More health whine

I had expected this to be a pretty good day.  The workweek was over, and Double XP weekend has begun in City of Heroes, one of my favorite games.  To top it all off, I bought a new mobile phone, except it is more like a small always-online computer.  A small, SLOW computer, but even so.

But toward the end of the workday, I noticed that I was feeling weak. I came home and saw that my pulse was far above normal, so that just standing was the equivalent of exercise.  I tried to mow lawn again since it wasn’t raining today, but had to give it up, my pulse was way out of normal range then. I also had a slight headache and my skin felt warm to the touch.  The temperature was only elevated by less than a degree Celsius, though.

Over the course of the evening my hemorrhoids have grown ever more painful. These made themselves known earlier in the week as I had a near brush with constipation after adding salt to my diet.  There hasn’t been anything the last day or two to cause this pain though, which is worse than in many months at least.  Anyway, I haven’t heard of anyone getting fever from hemorrhoids (and I suspect 9 out of 10 women have had worse piles than I) so instead I was like OMG SWINE FLU PLZ HEAL in my head.

However, the pulse has gone down a bit, as have the other symptoms, except the hemorrhoids which are getting steadily worse. -_- I’ve read that a blood clot may happen in these occasionally and cause unbearable pain.  It is however not fatal (or about in the risk range of meteor strikes).  So the flu would be worse.  Last time I had (normal, seasonal) flu, the fever came in the night, and when I woke up it was just barely I did. I had to crawl, literally, to the bathroom, where I somehow with great effort got the cold water to run and splashed enough on me to cool me down to where I began to think clearly and take full control of my body. That was a near miss.  But at least I am not responsible for anyone else, so all I need to focus on is staying alive.  Tonight I am eating a small dose of paracetamol before going to bed.  I generally avoid Paracet because of the risk to the liver, and Aspirin because of the stomach lining, but right now my priority is a bit different. Dying with a great liver is not a priority. Not that I think the Great Flu would withdraw this easily, so I really don’t know what it is.  But just in case.

Sims dream and… asthma?


It’s not all fun and games – although this time it began with that.

I became very tired half past midnight, instead of 2AM when I usually go to sleep. (Last night I went to sleep about an hour early too.)  This time I was taken by surprise and fell asleep in my chair. I woke up about an hour later and dragged myself to bed. My knees hurt, as they do when I sleep in my chair for more than a brief nap.

I woke up a little before 3AM.  I had dreamed for a while that I was playing a new Sims game (that would presumably be Sims 4, but in real life Sims 3 is still less than two months old. ) There were various new features, and I only remember the beginning and the end.  Perhaps I did not dream more than those.  At the end, my sim was nearing the end of its brief life and was drifting through town lamenting his fate:  “If only there was a moonless night, or even a cat!”  -for each of these offered magical sims a chance to prolong their life, the first for a longer time and the second for a shorter. But the game offered no such opportunity.  I was about to save and quit the game because I could not stand seeing my sim die. I felt very sad, as if I was the one to die.  Then suddenly all around my sim his friends became visible. They pooled their lifeforce, intending to share each a little of their life with him so he might have the chance to live till the next moonless night. But one of them was a schoolgirl, and she said he could get a year of her life because she wanted to grow up faster anyway.  I was not so sure that was a good idea, because even though I understood the childish desire to grow up, she might regret her sacrifice later. On the other hand, I did not want (my sim) to die.  I had this choking feeling.

Then I woke up and realized that I was indeed kind of choking.  I know I can’t quite trust my body at this time, as the last three days show, but this was all too familiar. I heard the characteristic wheezing sound when breathing out, which I remember from my childhood asthma.

This is not the first time I wake up to that sound even in my adult life.  For a few years at least, I have exercise-induced asthma, albeit in a much milder form.  It does not show up from light or moderate exercise, but if I start panting, the asthma kicks in. The wheezing on the last part of the out breath is really a clincher.  (I not only had this as a child, my mother also got asthma in her old age.)  It is no big surprise that I can get the same reaction after lifelike dreams, because REM sleep causes the heart to race and the lungs to labor, depending on the mood of the dream.  Asthma attacks from REM sleep are pretty common.  REM is also one of the most common triggers of heart attacks, and a lot of people die that way in the morning. Their relatives believe that they died peacefully in their sleep, but in most cases they probably died during or right after an intense dream, either dreaming about sex of another physical exertion like running. Obviously we will never know, but judging from those who survive, we have a pretty good idea.

