Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Road to Normalcy

Too much time spent in triviality, like escape was the only way to keep sane, distraction by watching television, reading books and surfing the Internet, lost in a world of diversion. An elitist feeling, that of being knowledgeable, spending time keeping up with social, cultural, political and art events, acting like royalty as in Lorde’s song, with someone’s day job enough to pay bills. But in fact, a snob at the end of the day, despite the love of knowledge, thinking one is special by being intelligent. In a world of practicality, it’s a waste of time; the need to focus on reality becomes apparent as one faces money problems, as loans are due and one needs to hustle. No more time spent in trivial things but on how to make a buck. I read the book ‘The Buy Side’ in the weekend, a true account of a Wall Street trader, more like an every man story as he strives to make millions on the stock market,  the un-Buffett or the un-Soros, a life of excess, trading information and investing in tips, with some sober moments of good analysis. In the end, the author crashed and burned; a victim of alcohol and drug filled indulgence, a life anyone would have ended up, given the chance, instead of the sober long view and patient actions of a Buffett or Soros.

This is true life, where one needs to scramble to make ends meet, where the mind has to focus, work long hours, work like a grunt, his mind back from the clouds, avoiding day dreams and facing reality, hopeful of flashes of inspiration after time spent in reveries. It is the application of insight learned from dreams, hopeful of a different perspective; a detached view that one could apply to real problems. The problem is the feeling of superiority, by being up to date, in the know with the latest and greatest, though one is an employee, trying to feel special. Perhaps it’s what’s great in America, when leisure is possible with a normal wage, free to develop and grow as one sees fit. But excess money leads to indulgence, as one learns in ‘Irrational Behavior’, where more money does not translate to better performance especially in creative tasks, only in tasks that are mechanical. Living in dreams, despite being in debt, not being practical, is a form of irrational behavior, too. Like the trader in the book, full of irrational behavior as his life sinks into depravity, fueled by drugs and alcohol, while trying to pretend to normality. What about an excess of time? Does this also lead to excessive behavior?

A normal person only needs little to live a decent life, but in a situation of excess moolah and time, effort is needed to be sober and wise, to devote time in meaningful activities instead of waste. The answer is not in travelling more, watching the latest shows, spending money in trivial things but in tasks that use time wisely, perhaps to apply what one learns until middle age. Some worthwhile activities are: grow a garden, plant trees, look for meaningful activities outside work, or write a book. This will keep one lean, away from being obese in mind, body and spirit, in a state of continuous effort, not from the poverty of olden times, but from the excess of free. 'Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much' is a book that talks about the ‘scarcity mindset’, for example the scarcity of time, when one loads up with activities that one has no time left for tasks that really matter. Why does one feel scarcity? Is it because of fear the one’s job will consume one’s time, away from the feeling of exploring new things, like flying in the air, imprisoned by work, away from the reality that brings you down to earth, to normality. Perhaps it the fear of losing freedom until one realizes that neglecting meaningful tasks will also result in a loss of freedom, a victim of dreams.

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