What drives us? What exactly do we need to keep us going? How will we manage if we didn’t have a day-job? Does having a full-time job with demarcated weekdays and weekends, the endless cycle of human routine desensitize us to most things, creating its own comfort zone? Is this endless cycle of work-job meant to keep us going? To justify our long lifetimes? To make it more bearable? Like a long train journey and ‘activities’ to keep us distracted?
It’s been 24 years since my trip to Delhi-Agra-Mathura et al. The train journey was close to 2 days and one night. As an 8-year-old all I needed was the window to gaze out of. There was the Chambal valley and the promise of dacoits on horses that I eagerly anticipated. Of course, there weren’t any and I was disappointed. Will I be able to do it today? Probably not. Maybe those endless 8 hour flights have made me more boredom-prone, needing constant entertainment.
Do we use entertainment to keep us distracted from what’s happening or does it serve something towards any end? Given a whole life, how many moments do we really treasure and how many are just random routine moments of work and life? Am someone who draws joy from the little things. Like the early morning chill on the way to work, watching the city wake up as the bus snakes through, the hard bug in code that gets cracked after 2 days when all the obscure pieces of the puzzle come together, the chilly sunsets in the evening, the cup of sugarless coffee. Little things. Maybe they keep you grounded? Maybe you need them to keep you going on days when the whole world conspires against you? Something to look forward to on waking up the next morning to rinse and repeat the whole thing? The thing I worry most about these seemingly endless routines is that they seem to assert the feeling of immortality we go about life with. Every vacation is followed by the working day, every working week is followed by the weekend. Maybe we need those? Maybe we won’t be able to go about life with the dagger of our own mortality hanging above?
How much of a role does money play in this? I do believe that having enough to ensure you get through your days comfortably without any financial stress is absolutely essential. Surely you don’t want to keep worrying about where your next meal will come from? Beyond that, what does money satisfy? Consumerist cravings? Putting up a facade for others? In a world with no Facebook, Twitter or social media, would be behave or spend our money differently? I do believe so. Not that we won’t travel, listen to a particular brand of music or read some books. Just that, maybe, we’d be more self-aware, doing things because they please us, rather than because they make us look good in front of others. Yes, you’d eventually find yourself and choose what works for you, but the path might be more circuitous with many false stops. But the flip side is of course that you get more choices to choose from and see what works best for you.
But then, is having more choices a good thing? Are choices made for us, or are we driven by our choices? How much of what we choose is us and how much is a previous choice we made? If I had chosen to join St. Joseph’s instead of National College, would I be what I am today and choosing what I choose today? I guess it’s not such a great example as I chose NCB more out of practical considerations than anything else. But then that choice was dictated by my parents’ to build our house in Srinagar. Even that can be traced back to another set of choices from my parents. So what exactly is me? Where does it end and where does the set of circumstantial choices begin?
Coming back to the topic of money, if you are unhappy at your job, will being paid more make you happier? Maybe, if you feel grossly underpaid. But then, what is the meaning of underpaid? Not able to afford daily basics? If you are reading this post, you most definitely do not fall into that category. Underpaid would probably mean less than what someone of your age is earning. Maybe we still see the world through academic days when everyone was in one batch, with similar destinies, where the only thing that mattered about gradation was how you did in the exams. But even there, that extra 10 marks was there for your taking. You just needed to work harder. Now there are choices you made which led you to being at a lower level than the other guy from your college, who made his own set of choices to end up above you. Ah, choices!
On the matter of choices, there’s something I read on online dating, where the author talks about choices deciding how we go about the whole process of partner-searching. A brilliant paragraph from there:
OK Cupid gave the almost awe-inspiring impression of Kremen’s dream database: unlimited choice. There are drawbacks to this. As the sociologist Eva Illouz writes in Cold Intimacies, ‘the experience of romantic love is related to an economy of scarcity, which in turn enables novelty and excitement.’ In contrast, ‘the spirit presiding over the internet is that of an economy of abundance, where the self must choose and maximise its options and is forced to use techniques of cost-benefit and efficiency.’ At first it was exciting but after a couple of months the cracks began to show. What Beauman says about our inability to gauge what might be attractive turned out to be true.
Maybe being isolated from others wasn’t such a bad thing. Maybe we can only take that much ‘people’ and beyond that we aren’t programmed to. Maybe we are all introverts with limited people ability; extroverts are just those with a higher people ability than average. Oh well, maybe I should cut out Facebook more permanently than I do and withdraw into my shell. But then, maybe ‘I’ll miss out on something’.