My friend called me today and asked what I was doing. I replied that after taking a one-hour bike ride and meditating (read: napping) in the sun, I had just finished The Tibetan Book of the Dead, in the hopes of one day writing about it. The afterlife intrigues me, and since your personal philosophy of where you go once you die - whether to heaven or hell as a spirit, back to earth in another body, or into the Buddhist Void - influences how you conduct your daily affairs, I think the book would make for some pretty good discussion. Kelly on the other hand was traveling by Uber to work, where she sells overpriced clothing to women while cringing inwardly at the outrageous dollar amount they whip out their credit cards to cover at check-out.
My dear friend wants to have a life such as mine, one of carefree ease, but she is regrettably stuck in the vicious circle which TIME Magazine fittingly featured this week in the depiction I've attached above. She'd like to quit work, but doing so would require enough money to leave her job, which forces her to continue working, which makes her hate it so much that she wants to quit. Again. Kelly is a few years younger than me. When I was her age I too was on the treadmill, but not making any money.
In med school I spent thousands per month of my father's money to work my ass off, by doing a lot of memorizing. It wasn't until after graduating that I slowly made a conscious effort to reduce my expenditures to the point that work might be a non-requisite. With a little cosmic fortune thrown in. One holy man, Ramakrishna Paramahansa, used to urge disciples to pray continuously not to have to work. Because often work, the kind that puts money in your pocket, so dulls the sensibilities and exhausts the body that the day's labors leave no room for enlightenment, which lest we forget is the purpose of our brief sojourn here on Earth. But I did remind Kelly that though I don't make any money, I spend most of my day working tirelessly away, whether cooking, cleaning, gardening, reading or writing these posts that nobody reads. Other than you, and Kelly if I remember to send it to her.
A life well-led does not need to involve money earned. In the Utopia of tomorrow we will get by working a few hours each week for the collective good, leaving the remainder of the day for reflection and recreational pursuits. The Golden Age doesn't have to be too far away, though from the looks of things, it might never arrive. It's strange. We as a globe have reached an unparalleled, unprecedented stage of technological development, and yet we are more harried than ever. Everybody seems so preoccupied that nobody has any time to stop and smell the roses, much less to trim them, as I did for about an hour this a.m. And I've the thorn in my thumb to prove it. In ancient Greece, Athens was head and shoulders above the rest of civilization as a city that supplied its residents with enough respite from the daily grind of life to ponder the point of it all. It was in Athens that philosophy flourished.
Now smart technology has supplied us with Roombas and a million other gadgets to do our work for us, leaving us time to contemplate the nature of work or to engage in goal-directed action not for money but for enjoyment, and what do we do with our leisure but spend the extra time on social media, which leaves us feeling isolated, aggravated, and alone. All the while appearing to enjoy ourselves, because any Instagram account worth its salt makes its owner look as fabulous as a Kardashian. And Kelly is just as fabulous as her pictures would seem to indicate. By the way if you're looking to spend money, spend it on experiences rather than things. Because doing things rather than owning things is the ticket to bliss. Preferably with company. But I prefer to just be me, even if it means being alone.
Since I have spare time and don't need too much money and can't always meditate in the sun lest I wind up like Leatherface, I have decided I just might come out with a podcast. I'd devote it to discussing the afterlife, which we're all careening towards, one selfie at a time. I'd base it on the Tibetan book I already mentioned. Because there's a lot of stuff in there that the general population should consider. They say that just hearing the book read to you is enough to guarantee liberation. If nothing else I can recite it aloud and one passage at a time we can fly to forever. As they say, heaven isn't too far away, and we can go there together. Company is sometimes nice.