I am 25, unemployed, single, and I live at home with my parents. I am a loser. Now, I could justify being a loser by saying it’s because I have a mental health problem and if I didn’t have it I would be “normal” and probably employed, but that’s besides the point. In the US, the political right talks about hard work and lifting yourself up by the bootstrap and the left talks about equality. To be honest – I don’t work that hard and to be honest – I am a straight, White, cis-sex male with upper middle class parents who are willing to support me. About a billion people on Earth don’t even have access to electricity. I don’t have it that bad. I am not super disadvantaged, so I can’t say it’s because I come from a disadvantaged background. I am just a loser.
There are countless other losers out there, and nobody hears their stories. White men who have nothing to cry about. They can’t cry about racism or sexism. They are maybe unmotivated and/or they have a mental health problem. They aren’t justified. Right now, I am one of these people.
If I could wave a magic wand and have anything I could ever want, I would have a beautiful wife, a home in an urban area, two beautiful kids, and a stable job that I love. Instead I can’t hold a job, I struggle mentally, and I can’t get sex or a relationship regardless of how much effort I put in. I am one of the left behind people. Left behind by the left and the right.
But I don’t have it that bad. On the streets there are other people with mental problems who are homeless. There are people with real problems. Then there’s me. I can’t do much right now other than wait for a job interview (trust me – I applied to almost everything), so I might as well be happy.
I hit rock bottom when I was involuntarily detained into a mental institution. I wanted nothing more than to be free. I was so unhappy when I was trapped. I naturally gravitated towards happiness from there.
If you listen to an evolutionary biologist like professor Robert Sapolsky, he says something along the lines of that the purpose of life is to pass on genes. Some animals form colonies and packs based on kinship because of shared genes (“I would lay down my life for two brothers or eight cousins” is a quote referring to the shared genes and kinship based on genes from kin selection). Now, let’s take a moment to assume that the purpose of an individual’s life is to pass on their genes.
You run into a big honking problem when you run into gay people. What is the purpose of a gay man’s life if he can’t or won’t pass on genes? In this simplistic view of the world, the purpose of a person is to get married and have kids. What if they don’t want to? Would they be going against their purpose?
I would argue that you shouldn’t look at people or yourself this way. It leads to all sorts of dark paths, like the notion that gay people have no purpose and that certain genes can be removed from the human population. I would argue that a better way is to say that the purpose of life is human happiness. You would be treating people as people if you believed that the purpose of life is human happiness. Like the kind of happiness that a prisoner experiences from freedom. That’s why prison is a punishment – nobody wants it and in a perfect world nobody would be no prison.
People naturally gravitate towards this higher form of happiness. People do it through self-actualization and being and perfecting themselves. The deprivation of it to a sufficient extent can make a person suicidal.
Oh my God I just realized I don’t give a fuck about other people. That is why I am single – who wants to be with a totally selfish person?
I experience two types of desires. One is sort of a short term physical desire, like an urge, and the other is a persistent, love driven desire, like a persistent long term want. The latter I tend to feel more in my chest and they tend to be “big desires” rather than “urges”. For example, maybe I want a romantic partner in my life (or maybe to one day make a kid with said romantic partner in the future). That’s more the second type of want, or a “big desire”. “Big desires” can be the foundation on which you set long term goals, like for example the long term goal of healthy weight loss or of obtaining a long term romantic relationship that will eventually lead to marriage. The first type of desire is more like the following situation: I walk by a candy store and I see a lollipop and I want [desire] to put it in my mouth. I know that sounded gay, but I am not sexually attracted towards male people – I am heterosexual.
Anyway, the first type of desire is more about instant gratification where as the second type of desire [i.e. what a person really (truly) wants in life] is almost a spiritual need or a need that one has as a person, and it can sort of guide people in the long term. Like I know that if I were single and never had a romantic relationship there would be like a hole in my life just like for example maybe never having a father would leave a hole in your life. Like there is something kind of sad about never having a father. The second type of desire, at least for me, keeps taking me places in life – it sort of pushes me forward. I guess one way to think of it is impulse (impulse driven) vs compulse (or human compulsion) in life. Candy is more like an impulse where as having a kid of your own or making a difference is more like a “higher pleasure” in one’s life, if that makes any sense. Love is more related to the second kind of desire (compulsion) than the first (impulse).
Imagine that there were a button on a table, and every time you hit that button with your hand, you had an orgasm. If you had no impulse control, you would hit the shit out of that button, but eventually you would get bored (or maybe you would need to go to “Pleasure Button Anonymous” [parody of “Alcoholic’s Anonymous“]). That orgasm feeling you get from hitting that button is like a shot of dopamine to your head. It feels good for like a second and then it goes away. Maybe if you’re lucky it’ll feel good for like five seconds instead of one second (I actually once tested out a psychiatric drug called Selegeline that caused orgasms to last a lot longer because it inhibited the breakdown of dopamine which is released from orgasms), but that transient short-term gratification is still sort of a temporary, almost instantaneous pleasure.
