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‘I’m Broke and Mostly Friendless, and I’ve Wasted My Whole Life’ (thecut.com)
672 points by petethomas on Nov 29, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 635 comments

This probably won't be popular, but what the hell.

I feel like, if you strip away the outward trappings and dogma, this is what religion is good for. Not in a "believe in Jesus" or "trust in God" kind of way, but in a "how to orient your life" kind of way. Which is to say, the actually useful portion of religion generally teaches that your best life is probably not focused on you. It isn't about finding yourself, or being true to yourself, or really thinking about yourself at all. It's in being of benefit to the human beings around you. And in serving those around you, you become something that is worth being.

It doesn't matter who you are or where you live, there are poor people around you. There are parentless children, drug addicts, parks that need cleaning, animal shelters that need dog walkers. You can always do something meaningful with your life. Try that, and see what kind of relationships you make. Look at and actually see a homeless person. See how that makes you feel. See if your worrying about your own future maybe drops away, or gets morphed into something you can do something with. See what kinds of other people you run into that way. Focus on, if not bringing joy to other people, then at least making their lives better. See if that doesn't - as a pure byproduct - change your own self-worth. Or maybe just make you less focused on it.

I think we in the west ended up replacing religion with, not an absence of it, but with a religion of the Self — where you are the god, or the only one that matters anyway.

That obviously doesn’t mean a sincere belief in one’s own omniscience, more that the the aura of ‘importance’ bestowed upon things naturally emanate from the centre of the Universe, which is you.

Mind that humans are already pretty much hardwired to do this. Removing external factors of pressure and adding validation in the form of the mass market gospel of ‘find yourself’ just made this a lot more visible.

Funny enough, the people who end up going down to the deep end of this road of finding yourself often find that there is nothing to find, since all your life, you’ve spent it looking for yourself and you never added anything to it. It’s an empty box. You’re the pot at the end of the rainbow that you never thought you needed to put gold into.

From there, people usually split to a few branches. The more transcendentalist amongst us call it the Buddha, the folks with a more philosophical bent call it existential nausea.

The more practical, most of us, go ‘oh.’ and they move on with their lives. Which is probably the most healthy way, anyway.

I'd go a step further and say that we've replaced traditional religion with consumption, or more specifically consumerism. Most of the art produced in antiquity existed within the framework of religion, now it's advertising.

I think it's important to subscribe to some kind of overall framework with a worldview and community. We're hard wired for it and if you don't choose it, then consumerism will fill that vacuum and you will find yourself ensnared in mindless consumption.

I have an 80 year old aunt who is a nun who I consider to be one of the wisest people I know. I'm not religious and I have frank and honest discussions with her about religion and philosophy, completely free from judgement. Once we were sharing a drink at a family event and I asked her something to the extent of "at what point did you find yourself?". She replied that she's still finding herself will continue as long as she's alive.

>>you are the god, or the only one that matters anyway.

> you will find yourself ensnared in mindless consumption.

Funny how you're both following the religion thing only on the surface. Take a bite, already! Western culture is based on a specific religion whose philosophy hinges around the realization of slave morality as the superior state of being. Following a school of fish is all you get from consumerism, but all those fishes take away things. The reason why it's not going to fill you up is exactly that there's no interest between you and the next fish, and you weren't going to give them anything, anyway. The only thing you effectively give is a few cents towards blood, sweat and tears in some Asian factory or sweatshop. And you're feeling that somewhere, deep down there.

"That obviously doesn’t mean a sincere belief in one’s own omniscience, more that the the aura of ‘importance’ bestowed upon things naturally emanate from the centre of the Universe, which is you.

Mind that humans are already pretty much hardwired to do this."

I had trouble parsing your perspective as it was written in a unique way. I don't think humans are hardwired for this, can you back up that claim?

If you study evolutionary biology, there is a wealth of information and studies suggesting we are reciprocally altruistic and help others if they have helped us previously or we think they might help us in the future i.e. reciprocal altruism.

From a innate neuroscientific perspective, mirror neurons respond to actions that we observe in others which, if I recall correctly (correct me if I'm wrong), suggests several counterpoints to people in the west believing they are the "only one that matters" when our brains are constantly lighting up by noticing the actions of others which we are inclined to notice and react to (e.g. help those in need, whether family, friends, relatives, or stranger on the street).

This is a fascinating subject, hope others who know more about Neuroscience can chime in, I only minored in it in undergrad. Also, fusiform face area might be worthy of exploring w.r.t. noticing other and what this implies for the notion of human altruism.

The West replaced God not with the self, but with shopping.

That and "Science." "Scientists" (catch-all term nobody seems to have a problem using with increasing frequency) are the new priest class.

