Of Moneyplants and Progress

In reply to the linked post, we now discuss what to do with life.

First, apologies for being unable to maintain the tapestry of your essay in my mind’s eye in its entirety.

You do, however, write much more clearly when momentarily unshackled from the stresses and pressures of deadlines and unfortunate practical realities. Or so it seems.

Now, I’ll begin.

I agree that the ingrained aphorism, “time is money”, chains us to an unending cycle of work and productivity; work and productivity that we have become accustomed to, to the complete exclusion of any possible external reality. Much like the unpredictable-by-definition “Black Swan” events you mentioned in our conversations. We find ourselves blinkered and confined if we cling to the philosophy of saving time, so much so that we don’t expect nor welcome the unexpected, let alone stop to smell the roses.

So, I’d summarise the first half of your essay as an exhortation to stop rushing, to stop living by the clock, and to start truly living; to live as if each day were brand new and bound with surprises, as if every day were an opportunity to love someone else, to do something new, to seek out fresh experiences. To realise that there is always more to life, no matter how full the plate in front of you may seem, and to keep searching, outside the boundaries of experience for more bountiful life to be had. Correct me if I’m wrong.

But then, you mentioned purpose. Unfortunately, your analogy suggests that a life lived purposeless (like your moneyplant) can equal or best a life lived with singular, possibly misguided purpose (the stick). The quote you mentioned, on the other hand, begs to differ. I suggest that the key would be neither to live without purpose and grow haphazardly, enjoying the myriad possibilities life offers, nor is it to cling to a singular purpose unquestioningly, which you appear to imply great revulsion for. In my, humble, opinion, the key is to find a purpose, but never forgetting that there are always other things outside, things to enjoy and to savour, and to always “stop to smell the roses”.

Regarding your meandering discussion of progress, I’m afraid there exist far too many views regarding the subject. In any limited field, with sufficient history for comparison, definite progress can be observed. For example, an increase in computing power over the last four decades surely constitutes progress.

The problem arises when one considers epochal changes. Can one say for certain that the rise of electricity over steam is progress? In terms of energy efficiency, undoubtedly. Yet, from other frames of reference, perhaps not. It appears, then, that the problem is that the multitude of reference frames leaves us pondering if any particular development constitutes progress. The lines become more blurred when one considers issues such as moral progress, and the possibility that progress in one area could be regress in another.

The solution to the conundrum may be similar to your proposal. Perhaps, the term progress itself is meaningless; there is only the here and now, and history. There are differences between the two, but one can never say for sure if progress has occurred. All that can be done would be to simply accept the current state of existence.

What then does this mean for individuals? If progress is a meaningless illusion, why do we strive? Why do we race against the clock and hurry to meet deadlines? Could it be only for the oh-so-crass reasons of comfort and pleasure that we toil?

If we reject hedonism as the sole reason for work, what else is left to us? People slog at jobs to earn a comfortable lifestyle, and as a society we seek “progress” that makes life easier. Deadlines on the calender are merely schedules for pleasure attainment; so, if we reject that and refuse to be “shackled by time”, what purpose can we possibly we have?

Either we have no purpose, and do as we please, like the free moneyplant, or we live outside of time-orchestrated pleasure/comfort-deadlines, and govern ourselves with principles. These principles differ little from the purpose in life I’ve mentioned I suppose. One might say, that these principles, or the purpose we find, would be alternative “stick for the moneyplant”. They are what one clings to, when one relinquishes the grasp on the “bad stick” (i.e. the misguided purpose).

In conclusion, we appear to find ourselves living in a pleasure-loving commune toiling in constant drudgery. We would love to look around us and identify the “sheeple”, the ones who see nothing else but the misguided purpose of the rat race and comfort-seeking, the only “stick” they see, which they cling to desperately.

And we would love to be the enlightened few, the ones who see beyond the chains of such single-minded purpose, to see the other possibilities, to see the other life-guiding purposes and “sticks”. We would like to break free from the shackles the commune’s hedonism, to seek true purpose, true principled meaning, to fully taste the opportunities of life until we find the right one. All because we intuitively deny the communal lifestyle, and believe there has to be much, much, more.

And I say, yes. Look around instead of upwards, and see the countless multitude of possibility, and be free. Grow right and true, and no longer twine and extend, like a depende


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