Managing the Advantage

I bring your attention to that least-sympathetic subset, the born rich. That would be you.

There is a difference between earning your living and doing what you’re supposed to be doing, e.g., that which challenges you and brings fulfillment while affording bread and shelter. This is a touchy subject, and many no doubt confuse one with the other. After all, aren’t we only meant to provide for ourselves and our children? For much of the world, securing this line of provisions is a great challenge. But just like finance, debt, food choices and room colors, we have expanded the meaning of this concept to cover much more than the essentials. Or rather, we have re-defined the essentials to include things and people other than those specifically ours.

Like it or not, this is a society characterized by distinct advantage, and advantage comes at the expense of someone or some thing. We get more food, more education, more attention as children, more time with family, more opportunity to pursue what we want than we likely deserve, especially in relation to people who happen to be born other places. And what do we do with all this advantage? Mostly waste it, zapping pixel spacemen and frightening ourselves that someone’s going to take something away from us, snorting garbage, building walls, worrying about taxes going for welfare (but not war). Expensive educations that only teach us how to make more money are a useless fraud and undermine our innocence at its most vulnerable point. We systemically remove that which is our only hope, and hence must fall back to dismal goals like mere sustainability.

I bring up the art of living very often on this site for a reason – its inescapable importance to contributing to some kind of forwardly manageable society – including its natural environment. You can learn how to do it but the window is tiny and requires a lot of unpleasantness like history, literature, science, philosophy, aesthetics and language. Relative unhappiness in your work might be the operative predicate for an effective sale pitch, but it’s a lousy reality. The backside of the Puritan work ethic on which this country was ostensibly built is that we come to naturally despise work – the implication being that if you love what you do, you’re not really working. If you doubt this, consult our lust for lotteries and other avenues to unearned riches. These are heinous and self-administered tricks, designed, like so much, merely to separate you from your money, and the cause of no small amount of suffering. Having the laugh on that count should be the whole point; revel in a seamless transition between work and life.

If we have to sell ourselves on a concept like altruism, enact laws – or worse, dangle the carrot of eternal salvation – just to get us to do the right things, we might as well just set the blender to puree, devolve into anarchy and start over again. There is a blatant self-interest in living well and actively supporting the same for others as a constituent part thereof. But it’s decidely not the self-interest we’ve been taught to admire and protect. The point is to expand the advantage. Do you know what that means?