Saturday, July 3, 2010

Self Sabotaging Creatures

"If we really want to live, we'd better start at once to try;
If we don't, it doesn't matter, but we'd better start to die."
William H. Audent

I've been thinking recently about how often humans set themselves up to be miserable. In a lecture for TED, philosopher and psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi spoke of his experience as a child during WWII, observing that most the adults around him fell to pieces when they lost their jobs or possessions, and realizing that the average human being doesn't actually know what it takes to have a happy or meaningful life. In It's All Too Much, a book on home organization by Peter Walsh, the author begins his process of helping people take back their homes from clutter by asking them to think about what their ideal life would be. If your life and your home could look like whatever you wanted it to, what would that be? He observes that most of the people he works with are owned or controlled by their stuff, rather than owning it. They passively acquire, without thought as to whether the things they are buying will actually contribute to the life that they want. A good example of this propensity is watching television. In Stumbling on Happiness, by Daniel Gilbert, he references a study done on the impact of TV viewing on happiness. In most studies of this sort, happiness increasing with a limited amount of whatever activity is being observed, then the increase drops off after a certain amount of time spent. However, this is not the case with television. There is a direct and immediate correlation between TV watching and unhappiness. The more TV a person watches, the less happy on the whole they will be. That's not to say that they are not temporarily happy while watching, rather, their lives as a whole are less happy as a result. And yet we continue to watch. Paul speaks to the same idea in Romans 7:15, when he says, "For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate." (NASB) I think we've all experienced this at some point. I'll sit on the couch, knowing that I'll be happier and feel better at the end of the day if I get up and go do or accomplish something, and yet I continue to sit. The impetus for success has less hold over me than the power of apathy. So I'm curious, as self sabotaging creatures, which we all seem to be, how do we think and act in such a way that we live intentionally, running our lives rather than letting our lives run us?


  1. Good job Julie! This was great! Love the last line, run our lives rather than letting our lives run us. :-D

  2. Really good thoughts! It reminds me of the times when I stay up late, doing nothing productive, knowing that I'm ruining myself for the next day, but I lack self-control to just go to bed. I had not heard of that study about watching TV. I'm not sure if I completely agree with it. The one negative thing about watching TV versus other forms of recreation is that it is a passive absorbing--entertaining--let me turn off my mind and feed me. As you suggested, that can promote a habit of apathy, which doesn't help anybody.