But I digress. In any case, “madness is not the only danger in  dreams. There is also the danger that something may be lost that can never be regained”, in this case life itself.

While asthma is a life-threatening disease, the attacks I have had as an adult have been much milder than my childhood asthma. This is normal. In fact, a number of high-level athletes have exercise asthma.  They do however use medication to get around it.  With inhalers, asthma that is not coupled with severe allergy is rarely fatal. Since I don’t have medication – I have not even consulted a doctor about this, as it is so rare – I just avoid that level of exercise.  You can keep in decent shape without breathing quite hard enough to trigger it.

REM induced asthma is rarely if ever fatal without complications like allergy asthma, heart disease or OMG SWINE FLU.  (I am so not looking forward to that one, as you may guess.) But the period before the bronchial swelling is fully reversed is quite uncomfortable, especially for one who has bad memories of life-threatening asthma.

I am not sure whether my subconscious is assisting in staging this attack. It seems likely, given the previous three days of imaginary breathing problems. You can’t fake the wheezing though, but I suppose you can “crisis-maximize” it, as we say around here. Psychological factors are known to make asthma attacks worse or milder, probably by affecting general breathing and heart rhythm.

If this is the case here, my subconscious must have something desperately important to tell me to run a risk like this on the very edge of the flu season.

Unfortunately for my dear readers, all previous big announcements of my subconscious have boiled down to “it’s time to shed another layer of your learned human-ness and become more alien.”  Perhaps the message of this dream was a different one. Or perhaps the message of the dream was the reason why I got an asthma attack.  It’s too early to say.  In fact, it is like 4 AM, which is really too early for anything.

Girlfriends & the arrow of time


“I want a girlfriend, too” says this barely legal teen from the anime Please Teacher. You’d think people would outgrow that want when they grow old enough to marry, but evidently not.

First off, let me preface this by saying that this is not a declaration of hate toward those I write about here.  Some of my best friends have girlfriends.  Well, at least one, but some very likable acquaintances too.  And in so far as I may seem to assert my smug superiority, remember that it is not mine, but belongs to all of humankind, reaching back to the dawn of civilization, and is free to receive by all who wish to be worthy of it, and even me who am not.

Now, as I said above, it is natural for a young boy to want a girlfriend. I don’t think I need to go into much more detail about that, at least today.  What I find disturbing is people aged 25, 30, or even 40, casually talking about their “girlfriend” or “boyfriend”.  And I don’t mean this merely in a linguistic sense, that they should say “womanfriend” or “manfriend” instead.  Although I suppose that would kind of highlight one aspect of this.

Basically what I react to is the lying, which I suppose is really a form of hypocrisy. This  fits with the phrase being quite common in the USA, whereas European languages tend to go for a somewhat more realistic phrase like “lover”, “fiancée” or here in Norway “kjæreste” (“dearest”) which used to be another word for fiancé/e.  Although I have seen the word corresponding to “girlfriend” seeping in here too, to some degree, probably because of the cultural wind from the west. Mostly we Scandinavians use the word “samboer” (cohabitant) however, if actually living together rather than just visiting.

Is the girlfriend just a girl who is also a friend?  Rarely, except sometimes when used by straight women.  Rather, it usually refers to some kind of informal or temporary spouse, or nearly so.  Sometimes an actual fiancée. Sometimes a part-time spouse, though I’d say that is rather uncommon.  Anyway, there is usually sex and some degree of mingled economy.

So why this immature name and, in some cases, immature behavior?  I can see how this took root among people whose main anchor in life was the next fix of their illegal drug. If I remember correctly, it was in this or some related milieu it first started to take off here in Norway.  But when I see it on a forum dedicated to self-improvement and personal growth, I have to wonder how it got this far.  What is wrong with following the simple basic regulations for civilized life that we have had since the Bronze Age at the very least?

I had started thinking about this before I left the city and went home.  I was still thinking about it as I was mowing the lawn (again!), and I asked myself once again: “Why can’t they just marry?”

