I often wonder what it would be like to have the life of one of my old dogs, to skip around a fifty-by-twenty-four-foot, fenced-in patch of earth and do nothing all day. I can just see it now—my body lying sprawled out on the ground as I face a hot summer’s sun, chewing on rotten rutabagas, scratching off a few flees, with nowhere to go and nothing to do but play with some old piece of rope.
Part of me loathes the thought of a worthless existence where nothing would be accomplished, where nothing could be bragged about; no excitement, no surprises, just the normal, primal stimulation of passerby bitches, bones, and beef Purina Chow! However, there is an appeal here, a profound appeal if you’re of the proper persuasion to recognize it.
Purpose and planning are at the heart of the human race. Our members are always aiming to bag the rites to boast about some new feat, but while this may characterize how others feel about life, it is the exact opposite of how I feel. The abominable, ambitious human spirit is vain at best and fool-hearty at worst. For this reason, I find my species a very pitiable one indeed.
Humans want contentment, but it takes the lack of ambition to make contentment—the only key to lasting happiness. It is submission to a state of turmoil that makes happiness possible. Ambition makes me uncomfortable. Taking chances, moving on to supposedly bigger and better things, it unsettles me greatly. A sense of acceptance is essential to remove the discomfort of stress, and what could be more stress relieving than to have the life of a dog, to know that the next day will be just like the one before it?
Well, we humans didn’t get so lucky. The spirit of progress is what drives the human race, and that’s our problem; to constantly look to better our lives, to improve everything, to make things more convenient, that’s what does us in. Our lives are as miserable as they are because we’re never satisfied. It’s not enough just to exist in a state of reciprocal give-and-take from a mutually agreeable environment such as the one we evolved in. We always want something bigger and better!
I’m happy with the way things are, with the direction my life is heading, and with what people think of me. I’m happy with the way I look, with the job I have, and with the way the world is because I am powerless to improve upon it. Good enough is good enough for me. If I don’t get invited to a party, it doesn’t matter. If people in my community don’t think very highly of me, I won’t die. If someone must be involved in a fatal car crash, it might as well be me, as opposed to some poor, optimistic Tony Robbins fan that didn’t think it could ever happen to him. Things could always be better, but I’m not losing any sleep over my or the world’s many leveling ills.
The funny thing is, in people’s quests to drastically simplify their lives, they end up making them more complicated. When I worked in the fast food industry many years ago, I had a favorite routine when busing tables and sweeping floors at a particular restaurant. I would wipe down the booths and tables first, then sweep the floors. Once the pile of trash was ready to be scooped up, I would put down the broom and the dustpan and go back into the kitchen and retrieve a small brush made just for the dustpan. It was a lot easier to hold, but no one else seemed to use it. I wondered why.
When the manager saw me putting down the long broom and grabbing the little one to use with the dustpan, he remarked, “Why did you bring out that little broom? It’s useless. It’s just one more thing to carry out. Just grab the long broom closer towards the bottom so it will be easier to handle and scoop up with. That way, you only have two items to carry.” I was dumbfounded and he was right. I didn’t need to make two trips to get this little broom. I hadn’t thought of that! I don’t know why this experience stuck in my mind all these years, but it did. Now, every time I run into other stupid things people do to try and improve their lives, this comes to mind. Examples of this never quit showing up. A family member bought me a Dayrunner to schedule my activities, but I never a once used it. It went from under the Christmas tree right into that “I’m already bored with it” category with all my other junk. It just goes to show how humans have ways of complicating the simplest of affairs.
We produce cars with advanced navigation systems, heated mirrors, light wipers, and even cars that parallel park themselves. We build computers that are capable of more than we could ever have imagined just a few years ago—and here we go again, complicating our lives! These little electronic gimmicks require other little electronic gimmicks (computers) to diagnose what is wrong with them when they fail. In the world of computers, the coding wars drag on; the game becomes one of experts verses experts as professional hackers are hired to find weaknesses in coding to prevent some hippie computer techie, sitting around his apartment all day in his underwear, eating Cheerios, and trying to hack into bank accounts. With conveniences come inconveniences.
It is precisely this same spirit of progress that brought us from crudely sharpened flints and bearskins to filet knives, firearms, and nuclear weapons. Clanking rusty swords, impaling one another for infringing on our lands or defying our gods wasn’t enough either. There had to be a better, faster, more devastating way to unleash retribution. Of course, we can justify ourselves; if we don’t get the technology of genocide first, someone else will! Our conduct may be defensible, but it is still terrible.
We just couldn’t be content! It wasn’t satisfying enough to sit on a ravine, under a well-shaded tree, eating bananas and bamboo shoots to make an exciting day. Now we live in fear, hoping the authorities of our land will act in time to prevent ambitious bands of idealists from carrying suitcase nukes into shopping malls and movie theaters. No, I’ll take my banana, please!