On Life — The Society that Chose Comfort & Convenience Over Happiness & Purpose

A short story

Once upon a time, there was a society. A society that took great pride in being modern and progressive. It was so savvy and contemporary, that it often forgot all together where it came from. Or where it needed to go.

The society loved surrounding itself with objects made by it. It built houses and locked itself in them, it invented cars, and airplanes, and televisions, and complicated calculators made out of metal and plastic. Those inventions, even though built by the society itself, were called modern-day miracles. The more it invented, the more it progressed. That’s what the society thought itself.

Let’s call this society Greg, for the sake of storytelling.

Greg loves comfort and convenience, so every time something new pops up that promises Greg great comfort, he gets very excited about it. Missing on that comfort only brings Greg fear, so he keeps track of all the new things that might bring him even more convenience than he already has. If it’s up to Greg, he would be lying on a beach, surrounded by cocktail servants, unlimited amounts of food, endless entertainment. Because that’s what life is about, Greg told himself.

Greg and comfort

But there was a little problem. To live the life Greg needed money. Money was the gateway for unlimited comfort and convenience. Greg knew that money can buy you everything but happiness, but Greg also knew that contemporary pleasures can also bring contemporary happiness. See, Greg wasn’t a long-term thinker. There is no comfort in the long-term, but surrounded with enough money and things, there can be comfort in the now. Deep down inside, Greg knew that pleasure has an expiration date, and when the time comes, that pleasure turned itself into the sour, bitter taste of pain. But he was so mesmerized by it, the idea that if he buys this or has that, he will experience pleasure right now, that his short-term thinking often forgot about the idea of consequences.

Pleasure often made things very complicated for Greg, but he never blamed pleasure for it. He blamed it on life being difficult and unfair. He blamed other Gregs for it. He blamed the existence and the absence of a God for it. But never pleasure, or the desire for it. Desiring things was a good thing. It was a sign of progress. The desire for better. Bigger. More. Always more. More things seemed to Greg exactly what he needed in order to experience more pleasure. And pleasure is happiness, right?’ Greg asked himself. Unfortunately, Greg did not have any time to think about this question and formulate an adequate opinion about it. Time was money, and because of all the pleasures on Greg’s bucket list, he needed more money. ‘Time spend not working for money, is time wasted’, Greg thought.

Greg also didn’t have much time because he was on a journey. The journey to find true happiness. He searched everywhere, invented everything there was to invent, did everything there was to be done. And yet — little happiness was found. But Greg realized that maybe this is what life is about — the constant search for happiness and peace of mind, outside oneself. So as time went by, Greg either worked hard for money that buys him comfort or settled for convenience in any form that convenience presented itself to him.

Greg and science

See, Greg loved science. Science gave him all the comfort and conveniences he ever dreamt of. Because of science, there is progress, Greg thought. And because of progress, everything is better now. Yes, Greg saw that the planet he was inhabiting was dying, but how was this Greg’s problem or fault? To be as advanced and modern as Greg, sacrifices need to be made, and Greg was not ready to sacrifice something himself, so letting the planet pay for it seemed like a good deal. The future might suffer because of it, but progress was not about the future, it was about the maximum of comfort right now. Greg also knew that his health was at stake. He knew that the high-pace speed of progress that he loved so much came with a price tag.

On the price tag was stated:

Warming, progress might cause…

But nevertheless, Greg bought it. It was quite a price to pay, but the outcome was being progressive and modern, and this was very important to Greg. Progress gave Greg an excuse to constantly seek external incentives in the form of money and power. There was nothing more than Greg loved than money and power, although Greg never admitted that to other Gregs. He spent most of his days fantasizing about it. See, Greg knew he had problems that needed to be solved. But he told himself that having money and power will do that for him, so he does not have to do it himself. The more money you have, the more your problems magically disappear because of the unlimited convenience they bring. With power came everything that Greg considered happiness. People would love Greg for it, maybe even worship him. Greg would appear on all those invented by Greg plastic miracles, like the tv or even the Internet. ‘That’s what matters’, Greg thought.