At that point my mowing had brought me all the way to the hedge that separates me from the neighbors, and without planning to eavesdrop, I could not help hear the woman on the other side of the hedge ask someone: “Why can’t they just marry?”  I mowed on and did not get the full explanation, but evidently it was not quite that simple.

Well, evidently it isn’t quite that simple, and I suppose the childlike name of the relationship gives some clue as to why.   Despite being old enough that biologically they could have grandchildren, people are still “not ready” for the commitment of marriage. They are ready for the sex and the quarreling and frequently for having babies, though. WTF? And I mean that quite literally.

Here in Scandinavia there are certain tax and welfare incentives for single parents to remain single, but since long ago this only applies if they don’t have any children with the person they are currently living with. So there is the perverse situation that if you have a child together, you get richly rewarded for breaking up.  Evidently the mostly socialist governments we have had over the past generation felt that it is important that a child not grow up with both its biological parents. Anyone else, just not the actual parent.  I won’t elaborate on the idiocy of the Left this time, however.  Anyone with an ounce of common sense can see how crazy that policy is.  But even in the face of losing their tax breaks and welfare, there are numerous couples who stay together. But marry? No way.

Note that I am not the biggest ever fan of marriage.  I see duonormativity as way overhyped. You will never find the person who can make you happy, because you ARE the person who can make you happy.  Well, not counting God I suppose, but I think even God would do that mainly by changing you into a person who did happiness-promoting things instead of unhappiness-promoting things.  In fact, pretending to be a Christian or Jew or Hindu or Buddhist (probably moderate Muslim as well) and living according to their tenets would probably make the average person happier even if he did not for a moment believe in the supernatural.

But pretending to be a barely legal teenager when you’re old enough to have grandkids is unlikely to make you happy, nor those around you.

Of course, you may vehemently disagree with most of the above.  That does not really bother me, since my happiness or lack thereof is very much unrelated to your marital status.  I’m not one of the “OMG your gaiety / polygamy / fornication is threatening my marriage GTFO!” types, although who knows how much of that comes from me not being married in the first place. One would assume that we singles threaten people’s marriage a lot more than e.g. gays do, unless one is (or is married to) a very bi-curious person.

But even if you disagree with me (and good luck with that), you have to admit that it is kind of cool to have my neighbor voicing my thoughts without even seeing me. Scratch up one more for time reversal!

More breathing, now with salt

So yeah, still alive.  I still feel that I am lacking the bottom third of my lungs and just can’t get enough air, but it is hard to doubt now that it must be psychological. Today I vacuumed and mowed the lawn (with manual lawnmower, or “lawnmover” as I like to call it) for 45 minutes, and my pulse was exactly as I would expect on any other day. Only at the end of that time did it edge up more, probably because I had burnt up the easy sugar rather than any lack of oxygen.  I’d think that no matter whether it was a problem with lungs, blood circulation or brain stem, the body would try to speed up the heart rate to get oxygen around faster if there was less of it. So I must conclude that there isn’t less of it.

So if this is a software bug, where does it come from?  I was at work on Friday for 10 hour, which may have stressed me, what with my arm hurting like it hasn’t done in a couple years.  But all that was restored over the weekend, or as near as I could feel.  And the feeling does not magically arise when I go to work or disappear when I come home.  It is a very convincing emulation of respiratory problems, and I might never have doubted it if not for the amazing technology of the pulse watch.

Do I have a telepathic connection to someone who got the swine flu?  That’s pretty far-fetched and should probably be moved to the end of the list.

Then there was Saturday, when the landlord stopped by. He was not happy with the length of the grass on the lawn. I was – it is not like it’s growing wild, I just keep it at a pinky’s length rather than cropped down to the moss (yes there is moss and has, as far as I know, been since before I first saw the place).  So perhaps my subconscious is like “oh noes I can’t mow the lawn anymore because OMG I can’t breathe!” but that seems unlikely after I mowed for more than half an hour today (the lawns are many and large and the mower does not cut well anymore).

If it were childhood memories working their way to the surface, I assume they would emulate the bronchitic asthma I had at the time, not a medical condition I have never had.

