Money over everythang

I’ve come to realize that the best indicators of what we care about can be found in how we choose to lose what is most precious to us – time and/or money.

For most, how we spend our money is the more significant and representative of the two. First, we have to work for our money, whereas time is accorded to us without stipulations or expectations. It requires action to acquire money while the opposite is true of time – inaction leads to acquisition and only through action can we end our possession of time. While we must seek money, time seeks us (and we all know it’s all about the chase, don’t we?).

Secondly, it seems that a defining human irrationality is the inability to accept the finite nature of our existence. Time, like credit, is an intangible commodity that our little brains have a hard time comprehending in concrete terms. As a result, time, like credit, is commonly expended thoughtlessly – credit cards are swiped and time ticks away without much notice.

Relatively speaking, the ‘wasting’ of money carries with it a heavier and more accessible reality – it hurts more when we drop thousands on bottles in Vegas than it does when we spend a hungover weekend sleeping and watching Breaking Bad in turn.

(Tangentially, the wise few know better. During a family trip to Gilroy Outlets during my high school years, I expressed astonishment at the endless line just to get into the Coach outlet store. My dad, characteristically professorial, commented that there are two kinds of people in this world – those for whom money is more valuable than time and those for whom time is more valuable than money.)

And so, it seems to me that what we choose to spend our money on is indicative, if not representative, of our values and our interests, what we care about in life. For example, a glance at my recent transactions on Mint.com includes two exercise tops from Ellie, a ticket to the documentary Girls Rising, lunchtime salads and weekend sushi – I’d say that’s pretty on point. Perhaps the next online dating enterprise should matchmake singles based on their bills.

Our expenses can also illuminate what we’re willing to forgo when we’re forced to choose; who we become when it’s a zero-sum game . For example, for someone professing a love for children and the ambition of reforming the public education system, it’s worthwhile to consider that a pair of Cole Haans could have funded all of one, maybe two, school projects on a platform such as DonorsChoose.org. As with all things, there is, of course, a balance – sometimes, you just gotta treat yo’self.

So, maybe actions speak louder than words, but in the words of Hannibal Buress, money over everythang.

The difference is purpose (or is it?)

We started by saying that what discriminates living from non-living systems is a sense of purpose. If biology is reducible to quantum physics, and typical quantum objects such as atoms and molecules show no sense of purpose, where does the transition occur? Where does the ‘desire’ to achieve the state of kinetic stability come from? This, of course, brings us back to square one. One easy way out is to conclude that purposefulness is simply an illusion. Pross would probably say that it is an emergent property that arises when chemistry becomes complicated enough. But given that this sense of purposefulness is how we identify life in the first place, perhaps we should resist conclusions that seem to wave it away too easily.

Via aeon magazine

Don’t forget to live

“In the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment, young children were promised two marshmallows by a researcher. The researcher presented them with the first one straight away and told them they’d get the second as long as they didn’t eat the first before the researcher returned. The researcher then left the room for 15 minutes. A few kids scarfed the marshmallow immediately while a minority held out for the second. The children who held out did so by forcing themselves. They turned around and covered their eyes, they tugged at their pigtails, they kicked the table. Some even “stroked the marshmallow like a tiny stuffed animal”. Long term studies went on to show that children who were able to do this, to delay gratification and wait for the second marshmallow also turned out to achieve more in life. The conclusion was that the ability to delay gratification correlated with more success in the long run.

However I think there’s a second conclusion. It took 15 minutes for the researcher to eventually reappear and for the remaining children to receive their second marshmallow. The girl who waited and held out spent 15 minutes of her life tugging her pigtails, waiting anxiously for a marshmallow. Meanwhile, one of her friends got a marshmallow immediately, left the experiment 15 minutes earlier and got back home in time for dinner and playtime.

Sometimes we have to force ourselves to stop living with our eyes covered and our backs turned, stroking our dreams like stuffed animals while we wait for a sorry marshmallow. We need to just eat the one that’s in front of us and enjoy it.”

- via Lifehacker

Thoughts at 25

In no particular order:

I turned 25 this month. So far, the only change I can feel is an evolving sense of completeness.

