I was playing PlayStation. Until my controller ran out of juice. Which depending on your school of thought may have been a fortuitous occurrence because now I’m forced to do something else (possibly something productive even). I’ve recently been feeling guilty (not guilty enough to actually do anything about it, maybe more of a mild malaise) about my more mindless hobbies, PlayStation in particular.
There always seems to be an opportunity cost to playing games. Whether it is reading, or working or even exercising. PlayStation is probably broadly considered the least efficient use of the time available to us. Has killing an end of level boss ever improved your life? Not really. Possibly a small hit of dopamine. But it’s fleeting. On my deathbed it seems unlikely I will look back fondly on all the hours I sunk into… Damn… I was going to say The Witcher… but that is an experience hovering just below my wedding day in terms of general awesomeness. I have no regrets!!!
I received some positive reinforcement in the book store earlier. I was dilly dallying in Philosophy, wedged unceremoniously around a bend between Judica and Science where I was trying to find a book on Proust (which I couldn’t find, because the philosophy section is a sad, sad* place) but I did see this…
*literally and figuratively.
Which made me feel a bit better. It has a click bait look about it… but interestingly they went for a PS4 controller on the cover, which means they might actually know something about gaming. If they’d gone for a Xbox controller I could have written them off as academic noobs who clearly don’t know anything about anything. However…. (being a hardcore gamer) I’m not sure you can legitimately claim ten things that video gaming can improve. But that such a book exists is comforting.
Wait. Maybe I should start my day at the beginning. I was up at 4am after a bad night. The girl child decided she need to hone her sleep deprivation skillset on us. Some parents try push their children towards neuroscience or biochemistry. We’re coming to terms that our kid is going to be a CIA contractor. (we’ll start CQC training when she turns two) I tried to confess that I was the one that had thrown out her play-doh in the hope that she would relent in her onslaught. But she wasn’t having any of it. (serious work ethic there)
Bleary and not all together copious-mentos I had to take the basset hound to the veterinarian. He has a haematoma* in his eye. It’s not serious, likely from the sun the vet said, but if it’s not healed up in two weeks he’ll have to cauterize it.
*hematoma if you’re from the lilypad on the other side pond and have ‘newspeaked’ the English language (and also continue to resist the metric system, seriously wtf?)
After that I built shelves in the garage out of old roof trusses and shutter-board. We need space to store our ever burgeoning supply of crap*. It’s not the finest work I’ve ever done, slightly crooked, but those trusses were old and almost fossilized in their hardness. After I’d realized my mistake I didn’t really feel like working the screws out again. (they’d stripped going in) I decided I could live with the whole thing being a little wonky.
*possibly because all the cupboard space in the house is taken up with lego and boardgames. #justsaying.
After that we went to the bookstore.
Essentially to go buy Room on a Broom. (I’ve developed a serious liking for Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler). I gravitated towards Psychology as I’ve been prone to do, which together with Business occupies four solid shelves. Psychology is a bit of a misnomer. You won’t find any Freud or Jung or Maslow there.
Why isn’t it just labeled advice? (or spurious bullshit and lump it together with the esoteria)
Advice. (noun) guidance or recommendations offered with regard to prudent action.
I’ve (recently) decided it’s all the epitome of ego.
Advice is paired with expertise. There is the assumption that there that the advice giver has a decent grasp on the material that the advice is dispensed about. For example my doctor having studied about infection and disease can give me advice about my malady. I have less knowledge about the subject and so defer to his knowledge.
But things become a little murkier when it comes to life and the plethora of good advice that people feel they need to market to you. Who is qualified to give you life advice anyway? The short answer is no one and fuck you.
Diogenes lived in a barrel and told the most powerful man in the world at the time that he was blocking his sun. How many of us would take life advice these days from a smelly Greek who lived in a barrel? But if Alexander the Great had a twitter account we’d be following every 280* character burst of inanity that came from his hallowed brow. We’ve come to equate wealth and power with success.
*since I think twitter is basically step one to an Orwellian dystopia I had to google this.
As an aside, why is Alexander the Great still great? He was certainly NOT a paragon of humanity and should likely be dumped into the same category as that German fellow, that Russian fellow and that Chinese fellow. (weirdly there no genocidal females… yet) His body count is in the same sort of league (relative to the population of the world). Why we’ve tacked on great to the end of an otherwise blood thirsty psychopath is one of those great mysteries.
Further we then equate success in a certain field with the ability to generate advice on a whole range of topics. For me it’s troubling when someone feels they can dispense advice about something as subjective as happiness. It’s not even something you can address in broad strokes. Not really. For me, success and happiness means something completely different and yet I feel qualified to advise you? Ha ha. Have we really all becomes so unbelievably vain and narcissistic.
The answer is yes we have. Because we genuinely believe we are going to be helping people. If I can just reach out to that poor guy who is wasting his life and inspire him greatness. Hey poor guy wasting your life… I think you’re a loser, and you need my help to turn things around. Buy my book. I will teach you to take control of your wayward existence and make something of yourself.
I’m so done with this genre. I’ve let people guilt me into this feeling of unfulfilled potential since the moment I was born. I think 39 is a good age to give it all up.
In the end I bought Room on a broom. And a book with pop-up dinosaurs in it. (it was easier just to buy the book than break my daughters fingers) She was pulling a Charlton Heston, ‘Out of my cold, dead hands’ move.
I bought this for myself.
Which might seem like a weird choice. I think I’ve been going at this all wrong. My infatuation with self improvement books was born out of a desire to learn stuff and therefore be better. But I wasn’t actually improving. All I was doing was reading about what had improved other people and what had made them happy. I was taking a square peg and trying to ram it into a round hole, and then wondering why it wasn’t working.
Anyways. I still want to learn stuff and improve. But not waste my time on stuff as nebulously vague as happiness and self improvement, as listed in a manifesto by some ego maniacal wank who thinks he’s got it all figured out. Thanks, but no thanks.
Now I’m going to learn stuff about spiders. And when my controller is fully charged I’m going to get me a new suit of magical armor. And a shiny new axe. And then I’m going pretend smite some pretend evil.
Looking forward to it.