The one thing that seems to negate it for a short time is breathing while yawning. No, seriously.  It is not an easy thing to do, but part of this experience is a near constant need to yawn.  Hmm, Google time. “Constant yawning” – yep, this is pretty common and usually a case of stress building up slowly to make certain muscles chronically tight.  It can also be a symptom of a number of very creepy things, but I think most of these would cause actually lower oxygen levels in the blood and thus a higher heart rate.

Curiously, one of the topmost replies mentioned that eating salt helped.  (Provided you don’t have high blood pressure, in which case salt is a risk factor.  My blood pressure has always been wonderful, but then again I generally don’t love salt.  When I grew up, my mom made salt-free bread for herself because of her hypertension, and I would eat it as happily as the normal bread she made for the rest of the family. I can’t say I noticed much difference. The next older brother up from me, however, was a dog for salt. He would lick it like some kind of candy, much like I would with sugar, only in more moderate doses.) The reason the salt reference caught my eye was that I noticed today after work that I was down 3 pounds or so from my average weight. Since I haven’t eaten less or worked out more, the sudden weight loss most likely means there is less water in my body than usual.  I haven’t been drinking less either, and it’s no hotter than usual.  But if I eat more salt, I am likely to retain the water in my body longer.  It seems most likely just placebo that it helped the other person – muscle tension is quite amenable to placebo – but since my blood pressure is awesome every time, it should be fairly harmless to try.  Mmm, yummy garlic salt! It is almost empty though.

More meditation is probably also in order.  Working less, however, is not really an option, since almost everyone else in my team is on summer vacation.  Let’s just hope the swine flu doesn’t get me now.  There was this guy sitting in front of me in the bus today coughing and sneezing. He looked rather boarish too, with a rotund body and head, small glaring eyes and a face full of bristle.  OK, that was probably not relevant.  I’m not exactly Robert Redford myself, to put it mildly, but I try to cover up any public coughing and sneezing at least.

Those who live will see! Of course, I better be one of those or you won’t see anything here.  So friendly prayers are always welcome. Prayers for me to do or not do particular things, however, are never welcome. That’s not really prayer but hostile magic, despite your convictions that you just want the best for me.  True prayer for another is always in the form of blessing or thanksgiving, both of which more energy to the higher self.  Anyway, hostile magic. Don’t do it.  My guardian angel has enough to do as is with my own antics, I suspect.  As for my atheist friends (yes, I probably still have a few) feel free to send me useful links or something. ^_^

I like breathing

This morning I woke up with the feeling that my lungs were too small.  I kept trying to breathe much more than I could.  I inhaled as much as I could, but it just did not seem to register. It was quite unpleasant.  And it continued through the workday. When I walked it was worse than when sitting, but not quite in proportion. So I suspected that it may not be the lungs actually.

When I came home, I measured my pulse while sitting, standing and doing light exercise on the magnetic bike.  My pulse was not particularly high and it varied normally with the workload. I would think it would have been much higher if I was actually lacking oxygen.

Now around midnight the feeling has changed to more bronchitis-like. I wonder if it really is all in my head. I don’t want to go to bed because I don’t feel sure I’ll wake up again. On the other hand, not sleeping is bad for your health. I guess the only way to find out is to let time do its thing.  If I write more entries after this one, it was presumably not fatal.

EDIT: It’s the next morning, and I’m still breathing. Not quite unexpected but still a cause for celebration, I think.

Long day at work


“It is fine if I’m alone now.”  I don’t think she means it the same way I do, though… (From the anime Hyakko.)

I spent around 10 hours at work today.  Not bad for someone not quite in full job.  And I was a bit tired too.  Although I had slept five and a half hours last night, not five as the two previous, I just haven’t meditated enough to make up for the shortfall, and had to take a couple short naps at work.  Luckily I could do that, for I was all alone.  Actually, the “all alone” was the reason for the long day.

We were meant to be three of our team at work today, but earlier in the week one of them asked me if it was OK for him to take the Friday off.  I did not mind, it is a Friday after all, how hard could it be?  Besides, it was for a good cause.  Then in the middle of the week the other one explained that he had already asked our boss and it was OK for her that he took the Friday off, so was it OK for us?  Well, it is a Friday after all, and in the middle of summer at that, how much work could there possibly be?  Besides, if worst came to worst, I am a few hours short, so working a couple hours extra would not be so bad.

