Every 24 hours, you’ll turn a day older.
Nothing to be done about that.
No amount of productivity, no number of life hacks, no nothing is going to change that.
Not even the greatest accolades or the highest income, the most passion or the lowest expectations are going to make you happy forever and always.
Lots of talk online (as well as in books) comes from people driven to hack their lives for great productivity. Not a few are looking for (and to) the notorious “four-hour workweek” to get to ever greater excitement and adventure.
A growing group goes hyper for languages, others seek perfection through the numbers in their life-tracking, life-hacking, or increasingly, bio-hacking.
You’ll still age, your stuff will fall apart, and most of your memories will be at least as lost as your mementos.
The influence you had on the world, by breathing and drinking and eating and buying stuff and using things and talking with others and caring for others and caring for yourself and procreating, or not, will fan out.
Nothing will matter much, but everything will, in the tiny thread it contributes, be woven into the tapestry of human culture and all of life on Earth.
Being human, being able to conceive of such metaphysical notions, we are uplifted and struck down. We rise above ourselves and seek a higher purpose and meaning, and we remain these hairless apes just following the biological urges to survive and procreate, whatever way we can.
As individuals, all too often, we take our own lives as much too important – but our role in the whole fabric far too lightly.
We overlook our ecological connections because they never before mattered to us in a way that would have made us ready for the ways we now matter in them. There is a lot we need to learn about that, and fast … but that’s what ‘the ecology of happiness’ is for, not this page here.
We can learn, however, and we tend to seek our highest purpose and meaning in life in more than just our basic urges.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs applies, and it may apply much more than people often think, for we seek purpose – to greater or lesser extent – even when we have trouble satisfying our more basic, biological needs.
Of course, when you starve, you are most concerned with food; when you are poor, you are taxed to think of anything but the next issue at hand. But then, mere survival is your purpose, feeding your family is your meaning.
Being in a desperate situation, the goal is clear. Dying is easy, you don’t have to do anything for that.
The struggle to live, that is hard.
It is obviously hard in desperate situations, but it is also hard when things are just a tad too comfortable.
Stories of lives headed for an early and inglorious death but then turned around from the brink appeal and get attention, but that is exactly because they have an easy-to-grasp meaning, presented in a nice narrative arc.
All well and good, that’s how we are and what motivates us to listen, but most lives – and most people’s drives – are not that special. Most of us, we just want a decent life, a comfortable existence, a little bit of fun and excitement but not so much that it puts us into danger. Learning and change? Sure, if it obviously pays off more than it costs…
The danger, though, is that a not-so-bad life may not be nearly as good (even in terms of simple contentedness) as it could be, while at the same time being too good by far to create enough of a desire to change anything.
That slow burn without satisfaction about it, without acceptance that life is just about the living and doesn’t have to be anything special, having the human desire to make a bit more out of oneself and one’s life gnawing at one’s heart but not giving enough of a jab to jump up and get going – that is true horror.
You want to do a bit more, you should be in a situation where you could do more, you could learn and see and do more, maybe you could be of a little positive influence in a world much in need of these pinpricks of hopeful light… but you just can’t quite decide what to do, can’t quite get yourself up and going, can’t seem to catch a break – that is true horror.
The more we see, be that action movie hero stories or the tales of the high and mightily successful, the more we are taught to think that the break must be a sudden one.
We don’t see how the life that gets better is really lived:
Start with tiny steps that seem too insignificant, but take them every day.
Let them slowly, ever so slowly, build a little momentum.
Drudge through the mud, feeling like nothing will ever get better, nothing much is changing…
… until you reach a peak from where you can look back and see how far you’ve already come, break through the clouds and catch a ray of sunshine, and maybe, probably, even learn to enjoy the long and winding journey.