First – a quick apology about the tardiness of this particular post, I’ve been fighting with my Mac and my external hard drive for a couple of weeks and things still aren’t back on track. You may also find it a bit philosophical/introspective, but I’ll let you be the judge. So, with that said – here’s my post.
“Status quo, you know, is Latin for ‘the mess we’re in’.” – Ronald Reagan
Fighting Convention and Tradition
The last couple of weeks have felt like I was fighting both Tradition and Convention, two things I don’t put much stock in. Not that I don’t appreciate the value of them, I’m fighting the notion that they’re a reasonable explanation for someone’s actions or belief system. Marriage, children, organized religion, and a traditional American middle-class life have been at the heart of this particular debate. I’ll be the first to admit it – speaking out against convention and tradition make people very uncomfortable. And that’s not really my goal.
But, the unconventional and the non-traditional don’t have a support system – by definition. They need a voice, and I have the sneaking suspicion that I’m not the only one who feels that way. That suspicion was confirmed recently by a guy I’m privileged to call my friend and that’s a couple of decades my senior.
Here’s our Skype conversation:
Friend: “[Time is] all any of us have dodo, it’s all about how we use/waste it.”
Me: “Maybe, but most people don’t have 5 years to just f*ck off (speaking about my trip). Or maybe they just can’t figure out how to finance 5 years of f*cking off.”
Friend: “Not so sure. We sort of decide what we are going to do. Go into the Army, go to college, get a job in a factory. It’s not that they don’t have the time, it’s the lack of courage to take risks.”
Me: “That’s probably true too. And there’s this idea that your life is supposed to be kinda cookie-cutter… Get a job, find a lady, have some kids, get a house, give up and relegate yourself to a mediocre existence.”
Friend: “That’s the f*cked up American template, for sure.”
Me: “I have to admit – it sounds good because it would be so much easier and there’s so much pressure to just do that… but then I’d be dragging my knee around every corner on the motorcycle just for the tiniest bit of adrenaline.”
Friend: “It’s not easier. It’s harder. And it’s a f*cking trap.”
Now, if this was some college-age punk or another friend of mine who was an adrenaline junkie – I’d probably dismiss this conversation as ego-polishing. But this friend is over 60, has a child, a wife, a house, and a nice BMW motorcycle that I’m happy he chooses to ride with me and my motorcycle.
“It’s Tradition” or “It’s Conventional” Aren’t Answers
That subtitle says it all. If approached at the end of my life, when someone asks why I did something or lived a certain way – the only answers I don’t want to give are the unexamined answers: “It is tradition” or “I gave into societal pressure” or “It was conventional.” Specifically in the realm of marriage, children, religion and the mundane life of most middle-class Americans. They say our American Middle Class is disappearing – maybe, but I’m not convinced there is much we should save.
I don’t believe marriage is for most of us, certainly not me (yet). It’s an archaic institution that has long outgrown it’s purpose, and if you simply look around – you’ll see that we’re not as inclined (as a species) to follow through with it as we once were. First time marriage has less than a 50% success rate, second time marriages are successful about 33% of the time, and third marriages have a remarkably shitty success rate of 27%. And for what benefit would one take this risk? I don’t see much logic in it, until much later in life. People’s goals, ambition, and focus change – often very quickly and in this day in age “forever” is much longer than it was. There simply isn’t a compelling reason for it anymore besides Convention and Tradition – and you know how I feel about that.
I think overpopulation is a real concern and having more than a couple of children at this day in age is either: a) irresponsible (as in: I didn’t take the proper precautions and now I have 5 kids) or b) selfish (as in: I love kids and I want them, they make me happy) or c) stupid (as in: I didn’t think about it)
That get your fur up a little bit? Well, let me explain. First – exponential growth is crazy stuff, do some reading or just look at this graph of human population growth:
The graph above can be found here. And the argument that it’s not first-world population growth is bullshit too – a child in the US consumes 66 times the resources that a child in India does. We may not be growing as rapidly, but our waste and overconsumption is serious stuff. Where are we going to be by 2083? About 10 BILLION people. If you’re in the US and reading this, you may not care – but do a bit of traveling and you’ll see the horrible impact we’re having on the environment as humans. Ever been to a landfill, seen a trash city, or heard about the island of plastic in the Pacific? Again – forgo the tradition and convention, having more kids isn’t helping anything.
On organized religion:
I believe it’s a nothing short of a form of mental slavery. If you really believe in your organized religion, I’d encourage you to think about why. We all know it’s not logic or scientific discovery that led you there, so what was it? My hypothesis is it’s society/tradition/convention that encourages it. It’s fairly common knowledge that children are most often persuaded in religious preference by their parents. And childhood indoctrination is something that people are becoming more and more aware of and against – prominent authors that are critical of it include: Nicolas Humphrey, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, and Richard Dawkins – who argues childhood indoctrination is actually child abuse.
I’m not sure I’m qualified to tell anyone how to raise children or what to believe – but I find freedom, numbers, science, and logic compelling – and it seems like every organized religion I know of has worked very hard to remove those things from their organization. Even worse – studies show that the more educated and intelligent you are, the less likely you are to believe in organized religion – a foreboding statistic if you also realize the sheer numbers of religious folks.
On the traditional American middle-class:
It sounds horrible to me. I’m supposed to relegate myself to some type of indentured servitude, where my masters are children, the economy, a flawed society, some corporation, and some customers. Have we made all of this technology and all of this progress for this? What’s funny is that we, as Americans, have these “epidemics” that involve things like obesity and prescription drug addiction. And in true American form, we sue and blame everyone else without taking a hard look inside. What’s missing from our lives that leaves us with holes that we fill with prescription drugs and fast food? Everything. Our connection with nature (and the perspective that brings) has suffered noticeably. Our connection between food and nature and activity has suffered as well – to the point that we, as a culture, criticize people who continue to work to hunt and bring (natural, high-quality) food to the table. And as hunters we’ve done a shitty job of only hunting for things that we bring home and only shooting what we can/will eat.
But back to the subject: the traditional, American, middle-class life holds nothing for me. I not only am uninterested in it, I’m uninterested in the value system it relies on, the consumerism it breeds, and the lack of freedom we end up with by following that route. Is the dream really to have a mortgage, multiple car payments, two weeks (if you’re lucky) of vacation, no time to pursue hobbies and interests, no time and energy to workout and enjoy nature, and the stress and pressure all of that brings? If that’s the American Dream, I beg you – let me wake up, it sounds nightmarish.
Alright Nate – we get it, what’s your point?
My point is this: if you’re leading an unexamined life, just going with the flow – I believe you’re cheating yourself. Examine your life, your belief systems, and your goals – and if that examination leads you away from Tradition or Convention, GOOD. Convention and Tradition are a trap – break the chains!
“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” – George Bernard Shaw
Convention and Tradition are dead people’s baggage – you don’t need it and you can give it back. It’s perfectly legitimate, and even noble, to lead a non-traditional, non-conventional life. In the next two years I’ll be getting off my soapbox and practicing what I preach (with The Nomad Trip) – it won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Google Plus, or subscribe to the blog by clicking here.