There were files.  There were a goodly number of files, for a change.  Then at 5PM there came about as many files again.  So I started doing them as well. My arm hurt more toward the end of the day than it had in many months, but it is better now.  Probably will be fine on Monday.  It was half past eight before I logged out.  It is soon midnight and I still feel like I just came home.  But at least I’m not going to work tomorrow.

And at least I was not biking home…

Bikes and stuff


I already have this so I can sweat without getting anywhere.  Now how about the other way around?

During lunch break today I went to the local bicycle shop and looked for an electric bike.  By this I mean an ordinary bicycle with electrical assist.  They don’t require any special license or anything such, as their maximum speed is no larger than an ordinary bike, and their size, weight, steering and brakes are within normal range as well.  (Though they tend to be a little heavier than modern non-motorized bikes.) The main difference is simply that you can pedal comfortably up long hills rather than sweat and pant like an animal.  Seeing how the main challenge to biking to and from the city are exactly the excessively long hill slopes both ways, this sounds suspiciously ideal.  Well, actually the bus is far more ideal most of the year, if you don’t get swine flu on it.  But that is pretty optimistic, I’m afraid.

Anyway, the bike costs NOK 20 000, or approximately $3 200.  I think that is pretty steep, even if it includes the infamous 25% sales tax we have in Scandinavia. I happen to have that kind of cash floating around at the moment, but unlike most of my expenses, I would notice this one.  My income is pretty meager by Norwegian standards, I do this well because my expenses are pretty moderate too.  I generally don’t have a lot of things I want.  I am not sure how much I want this either.  It’s more like “it’s better than swine flu”, but I suppose even that depends on how severe the flu is.

Electric bikes is also another of those products I might buy in part because I want them to exist in the future.  But I would rather like them to be cheaper in that future.

Speaking of bikes, I guess there is a certain symmetry in having a bike that takes me places without sweating, since I already have one that makes me sweat without going anywhere. I am talking about my stationary bike, of course.  I was using it a bit today too, and that’s a story in itself.  It started before I even came to the house.  Out by the road, I picked up today’s mail, yet another letter from Centerpointe Research Institute. They were, as so often, trying to sell a friend’s product, in this case a supposedly supercharged version of qigong. It can treat all kinds of illnesses, such as cancer, by removing energy blockages in the body, they say.  There are of course several paragraphs in there about how one must avoid the words “diagnose”, “treat” etc because it is Not A Medical Treatment (despite all the people whose cancer and heart conditions disappeared as if by magic). Heh.

Not that there is anything wrong with qigong, probably.  It is a combination of breathing techniques and stretching exercises, similar to tai chi but slower and gentler and accompanied by mental imagery (visualization).  I like to think of tai chi as a love child of martial arts and meditation, and qigong as a love child of tai chi and meditation… wait, that’s just wrong! Uhm, let us just assume it was another meditation.  Anyway! Qi (known in Japanese as Ki) is a kind of life force that flows through the body keeping it alive. Or so most Asians believe.  This flow through a network of meridians is also the basis for acupuncture and acupressure.  Western medicine knows that stimulating nerves in one part of the body can have effects in a different part of the body, and we assume that this is how the theory of qi originated.

Anyway! The brochure contained a small demonstration exercise that I tried, but did not practice for long.  I may include something similar in The Teacher Appears (yes, I have decided in favor of that name now) but it just felt wrong for me, because of its focus on the breath.  Because of my childhood asthma, I prefer to think as little as possible about my breathing for the most part. If it works, don’t fix it!  Because it did not always work.

Despite my supposed “Lassie-fair” (pardon my French*) attitude to breathing, I actually found myself breathing strangely now and then while biking on my exercise bike later.  It has its own pulse meter, and quite precise too.  I found that breathing deeply in and then slowly out caused my pulse to go way down when I was biking on a fairly easy level.  Then I biked it back up and did it again. It was kind of fascinating, but creepy.  I really should not mess with my heart, even less than with my breathing.  The body knows a lot better than I do what my heart rate should be.  (It is generally quite a bit lower than what is common for my age, but it does not seem to lead to any symptoms.)  When I took a walk after the indoors biking, I found myself doing the strange breathing thing again and felt very uncomfortable.  I went back home and played Sims 3 until I had forgotten the weirdness.  And then it was already this late.