The second sort of happiness is a different feeling. I personally feel it more in my heart than in my brain. The United States’s Declaration of Independence has this phrase:
“We hold these truths to be sacred & undeniable; that all men are created equal & independent, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent & inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness”
At the end of that quote is the phrase “life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness”. Pay particular attention to the word “happiness”. What kind of happiness are they talking about? Think back to the example of the imaginary button that you could put on your table, and every time you hit that button, you had an orgasm. I don’t think that is the kind of happiness that they are talking about. That is more like immediate pleasure, and I don’t think that is what the Declaration of Independence was referring to.
I think they were referring to a deeper (some might call it “higher”) form of happiness, like a happiness that is tied to a life pursuit. A less transient form of happiness than the instantaneous gratification that one gets from the immediate satisfaction of a mere urge. I’ll make up a ridiculous example just to get a point across.
This isn’t me, but imagine that there is someone who LOVES money. Like they just want to sit on a giant pile of dollar bills. They love money the way some people love their spouse. This is kind of ridiculous, but it is meant to get a point across:
Now in the cartoon SpongeBob, Mr. Krabs loves money. Like he just sees it and he feels drawn to it and he wants to touch it. He is attracted to money. Even though I sort of feel a physical response to physical cash, I am not attracted to money, but he is. The weird thing about touching cash with my hands is that I get this weird feeling almost like I get when touching a female person (I inadvertently experienced that sensation in my left hand during this photo shoot in Vegas), but my body can’t get turned on from touching physical cash, so the feeling I get from cash isn’t sexual. It’s hard to explain exactly what I mean, but I sometimes don’t like touching physical cash and I don’t want to accumulate it – like if I have spare nickels in my apartment and I don’t want to go to the bank I just throw them away (where as Mr. Krabs would never throw away one penny).
Anyway, to me money is just a number on my online checking account that goes up or down from month to month, but to Mr. Krabs, the accumulation of money is more than just being able to pay the rent, buy food, and pay bills like the electric bill which is automatically deducted from my online checking account. To Mr. Krabs, the accumulation of money is (to him) sort of like what finding a spouse is to me. He loves money and to him the hoarding of money is like a life goal, at least during his time here on Earth (but after he is dead I think the vast majority of his money should go to the government or at the very least to philanthropy because there is no way in hell a kid can responsibly spend billions of dollars in corporate stock that he inherited from his father). Sometimes it’s hard to sell that much stock and assets at market value in a short period of time, but eventually that money should be transferred in such a way that it serves people who are not the child of a billionaire. Going back to talking about the hypothetical Mr. Krabs, the accumulation of money while he is alive is a higher form of happiness to him sort of like a romantic relationship (or the obtaining of a love based romantic relationship) is a higher form of happiness to me. Mr. Krabs really loves money and is attracted to cash the way some people are attracted to their spouse, which is why he went into business and built the Krusty Krab. Note that this is an allegory – I am not really talking about the TV show “SpongeBob SquarePants”.
Now what if I told Mr. Krabs that he had to give up all of his money. Worse yet, what if I took all his money away from him and put a curse on him such that everyone he touched turned into a pile of money. Like imagine that Mr. Krabs now has King Midas’s golden touch and everyone he touched – his daughter, his parents, his friends, his wife – they all turned into piles of money. This would crush him. Why he would hate the very thing that he loves. In my opinion, this curse would literally be a human rights abuse because it would deny Mr. Krabs a deeper form of satisfaction in his life. In the Declaration of Independence, I think that when they refer to “the pursuit of happiness”, they are referring to satisfaction in life rather than instant gratification in the form of immediate pleasure. They are referring to the “big happiness” or the “latter kind” rather than the “urge” kind or “the first type of desire” which I described in the first paragraph of this article. An urge is more like an itch that you want to scratch rather than something that one can pursue in life.
Mill’s Utilitarianism is seen as a competing theory with Kant’s Categorical Imperative, of which I believe in the second form. In Mill’s utilitarianism, he talks about two forms of pleasure – a higher form and a lower form. In my opinion, love and the pursuit of love (whether that be love of money, love of life, love of romantic partner, etc) is the “higher form” and instantaneous gratification is the “lower form”. I personally hate instantaneous gratification. Instantaneous gratification is often bad in the long run, whether it be in the form of an addiction, “junk food” [which over time causes people to become obese, ill, and die prematurely], smoking, escaping from life’s problems with a video game addiction, gambling addiction, drug addiction, or anything like that. Those sorts of things are almost like a secular version of “sin”.
In another blog post, I talked about my secular God. I may be an atheist, but I sort of see myself as like a secular prophet in a way (like I know I’m not actually magic and that I don’t have magic powers or anything like that, but I have a message). Like in human history there were prophets who spread the word during their time, and that is what I seek to do, but I am spreading my secular word. Even though I am not religious, I don’t want a totally nihilistic life and ultimately I do not believe that you have to be religious to have a feeling that something is wrong or bad and that you shouldn’t do it. I do not have to be a Christian, a Muslim, or Jewish to think that say gambling all your family’s money away and giving your children cancer from second hand smoking is a sin. It’s fucking bad. You should be able to comprehend that this is a bad thing regardless of what your faith is. Like in this [hypothetical] situation, you have literally ruined and destroyed your entire nuclear family. This [hypothetical act] is bad regardless of what your faith is. You should be able to sort of see or figure out what is bad and sort of see or figure out what is good and carve out a path in life that is guided by your sense of love and good. This is like my “secular faith”.