Sunday, September 22, 2013

If Buddha Were A Verb...

So I’m about to pick up everything again and move to DC, and for what? Because I want to find a job. I started thinking about this whole “needing a job” thing over the past week and a half or so, and I’m fairly surprised as to where my chain of thought has gone.


One thing I’ve come to understand this past week is that achieving a desire or goal only opens up the space for more desires. We’re conditioned to constantly march forward wanting new things instead of stopping to appreciate what we have. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone saying, "yes, I finally got the job (or car, or house, or spouse) that I want! Now I can give up on my quest for more, rest easily and enjoy life." If I got lucky enough to land the job I've been trying so hard to get for three years, would I be truly satisfied? Most likely not. Getting that job would bring more money, which means I'd finally be able to afford a new phone, a new car, travel, a TV, my own place, and so on and so forth, so I'd never be finished wanting. I'd just be working to buy more stuff which I'll eventually need to replace in a year or two anyway. Not to mention I’d probably want a promotion in two to three years, so this job that I’ve desperately wanted for so long wouldn’t bring any sort of lasting happiness at all. Even when it comes to less consumerist and materialistic things, I'd want a partner, then some kids, then good outcomes for the kids who I'd want to provide for, so even desires that aren't materialistic just bring more desire.

So what the fuck is the point of achieving a desire if doing so only brings more desires? It seems awfully fucking futile to me.

More and more, I feel that the only way to escape this society in which so much is wrong and unequal because everyone’s trying so damned hard to achieve their desires despite the obviously large amount of harm it’s doing to the planet is to completely turn my back on society as a whole. I don't want my work to go towards benefiting an evil corporation that exploits people for profit. I think I would rather work a menial job at a small nonprofit and live simply.


I’m also now questioning the point of working for any nonprofit at this point, which is what I’ve wanted to do for years. I don’t think I am interested in a fantastic career because careers are fleeting and rarely make people truly happy. Not to mention, careers just end up damaging someone else, no matter what it is. If I were to work for a nonprofit, I’d still need nice clothes (which would be made by kids in Asia or South America who work twelve hour days), I’d need to use technology for the job (so a phone and computer would have to come from some kids in Asia, too), my apartment and my office would both contribute to climate change pretty severely and climate change will most likely affect the poorest people on Earth first. Despite all this, would my meager work at the nonprofit be a net gain for the planet? The more I think about it, the more I think my answer is ‘no.”

I also question the work of most nonprofits when overpopulation is such a huge issue that no one is talking about. Sure, we can alleviate poverty and hunger, improve the rate of infant mortality and access to immunizations and better health care, but all this just means more people to feed and more people to employ. The Earth truly can’t handle this, so what’s the point of bringing all of these people into a global economy based on power and plunder if they’re just going to be a miserable middle class cog like I currently am who will only end up contributing to climate change in the long run?

It truly is a terrible thought, but we simply cannot afford to bring 7 billion people into the middle class. If everyone on earth were all of a sudden able to afford an American middle class lifestyle, the ecosystem would collapse.  7 billion people driving cars, building houses and walking around with their eyes glued to their phones would result in catastrophe. This "middle class" deal only works because billions of people are left foraging for scraps throughout the world. They live on pennies and dollars a day, connected to this system of exploitation only because they're a warm body and those of us with money need shiny new things. This isn't okay and at one point, it's going to have to stop. I’m left wondering how can we do anything if almost everything we do, from the littlest of tasks like doing laundry, harms others due to the effects of climate change? Interconnectivity is apparently a bitch.

There’s gotta be a better way to bring these people out of misery and into some semblance of security and comfort. I’d say “happiness,” but who in our country or society is truly happy? We’re all left wanting a bunch of shit, whether it be immaterial or material, and once we obtain it, we want just end up wanting more shit because that’s what we’re trained to do as consumers. If money and a whole bunch of expensive things were really able to bring happiness, I think the Real Housewives of wherever would be a hell of a lot less bitchy. But all these reality TV shows based on the lives of rich people show is how truly fucking awful and miserable the 1% seems to be. So why in god’s name do we aspire to be rich in this country when it just means more problems?