The idea that happiness is generated in one’s body and mind because of chemical reactions that eventually produce hormones like dopamine, endorphins, oxytocin, and serotonin was known to Greg because that is pure science, and science is very important for progress. Even-though Greg knew this fact, the concept of happiness originating from within, without needing any external influences sounded very counterintuitive to Greg. If happiness starts from within, why are all those companies telling me that I can be happy if I buy product X, purchase service Y or do the XYZ activity? ‘I trust science, but only when it tells me things I can embrace’, Greg told himself.

Greg was very opinionated about things. Rhetorics didn’t interest Greg in the slightest. Who needs philosophy and the truth, when you can also go through life with opinions and lies? From time to time, Greg would be confronted with the capital T Truth, but it was so alien and difficult to bear concept, that Greg would not consider this Truth to be a pleasure. And everything that is no pleasure or comfort, Greg would avoid.

Greg and things

Greg loved owning new shiny things, but he hated the things he owned. He owned a body, but he didn’t see that as a good thing, because bodies are very inconvenient. Bodies need care, they need to be constantly fed, and the most irritating thing — you own them for your whole life and you can’t just swap it with a newer version. Greg truly hated that, because all the things that bring Greg a lot of pleasure are things that, when they break or disappoint, you can just throw away and buy a new one. This appealed very much to Greg. Owning a body, he saw as a limitation. Bodies very often get sick, most of the time unexpected and with mysterious, incurable diseases. That idea scared Greg so much, he would secretly dedicate his life and a lot of sleepless nights thinking about it. But the idea to do something about it, to prevent it from happening, never occurred in his busy brain.

Yes, Greg owned a brain as well. His brain was also always in his way. Sometimes, things started to work out for Greg, but eventually, his brain would ruin it for him. He didn’t understand why after every pleasure, there is so much pain that follows. But he figured — ‘If pleasure brings me pain, then I can cure pain with more pleasure’. And that’s what Greg settled for. A closed circle between pleasure and pain and the illusion that power and money will eventually fix everything. It was all very comforting and convenient. Greg loved it.

Greg’s brain was a time machine. At all times it borrowed from everything that had happened in the past, and with that data, it constructed unlimited possibilities of the future. What this led to, is a history and behaviors that constantly repeat themselves, but Greg never noticed that. Greg often thought, ‘Life is short, so I would rather spend it dreaming about a future where money and power are in abundance’. The idea that right now, at this exact moment, Greg is sitting somewhere on a chair and everything that his brain feeds him about the past of the future is an illusion, was a stranger to Greg. Greg never figured out what a magician his brain can be. He never figured out that he is not his brain’s master, but his brain’s slave.

Greg thought that he needs to go through life building a strong identity around himself. How will people know who Greg is, if Greg didn’t craft a careful, ever-changing narrative about himself? He would be thousands of things at the same time, very often, conflicting things, but Greg was also a big identity hoarder. Every identity that his brain gave birth to, Greg would collect and keep stashed in a dark place. ‘You never know when a certain identity will come in handy’, Greg told himself. Because of all those identities, Greg often forgot the main one — being a human being, like everyone else. Every human being was like a tree in a forest, but because of their unique and separate identities, it was very difficult to see the forest for the trees. Humanity was a complicated concept, whereas, different, distinct human beings made so much more sense.

Greg and identity

See…with Greg’s short-term pleasure thinking came a narrow, self-centered way of looking. Greg experienced the world through his unique set of eyes and ears, connected to his unique brain. Because of that, Greg always thought that the whole Universe and the reason for existing have to do something with him. He existed, he was here, and that means that everything else that exists and is here, is here for his comfort and convenience. This gave Greg an immersive pleasure and also an excuse to say weird things and act cruel towards other Gregs, towards other animals, towards plants, and the planet. But Greg didn’t care, everything he did, he did in the name of progress, and that’s what matters.

Greg told himself that today, he is the most modern Greg of them all. Never in history has Greg been so technologically advanced and so rich. And those types of advancements are what counts as progress. ‘Because of everything that science has brought us, we now have a great peace of mind, right?’, Greg asked himself. It didn’t feel like he had peace of mind, but that’s because he was waiting for an external incentive to bring a little piece of peace of mind. That is how Greg operated. Greg knew that when it came to vision, he was not advanced at all, seeing only a very limited part of the light’s spectrum, and he could hear even less. He knew his senses are very limited, but he still decided to use them as the ultimate guide in life. Only what can be seen and heard is there, the rest does not exist.