(*By the way, laissez-faire is not actually spelled “Lassie-fair”, but searching for that phrase on Google will reveal a good number of people with very strong opinions on economics. Sometimes Google is stranger than fiction.)

Imaginary family superhero team

2009-07-19 22:21:48

OK guys, this room is clear. There are nasties to your right, so follow me closely and keep your cinders ready!

Not content to have an imaginary girlfriend, I seem to have acquired a whole imaginary family. At least that is a likely interpretation, although I suppose it could also be a bunch of friends playing together and using Ventrilo or Teamspeak to coordinate their actions.

I have four computers in the house capable of playing City of Heroes, the online superhero game. At the same time, the Controller archetype is known to be the most vulnerable of the five basic archetypes and a classic support character. So what was more natural than assembling an in-house team of four controllers, with a shared power set even, and go setting bullies on fire? (Regular readers will recognize my oft repeated fascination with setting bullies on fire, after in my childhood reading about the prophet Elijah calling down fire from heaven repeatedly on cocky opponents. I later found out that this option had been discontinued in Christianity, which is surely just as well, but it still exists in City of Heroes.)

At level 17, The Firestarters are still rather squishy. They take missions (quests) a level or two below their own to stay safe, although I suppose it may be about time soon to pitch them against equal opponents. Anyway, it is a pretty sight and lots of fun for a mission or two. I don’t feel like playing like this all night though. It requires too much attention and concentration. I would rather not become so immersed in a lower world that I forget who I am.

How much is zero growth?


The Norwegian magazine “Innsikt” (which means insight rather than insect, btw) has several well thought out articles about the necessity of zero growth. And this picture which completely unravels the thousand words and perpetuates the common stupidity.

Unless you are an economist or have the wisdom of Solomon, you probably have a horribly wrong mental image of zero economic growth. Accustomed to economic growth through a lifetime, most people in the western world cannot imagine life without it.  The image that comes to mind is economic standstill, a situation where people neither buy nor sell. But that would be zero economic activity, not zero economic growth.

Zero economic growth means simply that you buy roughly the same as last year.  No more, no less.  You can still replace your worn-out shoes, just not with a more exclusive brand (unless you cut down on something else).   You can still trade in your old car for a new, it just has to be in roughly the same price range as the old one was.

Actually, even that is too severe.  Even in a stagnant economy, the average person will increase their income as they advance in their career, acquiring more skills or taking on more responsibilities, or sometimes just outliving their boss.  They just won’t get more money year by year just because they breathe.  In practice, most people in the private sector don’t get that now either. They have to look for better jobs in companies that adapt better.  This will still be so, but the pressure will be harsher on the companies that don’t adapt and innovate, and they will fail more quickly, shedding their workers back into the market.

Another point worth mentioning (again) is that in a stagnant economy, there will still be scientific and technological progress, it will just not be faster and faster for each year. Well, actually it may well be, due to better computers, but there won’t be more and more funding at least.  Anyway, this means that new and better products will gradually seep into the market. For instance, while Japan was in the deep freeze of a decade-long recession, the Japanese more or less completely replaced their cameras with new electronic cameras with ever better resolution and storage capacity.  Even though the economy did not grow, a camera that cost the same as a decade ago was actually a completely new and more versatile instrument. Likewise, computers at the end of the “lost decade” cost less than at the beginning and had vastly more capacity for computation and communication.  Even the cars were better, at no extra cost, thanks to new inventions and refined technology.

Even with no economic growth, then, our actual standard of living will slowly improve. And for the vast majority of people, their income is already so high that they can easily save up money if they want to.  But the expectation of ever growing growth (!) has caused people to borrow against the future, often in the form of credit cards and other unsecured credit. This is a bad move except in extreme situations, for when the money comes, you have to pay a part of it to your creditor. So at the future point where you are richer, you are actually poorer, because so much of your money is spent paying interest.

Economic growth, then, creates its own problems.  It may be a good thing overall (if we can keep it up without destroying the environment, a big if) but it does not automatically improve our lives.  Or rather, not anymore.  In the past, poverty was rampant.  People did not know where their next meal was coming from, and froze in the winter and sweated in the summer. To keep body and soul together, they had to do backbreaking work for most of the daylight hours, six days a week.  At that time, economic growth was a great blessing.  People were able to eat their fill and live in comfortable houses.