The fact that the kind of books that F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote – romantic, glittering, other-worldly – no longer exists is a testimonial to the world’s state of being (specifically, taking-itself-too-seriously). Admittedly, he wrote about Jazz Age’s “Lost Generation” and his stories implicitly chastised the carelessness and thoughtlessness embodied by Daisy Buchannan and those like her. But, maybe there’s something to be said for that kind of “just living.” When a friend explained a mutual acquaintance’s decision to quit her job and “just live,” I wondered if I have that kind of courage in me.

I’ve been reading Christopher Hitchens and Ayn Rand and feeling a little nihilist (or maybe just existentialist). I know I’m young and I don’t have the answers to pretty much anything, but I think I’m beginning to adopt the philosophy that life is about pursuing what makes me happy now, at as minimal of a cost to what will make me happy tomorrow.

I’ve never stopped having faith that things happen as they are supposed to, when they are supposed to. There’s been some trial and error, but I’ve found myself in a career that leverages my abilities and indulges my interests. I’ve found myself in a city whose crevasses and curves perfectly mirror my own, whose ugliness I can appreciate and love (and isn’t that what we’re all looking for in a human being?), and the friends that I had a feeling would be life-long ended up here, right next to me.

For as long as I remember, whether it was looking out into Manhattan’s lights from a rooftop bar or walking the empty streets of San Francisco after another Tuesday, the feeling of wonder at the world and its possibilities has been unshakeable. Earlier this week, when I put my little room up on Craigslist and found myself with an inbox full of life stories (“At the moment, I’m getting out of a long-term relationship, so it’s just me and my bottles of wine”), I felt it again. I realized then that the world is too big to say that this is my forever. I’ve seen so little of it and I’m not sure I’ve had enough time to myself, with myself, to (make sure that I) know who I am, to just be me, to just breathe.

Better later than never.

Lately

Maybe we just weren’t made for happiness. By definition, ‘meaning’ encapsulates all human experiences and the variegated dimensions that they entail, while ‘happiness’ necessitates the indiscriminate throwing off of negativity. Maybe meaning is a step up.

“This uniqueness and singleness which distinguishes each individual and gives a meaning to his existence has a bearing on creative work as much as it does on human love. When the impossibility of replacing a person is realized, it allows the responsibility which a man has for his existence and its continuance to appear in all its magnitude. A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the “why” for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any “how.”

While happiness is an emotion felt in the here and now, it ultimately fades away, just as all emotions do; positive affect and feelings of pleasure are fleeting. The amount of time people report feeling good or bad correlates with happiness but not at all with meaning.

‘If there is meaning in life at all,” Frankl wrote, “then there must be meaning in suffering.’”

Via The Atlantic (and written by a Dartmouth grad & sorority sister).

 

Made of stardust

Everything in your body, and everything you can see around you, is made up of tiny objects called atoms. Atoms come in different types called elements. Hydrogen, oxygen and carbon are three of the most important elements in your body.

[…]

How did those elements get into our bodies? The only way they could have got there, to make up all the material on our Earth, is if some of those stars exploded a long time ago, spew- ing all the elements from their cores into space. Then, about four and a half billion years ago, in our part of our galaxy, the material in space began to collapse. This is how the Sun was formed, and the solar system around it, as well as the material that forms all life on earth.

So, most of the atoms that now make up your body were created inside stars! The atoms in your left hand might have come from a different star from those in your right hand. You are really a child of the stars.

- Particle physicist and cosmologist Lawrence Krauss

Via brainpickings.org

“Republic of NGOs to Republic of Unemployment”

Or Why I’ve (temporarily) given up on working in social enterprise.

My biggest issue with social enterprise/international development/etc. work encapsulated in January 5-11′s issue of the Economist:

 “They argue that 15-year tax holidays offered to foreign investors will hinder the government’s efforts to cut its dependence on dwindling foreign aid…Billions of dollars of aid were pledged to Haiti after the earthquake, amid much talk about ‘building back better’ and working with – not around – the government so as not to perpetuate the ‘Republic of NGOs’. But…many aid pledges were unfulfilled. And in practice, most of the money that was disbursed went to a handful of international bodies, which mainly spent it on temporary relief…and the salaries of expat staff. Grand schemes to remake Haiti came almost to nought, partly because they lacked local input…”

“The problem is that at the same time as Haiti needs investment to generate social stability and economic growth, it also needs social stability and better infrastructure to attract investment.”

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