Plus I can't help but notice that a deep -- and very large -- part of me recognizes that the "American Dream" of a stable middle class lifestyle is unsustainable for this planet environmentally and economically. It is incredibly selfish of me to want a new phone, a new car and a house because all of these things are both destructive to the environment and rely on an exploitative system of capitalism. Is it fair that I can afford an iPhone when the person who slaved in a factory to make it can barely afford to feed themselves? All this technology is made by super poor people to sell to middle class people who are only a few steps away from being poor, all so that the rich can live in comfortable, gated communities. And if this is the situation, which I really think it is, then I really don't want a new iPhone because it won't bring me or the people who made it for me any sort of lasting happiness or peace. None of us are happy about this current set up, so why do we continue it? Plus, that the materials that go into creating said iPhone require damaging the earth through mining and manufacturing, and the carbon involved in the whole assembly and shipping process is probably pretty hefty.

So here I am, contemplating the most basic assumptions of American society in a way that only a severely underemployed twenty (almost thirty) something can. Many of my fellow citizens haven't had to confront this kind of thinking before, or were at least able to keep it at the fringes of their mind because they had comfort and security, but that isn't the case for most of us anymore.

I've had similar thoughts before, and they're all very Buddhist. But I've always been able to ignore them so I could pursue my next goal. However, I'm very quickly running out of ideas and I'm getting pretty damned sick of having to invent new goals so often. And now that I see how purposeless goals and desires are, I just don't see much of a point in continuing this struggle.

And because I'm me, I can't divorce my experience or my thoughts from the politics of the bigger picture. The 1%, the ruling class, the haves, they all depend on our continued participation in this imaginary and exploitative system. Our current form of capitalism thrives on our insecurities and our unhappiness. Despite billions of dollars spent on advertising, obtaining the newest toy, or anything else for that matter, rarely results in adding to our sense of inner peace or long term happiness. Once we get it, do we really feel any sort of lasting satisfaction? I know if I were to run out and get a new iPhone tomorrow, the newness would wear off within a week, so why do we all drive ourselves so crazy over these things?

The fact that we're conditioned to want the latest and the greatest objects doesn't help this problem, either. This is all done to make sure we keep working so that we can make more money to buy something new and exciting and all this does is retain the current political and economic status quo. The rich stay rich because the poor spend their money on things created by the rich.


So if getting a job at a nonprofit would only bring more desires, would my time be better spent setting an example as a monk or someone who turned their back on this system and now lives very simply? All I hear is about how dreadful the economy is, how jobs might be returning, but they’re paying much less than they did five years ago. It seems we’ll be lucky to find any job that keeps up slightly above the poverty level and if that’s the case, I’d just rather not participate in this absolutely shitty economy at all.

I had a thought last week that I think I'd be very happy (or at least more at peace) living in a tiny shack with a huge garden and some books and a bike. Fuck an important career, a nice car, a nice house, etc. I honestly think I'd be happier with that than an apartment in DC because I’d always be looking to improve the apartment in one way or another. If I continued to get better jobs with more money, I’d want to move into nicer places, too. However, if I force myself to live simply in a small, cheap place with meager features, I don’t think I’d want to constantly improve it.

Right now, all I want to do is just take my toys and go home, except I don't know what my toys are or what home would entail. Immersion into a Buddhist monastery perhaps? I'm pretty much of the mind that Buddha got it right, but how many people in the history of humanity and monasticism have achieved Enlightenment? The Buddha also didn't believe that an ascetic or monastic lifestyle were necessary to reach Nirvana. He didn't achieve his lofty status until he left being a monk behind.

I really have no idea what to do with myself. I'm giving DC a year and if I don't feel happy, peaceful or content, or if I can't make peace with these ridiculous thoughts, I'm throwing my hands up in the air and joining a fucking monastery because this whole society just isn't doing it for me on any level anymore.