Today is Towel Day

In tribute to the great Douglas Adams.
And while we’re at it:

“It comes from a very ancient democracy, you see…”
“You mean, it comes from a world of lizards?”
“No,” said Ford, who by this time was a little more rational and coherent than he had been, having finally had the coffee forced down him, “nothing so simple. Nothing anything like so straightforward. On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people.”
“Odd,” said Arthur, “I thought you said it was a democracy.”
“I did,” said Ford. “It is.”
“So,” said Arthur, hoping he wasn’t sounding ridiculously obtuse, “why don’t people get rid of the lizards?”
“It honestly doesn’t occur to them,” said Ford. “They’ve all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they’ve voted in more or less approximates to the government they want.”
“You mean they actually vote for the lizards?”
“Oh yes,” said Ford with a shrug, “of course.”
“But,” said Arthur, going for the big one again, “why?”
“Because if they didn’t vote for a lizard,” said Ford, “the wrong lizard might get in. Got any gin?”
“I said,” said Ford, with an increasing air of urgency creeping into his voice, “have you got any gin?”
“I’ll look. Tell me about the lizards.”
Ford shrugged again.
“Some people say that the lizards are the best thing that ever happenned to them,” he said. “They’re completely wrong of course, completely and utterly wrong, but someone’s got to say it.”
“But that’s terrible,” said Arthur.
“Listen, bud,” said Ford, “if I had one Altairian dollar for every time I heard one bit of the Universe look at another bit of the Universe and say ‘That’s terrible’ I wouldn’t be sitting here like a lemon looking for a gin.”

No specific gin or lizard endorsement.

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?