The Surprising Benefits of An Easy Life

For the last decade or so, I have single-mindedly dedicated myself to maximizing the freedom and minimizing any unwanted obligation in my life. I became a “digital nomad” so that external factors could not control where I chose to live, and so that nothing could stop me from traveling 12 months a year if I so chose. I have avoided serious romantic relationships and having children in order to avoid responsibility for the happiness of another human being.

I have seen how other human lives are weighed down by worry due to duties – Duties that were imposed, in some cases, by not being born into the comfortable middle class life that I happened to be born into, due to a combination of extraordinary good luck and my parents working harder than I ever will. But in many cases, these duties seem to freely chosen for nigh-incomprehensible reasons. Those around me, including many who weren’t much less lucky than me in terms of the hand they were dealt at birth, seemed to slavishly follow the conventional path of self-imposed obligation – Obligation to a full-time job; obligation to their spouses, their children; obligation to maintaining their expensive houses full of expensive things. I didn’t see much to envy in that kind of life, and mostly I still don’t. You might think my aloof freedom has made me arrogant and dismissive of people who choose more conventional lives of family and professional success. You wouldn’t be 100% wrong there; but I’m also keenly aware that having a ridiculous degree of autonomy and control over my own life probably hasn’t made me much happier in the long run.

And therein lie the hidden benefits of having a life free of obvious hardship, free of obvious external challenges to fight, be frustrated by, and push back again.

Read More

Victor and the Void

The sound was awful. Every morning, Victor was awakened by the screaming of the Void – A shrill, overpowering noise whose awfulness seemed to transcend any normal laws of acoustics. And yet, each morning, Victor plodded over to the edge of the Void and dutifully shoveled in a fresh batch of Void food. After that, the Void’s screaming would become marginally less terrible for a time – or perhaps it didn’t, and it was all in Victor’s head, the mildly diverting delusions of a man who had been feeding the Void for as long as he could remember.

Either way, each and every morning, Victor faithfully executed his duty and fed the Void. He did this because the alternative would have been, somehow, even worse than the status quo – or then again, maybe not. And it didn’t seem to matter whether he fed it a few scant morsels of Void food or a big, generous, heaping portion – within a few minutes of feeding time, the screaming seemed to revert to its mean level of intolerability.

No matter what he did or didn’t do – although he inevitably stopped short of contemplating the bold concept of not feeding the Void at all – the Void’s interminable wailing continued throughout the day. Inbetween the daily feedings, Victor busied himself with crossword puzzles, cooking light meals (of human food, naturally; Void food is for void and human food is for humans), and, occasionally, brutal acts of self-mutilation. In the long run, and on average, ferreting out esoteric synonyms and digging up dusty old pop culture references in the crosswords was no more or less effective a distraction than harsh jolts of self-inflicted pain.

Because no matter what, Victor was there, and the Void was there, and the enormous sack of Void Chow somehow managed to perpetually remain half-filled. That tattered old bag was always at precisely 50% of capacity, and it seemed to scarcely matter whether he plucked the morsels of chow out one at a time, making a game of aiming them straight into the middle of the nothingness; or whether he frantically shoveled them into the Void’s insatiable maw, heaving in fresh heaps until he reached the point of exhaustion. Sometimes, as another completely futile act of self-distraction, he would make a game of tossing each tiny particle of Void food directly into the exact centre of the strictly circumscribed nothingness. But in the end, every day was the same, the Void was always the Void, and Victor was always Victor. The sheer sameness of it all was almost more terrible than the horrible, horrible wailing itself. But no, that unending shriek of unfathomable, infinite, and yet somehow abstract pain was probably still worse.

And then the Void burped. There was a brief lull, and then it resumed its relentless shrieking.