I always think of my uncle when it comes to life questions about happiness and employment. In my life, I’ve known people who are miserable doing jobs they hate so they can have one day out of the week to “enjoy” all of the stuff they’ve purchased—or in the process of paying off. And I’ve known people working jobs many would look down their nose with condescension about, but were happy and content. My uncle Jerry was a garbage man in San Diego. He got up in the morning, went and did his job, and then spent the afternoon chilling with a Budweiser and a smile. For some people, including my grandmother and some members of my father’s family, they would sneer at my uncle’s life and think of it as a waste of potential. But, for him, he payed his bills, enjoyed doing what he did and the people he worked with, and was happy with the life he had.
At the end of it all, isn’t being happy with the life we lead the most important thing?
There is estimated to be $1.6 trillion in federal and private student loan debt. The average American household carries $6,741 in credit card debt, with more than $423 billion in outstanding balances. There are many types of chains in this world. Some of those chains come with smiling faces, 12-months no interest, and the idea of symbolic economic vitality. Some of the most fascinating aspects of modern society are ideas of happiness and success, and how they tie into the very nature of labor. Albert Camus once likened life to The Myth of Sisyphus, where the repetition of a work week for ephemeral pleasures becomes just as horrific a waste as eternally pushing a rock up a hill every day when viewed in perspective. Or as Camus said: “One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”
Friedrich Nietzche wrote about the idea of eternal recurrence and how if offered the chance to live one’s life over and over again, would it be “horrifying” or an affirmation of a life well lived? If someone knew they had to do this over and over again, would they really spend most of their existence in a cubicle pushing papers to have the latest iPhone and 60-inch television?
Work, and how it defines the ability to make choices about family and time, is the reason some people spend eight hours or more every day doing something they hate, in order to live in a house too big to support, filled with shit they don’t need, just to pay a mortgage and credit card companies every month. Is that supposed to be the dream? Is that really … living? Or is it living for Citicorp and Bank of America?