The Futility of Addiction


Trump-devil-horns-feature

Released from the obligation to work, many retired people find themselves to be unsuspected addicts. With plenty of time on their hands, they are free to finally ruin their lives through addiction. Alcohol, drugs, shopping, gambling, sex…almost any activity can be ruinous if taken to an extreme.

Addicts usually spend a great amount of time rationalizing their addiction before daring to confront it. It’s not that bad yet…You’d do this too if…I only do this because she doesn’t…I’m just letting off steam…besides, what else is there to do in this stupid place?

Addicts often wishfully conclude that if only they take their addictive behavior to an extreme, they’ll somehow “break through to the other side” and prove to themselves that this way lies folly. They’ll tire of the game. They’ll have finally had enough. By “maxxing out,” they’ll find freedom from the compulsion.

You can never get enough of what you don’t need.

An addict is like a man digging a hole so deep he can’t climb out of it, but he’s convinced himself that if he digs faster or harder or more efficiently, he’ll finally find a way up and out. He can’t face the fact that he won’t be able to take any action to climb out of the hole until he first stops digging.

To use another metaphor: if you’re walking down the wrong path, walking faster won’t get you where you want to go. Imagining your goal around the next corner won’t help. You’ll simply have to realize that you’ve taken the wrong path, stop, turn around and painful as it may be, retrace your steps until you get back to the place where you made a wrong turn. You’ll have to chalk up all the time and energy you spent going the wrong way as loss. There is no other way around it.

Advertisements

WHAT’S A FELLA TO DO WITH HIMSELF?


P1030417

CONCRETIA DEMENTIA

It seems to strike older men, causing them to spend the rest of their days making strange sculpture parks, sometimes using acres of land and millions of pounds of cement. Often the designs are repetitive, but the sameness of the imagery doesn’t slow these guys down. They have no “off” button.

In Iowa, we have the Grotto of the Redemption in West Bend. There a Father Paul Dobberstein, a Roman Catholic priest spent forty years-two years making the world’s most complete man-made collection of minerals, fossils, shells, and petrifications in one place. The rocks alone are thought to be worth four million dollars.

On both sides of the Mekong River, in both Ventiane, Laos and Nong Khai, Thailand, Bunleua Sulilat built enormous, fantastic sculpture parks using both Buddhist and Hindu symbols. He began in Laos, but after the 1975 Communist revolution, decided to continue his work on the other side of the river, in Thailand. These are truly “over the top” both in size and conception. A fall from one of his sculptures on the Thai side led to his demise at the age of 64. His mummified body is on display in a hall at the park.

It certainly gives a guy something to do with his hands, and ends up constituting a life’s work.

P1030476

P1030462

P1030471P1030430P1030455

The Fundamental Error


Image

 

 

THE FUNDAMENTAL PERCEPTUAL FLAW BEHIND MOST UNHAPPINESS

In the long run, what really matters is how we spend our time, not what we accomplish. If you have enough money to not worry about having enough money, then you can do something else with your time than make money. If you have enough stuff, then getting more will not make you happier. But what you do with this fleeting gift of time and health does matter. In fact, it’s all that matters.

Advertising and promotion make it seem like there’s something other than what’s right in front of you that will make all the difference to your happiness. That’s the fundamental error in a nutshell. Once you buy that lie, then you’re hooked on searching for different solutions to the same invented problem. So your life becomes a hustle, a chase, and the moments that might have been worthwhile seem empty and trivial. You’ve been sold a bill of goods!

When you seem to be on the winning side of that hustle, the illusion is exhilarating. You’re a winner! You’re managing your life well and reaping the just rewards of such diligence. You’re a smart shopper, a wise investor, a clever player.

On the other hand, when nothing seems to be going your way, then you’re in need of expert advice, a consultation, a series of tests, a new drug. It’s easy to see how arbitrary and foolish this dividing the present moment into “fun” and “boring” is when we look at others. Who hasn’t met a dentist in his forties who divorced the wife of his youth and took up with his much-younger dental hygienist? His wife got the house and he got a new convertible. Three years later, he’s trying to re-invent himself as a counter-culture type, attending Burning Man and writing a blog. Fifteen years later he’s living in the Philippines, sleeping with five different women younger than his youngest daughter and drinking himself to death. What happened?

He mistook the illusory hustle for life itself.

Of course, when I beat up on our hypothetical dentist, I’m really trying to throw focus away from myself. I am, of course, both the horny dentist and his complicit hygienist. Blaise Pascal, the French mathematician, said “Most of our problems are linked to our inability to sit quietly alone in a room.” That is a more elegant way of positing what it took me several paragraphs to say. As a generalization, most of us would agree that the present moment is sufficient for our happiness, but try telling that to an irritable five-year-old, or someone who’s spent the last hour in a doctor’s waiting room.

.