's mostly a pain in the backside that stops me from doing my own stuff, all to earn money that obviously I don't really need or I would have spent it by now.

So I have to finish the jobs I've started but I won't be accepting any more.

As for living in a small space, as mentioned we've been in a motorhome for over a decade but we are about to build a camper on a 4x4, time will tell but I reckon we will be very comfortable in that tiny space, and while I don't foresee selling the MH I guess that's possible. (I'll fess up here though, we do own land and have two shipping containers, of which one is full of stuff we don't even want let alone need and the other is full of tools which are very handy to have and help to increase one's independence).

So while I'm far from being as content as a Buddhist monk I reckon I'm doing OK in this area. So far so good.


Ed Helvey - Professional Nomad said...

Rob, Good to hear from you, again.

You said a mouthful. BTW, I'm not sure Buddhist monks are necessarily content. I'm not sure that's part of their philosophy, are you?

I love your attitude and your lifestyle. I truly hope I get a chance to cross off the item on my "Life List" that says "get to Oz" one day. I've been to NZ and want to return, but haven't made it to your country (though my DNA has been their in the form of my son). When I get there, I'm sure 'nough going to look you guys up.

I know what you mean about your friends obsessing over whether to spend a grand or two grand over a tap. My answer, like yours, I'm sure, would be easy, NEITHER. Just give me one that works, looks reasonably decent and will last 20 or 30 years. $29.95 would work for me. ;-)

As far as technology. Boy! We are steeped in it. There are a few hearty souls here in the U.S. who move off the grid and live, essentially without a lot of technology - but many of them build up their own solar and/or wind power generation capabilities. They may use some kind of radio equipment (battery powered, of course) to stay in communication with the outside world (much like folks in your "outback" have done for decades and decades). But, society is pushing us harder and harder to embrace technology for communicating, transacting banking business, buying and even selling stuff, etc. I've even heard of a few banks who now charge a fee to use a teller in person. And the telephone company charges whopping fees to use directory assistance - they want you to look it up on the Internet. Many people don't attend movie theaters any longer since they can screen them at home in high definition by streaming them on the Internet. There are even cars that can park themselves and some that even drive like on auto pilot.

While I've always been a techy kind of person (like you) with my primary field in the audio/sound/recording industry, a lot of the great old analog equipment and recorders and the glamour that came along with it are gone. Today, we deal with everything digital. Now, for an old cuss like me, hauling around everything I need to do first rate, top quality professional recordings in a couple bags weighing maybe 20 or 25 pounds definitely beats hauling around studio grade recorders that weighed 75 to 125 pounds any day of the week (not including all the peripheral gear). I'm just finding it really challenging keeping up with it all. It advances so rapidly that by the time you finally learn most of what you need to know about a new software upgrade in an audio application, there's a new upgrade introduced. Yikes!

So, I understand your point about doing projects and having money left sitting in PayPal. I can live for a long time off a few decent projects a year, so I don't look to bury myself in work. I have plenty I want to do of my own interests.

Thanks, again for checking in. I follow your blog, too, as you probably know. You're also on my blog roll. I hope you get some visitors from time to time.