Does it ever feel like you’re eating and sleeping just to have the energy to work so that you can afford food and a place to sleep? Maybe you really enjoy working, eating and sleeping, so you’re perfectly happy. And that’s great for you! But maybe you’re asking yourself, Where’s the fun? Where’s the art?
Art has many different meanings, but the most basic one I’ve heard and appreciated is (I’m paraphrasing) anything that doesn’t fall into that routine. Anything that isn’t eating, sleeping or working. Here’s how Scott McCloud explains it:
Once you stop thinking only about surviving, you have the ability to do something fun. McCloud calls that art. Whether or not you agree that “THPLPLP!!” is art, you have to agree that it’s something more than simply surviving.
We’ve advanced a little since the era depicted here. We no longer find ourselves being chased by wild animals. We no longer have to hunt and scavenge for food. It’s much easier to obtain shelter and clothing.
We’ve transcended beyond Maslow’s first and second pyramid levels: Basic Needs like food, water, warmth & sex and Safety Needs like security, order & stability. It’s not as easy to assume most people have achieved level three, Love & Belonging, but for sure, the level that most of us seem to have difficulty on is the fourth: Esteem. This is the one that causes us to want to keep up with the Joneses. It makes us want to keep working harder to buy more things in order to show that we’ve accomplished something. But what do we really want to accomplish in life?
They used to say that as we created machines to do our jobs for us, we’d have more free time. Time we could use for art and fun. Instead, we work just as hard, or harder. For all the good that the industrial revolution brought, it also made our lives less meaningful. Sure, the assembly line made things more efficient, but it also created a lot of monotonous, soul sucking jobs. And since it made it easier to make things faster and cheaper, we were able to make more and more things. We’ve become so efficient at making things that we make more things than we need, and then marketers find ways to convince us to spend our hard earned money on them.
I keep thinking about George Jetson. He lives in the sky for crying out loud. He has a flying machine. He has a robot to do the housework. But in the end, he still sits in traffic (in the sky!) on his way to make cogs. He literally makes cogs for living. Is that our future?
What’s the answer? Minimalism seems like a good place to start. Get back to basics. Figure out your shelter, food and clothing. Then evaluate what you really need or want beyond that. What’s so important to you that you need to spend more time at work to afford it? Some people have expensive hobbies, and that’s fine. If you have to work more in order to afford that expensive hobby, that’s your path. Some of us work so much that we don’t have time for the hobbies we work to afford. There’s that cycle again. Like you’re running in a hamster wheel going nowhere. It’s no better than running from a wild animal.