Is Everyone Miserable?

A certain amount of dreaming is good, like a narcotic in discreet doses. It lulls to sleep the fevers of the mind at labor, which are sometimes severe, and produces in the spirit a soft and fresh vapor which corrects the over-harsh contours of pure thought, fills in gaps here and there, binds together and rounds off the angles of the ideas. But too much dreaming sinks and drowns. Woe to the brain-worker who allows himself to fall entirely from thought into revery! He thinks that he can re-ascend with equal ease, and he tells himself that, after all, it is the same thing. Error!

Thought is the toil of the intelligence, revery its voluptuousness. To replace thought with revery is to confound a poison with a food.

Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

I have been reading Les Miserables and I am a little over halfway through now. It is the first book that I downloaded on my iPhone back at the beginning of August. It is 9,000 iPhone pages long.

I think I have been confusing thought and revery for a long time. I never really want to think about anything because thinking is working and I strive to avoid working.

Today I want to create a post with substance. Something that is actually useful, enlightening, or at the very least interesting.

My underlying life goal has always been financial independence. At times I have wanted exorbitant amounts of money and a enough material possessions to embarrass a shah, at other times I have wanted only enough to not be forced to do anything against my will (e.g. go to work). No matter what form it’s taken, it’s been there all along, even as far back as my earliest memories.

At the same time, I’ve always written. I was always told I was a good writer. I won contests and I enjoyed writing. I tried to write many books throughout elementary school. I always wrote more than the required amount. The first time I tried to write a book was when we were assigned to write a little story about a picture. I turned it into a novel length project about a man who travels to every country. Of course I never finished or even got close.

Currently I am in the midst of one of the best financial seasons of my life. I am earning decent money and I have nothing major to save up for (e.g. wedding, honeymoon, move). If I stay on this track, by this time next year I’ll be in the highest cotton I have ever seen.

I guess I am trying to nail down why I am not dancing with happiness all the time. I am trying to put into words a conflict between the good things in my life and the bad feeling in my head.

I read these articles once in a while about self published authors who make a lot of money and I always think, I could do that. And then I don’t do it and that makes me question whether I even care about being a writer. And then when I get lazy about even thinking, about writing anything that’s not right on the top of my head, I really question whether I like writing at all, or if I am just trying to use what people have told me I do well to accomplish my overarching life goal of financial independence.

The Hugo quote at the start of this article put this internal conflict in focus for me today. I fancy myself a thinker, but I’m really more of a dreamer, a day dreamer. I like staring out of windows. I could stare out a window for hours and hours, without thinking a god damn thing. Today Wife asked me what I was thinking while I stared out the window at all the humanity passing below us and I said I was thinking about over the counter generic drugs, and I really was. I usually say ‘nothing’ to avoid looking weird and/or boring her, but I was feeling more specific.

I remember watching the documentary Happy People. It seemed to me that the main Russian guy was living an honest life. He was working to support himself. He had no one to answer to but the elements. When I go to work as a waiter, I bow to everyone. Managers, coworkers, customers, the chef…it seems like everyone is my boss. I always think there must be a way to do the job honestly, with dignity and pride. I think there must be a way, but I don’t know what it is. I remember this guy I used to work with, he was always happy and energetic. He had huge muscles and a Mustang convertible and I never saw him take anybody’s shit. He seemed like he worked an honest job. I always wondered how he did. I’m good at my job and I take pride in it but people give me shit constantly. I’m always getting talked down to by everyone, it seems. I feel, without justification for the most part, that I am at the mercy of fools. Even people I respect, I feel like a bitch because of the way we interact. I feel like I’m being walked all over, like I’m letting myself be walked all over. Maybe it’s just my personality. Maybe I’ll never do an honest day’s work.

I remember all I wanted to do was chop down a tree with another tree, go to sleep inside a moose, wake up, and there is nothing. I have this fixation with chopping down trees. With being alone with a job to do and no measure of how well you did it besides whether or not you are alive the next day. And that thing about going to sleep inside a moose has to do with that documentary, Happy People, where they are working it’s so cold that you might have to cut a moose open and sleep inside for warmth. No one does it in the movie but I expect that it happens.

Wife is always asking me what do I want to do with my life and I usually make some reference to chopping down trees. I really like trees, by the way, I don’t know why I want to chop them down. I guess that’s the epitome of honest work for me. And for some reason I’m obsessed with honest work.

I guess it has little to do with work. I guess i hate my own personality. Hate that I’m so submissive. It’s definitely the path of least resistance, just doing whatever anyone else wants, and a lot of people certainly do like me, and I like that. But I guess at the end of the day when I’m sitting in bed thinking about my life I am unhappy with it because I am unhappy with the way I am living it.

I really like House’s personality. He likes confrontation and hates social niceties. He’s intelligent and he does meaningful work and no one tells him what to do. Everyone knows he’s an asshole and he doesn’t mind. He’s miserable I guess. He’s also not real. I really like Roger from Mad Men, too. He’s rich and old enough not to give too much of a fuck. He’s miserable, but not as miserable as House. He has sex and gets drunk and writes silly books about his life for no reason. And he’s witty and charming. I guess everyone worth knowing is miserable.

I like that part in Annie Hall when Woody Allen asks this couple on the street how they make it work and the girl says, “I have no ideas or thoughts really and I’m very shallow.” And the guy says, “And I’m exactly the same.” And that’s how I always think of people that are happy, but when I saw it in the movie I realized that that’s really not true for anybody. No one would honestly describe themselves that way, because we are all so complicated, we all contain a multitude of worlds, as Neil Gaiman says. I would say I have shallow qualities, but I wouldn’t honestly say I am a shallow person. I have always believed that shallow people exist, that some people walk around with one thing on their minds, that some people just want to sell you a car, or just want to make “that’s what she said” jokes, or just want to have the loudest laugh in the restaurant, but when I saw that scene with those people in Annie Hall for some reason it just clicked that no one is really like that. I used to know this beautiful Russian girl who never said anything that interested me, but she was so beautiful I just wanted to watch her say things, and I thought with a face like that there was no need to ever have anything to say, so why should she develop a personality? She, I thought, was shallow for sure, through no fault of her own. She went to parties and she talked to dull people and she did some modeling and she talked about her cat and I was sure she had not a whole lot going on upstairs. But I think inside her head she was probably just as interesting as anyone else. She must’ve been through a lot to come to the United States from Sakhalin Island and learn a new language and all of that. I suppose.

I guess everyone is miserable, really.

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