But at some point, people no longer grew happier. They had what they needed, and the things they now desired could not be bought for money. But they did not realize this, and clever advertising made them believe that they would get love and respect if they bought various random objects.   Trying to keep up with the Joneses, people bought more and more of what they did not need, hardly even wanted.  And they forgot other, affordable sources of great happiness.  It was not in the interest of the rich and powerful to remind them of those, when the money was in maintaining an illusion: That if you only had more money, you could buy happiness.

If we adjust to a life without economic growth, our expectations will be more realistic. We will not have the same temptation to chase the rainbow, because we know it won’t be any closer this time next year.  Instead, we are free to make the most out of the opportunities we already have.

It is time to find other measures than increased consumption of resources to set goals for our society.

Good things are overrated


Better to fulfill many small wishes than no big ones.  That’s just the beginning, but it is a beginning.

Misunderstand me right: I am not saying that we should not be grateful for the good things in our lives. I am saying that we should not be ungrateful for the good things we don’t have.

The human mind is a generator of desire. As long as it lives and is left to its own devices, the vital mind has no limit to its wants. If you were given a billion years to live and a benevolent fairy that would fulfill your every wish, you would not only be bored out of your mind. You would also end those billion years with as much desire as you had when you began.

I mean this literally. There is no end to our wanting, wishing, desiring and coveting. You may or may not believe that we humans are proportioned to the divine, to eternity and all in it. But do not doubt this, that our capacity for desire is at the very least greater than the visible universe. If every planet around every star was ours to do with as we wanted, we would still not be satisfied when the universe came to its natural end.

The human mind is like a wellspring that overflows with longing, and the human body is only like a cup to take that longing away. We just don’t have the capacity to keep up with our wishes: They always run ahead of us, like the headlights of a car or the rainbow ahead of those who chase it.

It is natural that we believe in fulfilling our wishes. After all, if we never did, we would be dead. We are the descendants of those who, through millions and millions of years, strived hard to fulfill their urges. Without doing so, they would not live and reproduce and eventually give rise to us. And even in our own lives, we learned early on that it helped to scream when we were hungry, and later to follow other needs with great energy. When our needs were fulfilled, the discomfort receded for a while, and we felt good. But soon some need or another rose again, and we had to take action again. Eventually this became ingrained in us, so that even when there was no need, we would look for some way to feel even better. When you believe you can have ecstasy, ordinary life is agony. Likewise when you are in agony, ordinary life seems like ecstasy. You think: If only I could have what I lost! But if you regain it, you once again forget it. This is human nature.

It is not necessary to run till you stumble and fall under the whip of relentless wishes. We can begin to trim off the excesses. For this to happen we need to calm our mind. Meditation is one such tool. If you are religious, you will hopefully also find help in prayer, chanting or other such activities. But in any case, my advice is to start at the top, to trim off the ludicrous excesses that are created by advertising and peer pressure. Become free inside, realize that you alone are responsible for your life, and that your choices will form it, not the judgment of others, least of all total strangers to whom you are as cattle.

There is much more to achieve. But it is already a great relief to shed the witless excesses caused by profiteers inflaming your desires. And I don’t mean just “adults-only” desires, although those are pretty good examples now that I think of it. But just as magazines for men alternate between underdressed women and relationship advice, so also magazines for women alternate between cakes and diets. They and their ilk create the problems they purport to solve. A simple life keeps the problems fewer and smaller to begin with.

The time spent chasing the ultimate happiness could be spent in a pretty high state of happiness that lasts for a much longer time. The ultimate happiness will elude you anyway, because the human brain is not able to sustain ecstasy for long. This is why even the fulfillment of the mating urge, so intense because nobody would do something so insane without a hefty reward, still lasts for such a short time. But the “penultimate happiness”, the joy and contentment that is not taking your breath away but is still really good, can be sustained for a long time. Such joy and contentment is cheap and readily available. If you do easy, fun things and help other people without getting paid for it, you will be much happier than if you struggle to get everything you want. This is attested by those who have tried. I have yet to meet anyone or hear from anyone who reduced their selfishness and regretted it. And I have yet to hear of anyone saying on their deathbed:I wish I had paid more attention to advertising.”