Greg loved to go places, to travel, to see, to hear. But almost always, he did that just to generate enough information for his brain so that his brain can use that data to construct whatever future Greg wanted to construct. He was almost never present in the now. He never stopped his time machine brain for a few seconds or minutes and took a break. He never listened to his body either. If something happened, he would run to the doctor or psychiatrist to fix it before it’s too late. Progress gave Greg a world of medicine and pills, so Greg didn’t have to do anything himself to stay healthy, other people were in charge of that. The same thing happened to reasoning. Greg didn’t have to do that for himself, other people did it for him and he just absorbed the information, run it through his identity program and generated a strong opinion that was to be hold no matter what. Because of how progressive and modern Greg was nowadays, there were a lot of things he didn’t have to do himself, and he like that. That way he could focus on generating money, because that was what counted.

But one day, something happened

One day, Greg woke up and he was done with pleasure and pain. He was done with thinking about money and power all the time. He was done with chasing short-term replacements of happiness. One day, Greg would just sit by himself and not look back at anything that has happened before, he would not create a possible scenario about what needs to happen next in the future. He would just sit there. He could feel an oxygen flow going in and out of his body. The chest moved a little every time. The air was almost tangible, the way it went through his nose to his lungs and from his lungs out of his mouth. At that moment, Greg was aware that he possesses something different than a car, a phone, a smart speaker, or a streaming subscription. He possesses a living organism. His body. He realized that his body needs oxygen and nutrients to keep going. He realized that both those things are made from trees and plants and that trees and plants come from nature, not in a box at the grocery store. This idea made Greg feel very sad and confused, but because his brain and body were now aware of those feelings, they went to work and produced a home-made batch of happiness chemicals and sadness was turned into joy and excitement. Greg created his own happiness, which he was aware of for the first time in his life, and there was nothing external that did to contribute to that. It all happened from the inside.

At that moment Greg’s brain came to a grant realization. It realized that everything that has happened in Greg’s life for the past thousands of years, was not progress, but the opposite of that. Greg came to the bitter realization that money only complicated things, if not now then in the long-term. This brought Greg a bitter, remorseful feeling. But again, for the second time in a row, he was aware of both the feeling of remorse and what has caused this feeling. The bitterness was soon turned into a sweet feeling of bliss and joy when Greg’s brain and body, now fuelled with sufficient amounts of oxygen, went on a non-sensory journey. During this journey, Greg saw nothing new, heard nothing new, didn’t even leave the place he was seated when the journey happened. But when he opened his eyes, he knew that this was the first time in his whole existence that he has opened his eyes. Because now, he saw things.

Now he knew that pleasure is a product of desire. That desire is a product of identity. Greg desired things because those things helped him define himself. He had spent so much effort in building this identity of himself, he forgot that he is part of something greater. He forgot that next to short-term comfort and convenience, we’re all part of the Universe and that we are not that much different from mushrooms, plants, and animals, let alone, another member of the human race with whom we are 100% identical. But self-build identities in every living Greg prevented that idea from occurring in Greg’s brain. Now it was so obvious, Greg could never shake this realization off.

In the past, he had fallen victim to so many compulsive little addictions he called pleasures. Drugs, cravings, gambling, alcohol, social media, the need for control, Greg realized that all of those things can be let go of. Because neither his body, nor his brain really desired those, but his identity did. And his identity was a product of Greg, not of nature. He realized that he has so much in common with everything else that was alive or a product of this planet and the Universe. But none of the compulsive pleasures that were such a big part of Greg’s progressive life were really alive. So none of those pleasures are actually needed for a fulfilling life, all of them are here to take fulfillment out of it.

Greg realized that he is as much the hero, as the villain of the story. It’s just a matter of perspective. From the moment that Greg came to that conclusion, Greg became a truly progressive society with, for the first time in modern history, a real purpose and a real sense of where happiness lies, and how to find it.

Now Greg knew that the journey for happiness starts from within, and nothing outside of one’s body and brain can be accountable for true happiness or real purpose in life. That realization gave Greg an unexperienced before bliss and euphoria, the product of true being instead of fake becoming.

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Commentating on life & design. Also freelancing at both— siyanaivanova.nl.

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Siyana Ivanova

Siyana Ivanova

Commentating on life & design. Also freelancing at both— siyanaivanova.nl.

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