There's definitely something to this. We HN readers see the occasional article about the crisis of reproducibility in science, which leads to some thoughtful discussion about the trustworthiness of the phrase "studies have shown," especially when it conflicts with one's own common sense.

Sadly, this reflection is quickly forgotten.

I think that the overwhelming evidence of reality of modern existence - the fact that we don't live neolithic lives with neolithic lifespans - is sufficient proof that science has been overwhelmingly constructive and reflective of how the universe works.

Yes, there are issues, the incentivisation around publication etc makes it easy to game the system. However, to extrapolate this to a blanket attitude of distrusting science, "especially when it conflicts with one's own common sense", is incredibly dangerous because it's partly what has made large numbers of us so susceptible to overt manipulation.

"Common sense" is no such thing, and much of proven science could be construed as contradicting common sense. The light-speed limit, quantum spookiness, spacetime curvature, biological evolution - all were once considered contrary to "common sense" - mainly because "common sense" is ultimately derived from the extremely narrow and limited range of human experiences.

A post showed up on my twitter timeline the other day saying something to the effect of, "hey, these guys just landed a thing on a tiny thing in space, so hey, maybe listen to them about climate change, you idiots," completely devoid of sarcasm. A friend of mine had retweeted it. This is how many, if not most, people think these days; instead of looking to people wearing vestments and robes for guidance, they look to people they've never met who they assume probably wear white lab coats while "doing" their "science"—which naturally encompasses all scientific fields because all "scientists" are of course good at doing ALL the "science." (Sure, if you press them, they'll admit that there's different fields of science and not all "scientists" literally know it all... but that doesn't stop that from being the mental shortcut they make whenever they read a headline about whatever "Science" is saying today.) Instead of looking to Scripture, they look to headlines declaring "science" having been "settled" on the matter. We've moved away from religion as a people, yet all it seems to have done is instilled a false sense of rationality in everyone.

It's not about trusting or distrusting "science," it's about trusting or distrusting people who put too much trust into "science," on the principle of it being "science" that "scientists" have determined is truth. I'm not saying let's all go full Amish (or Kaczynski) and live off the land, I write code for a living. I'm just saying that it's easy to fall into the "religion is an old and outdated concept, only idiots and traditionalist fools would believe in such a thing, yet putting complete faith in anything said by anyone who calls themselves a 'scientist' that gets sufficient attention, that's completely totally different, Because Science" trap.

Belief in science is nothing like belief in religion. The former, ultimately, is a belief, based on evidence, in the scientific method (empirically acquiring knowledge).

So yes, I would argue that even if someone doesn't understand all the scientific principles behind climate change, they can still reasonably trust "science" and "scientists", since that work is built on top of empirically-backed, peer-evaluated research. In fact, this is necessary since the expertise required to have a critical opinion of the vast majority of scientific research is well beyond us.

"Science" and religion are both equally fallible because both are interpreted, disseminated, and perpetuated by man, which as we all know is about the most fallible thing there is. It's obvious and demonstrable that various religious institutions have had varying levels of corruption over the years as their power has waxed and waned based upon how much faith the people have in them. Why is it such a stretch to see that in this modern era where religion has been pretty much been given up on in favor of a more or less blind belief in whatever headlines tell us "scientists" now say, that once again, power and political motivations corrupt once-pure institutions?

Imagine trying to convince someone of incredible religious conviction that their earthly Church demonstrably has repeatedly fallen victim to corruption over the years, only to have her respond to you with, "but that can't be; the Word of God is unquestionably infallible!" There shouldn't be any problem in holding both of those ideas ("the Word of God (Bible) is literally Gospel and infallibly true" and "absolute power corrupts man") in your head at the same time (if anything, the former explicitly reinforces the latter!), and you'd be hard-pressed to find a Catholic today that won't admit that their earthly Church hasn't gone through periods of incredible corruption and downright evil.

Nobody's going to argue the validity of the scientific method, but when you look at the innate nature of man (demonstrated time and again over the course of all recorded history), it's easy to believe that modern "science" is just as corrupt as any other institution man has made at any point in time that rose to power in the minds of the people, i.e. "very"

Okay, here's where I see an important difference.

Let's break it down into a few constituent parts. We have a thing (scripture / spiritual belief OR the scientific method as applied to the world). Then, nasty, messy fallible people who probably don't floss... do stuff with that thing: they teach it, they do it, they investigate it in their own messy wayd. And then regular joe-schmo's who aren't so involved in the doing-something-with-the-thing get reallll impressed by these doing-stuff people (priests/rabbis/gurus whatever OR scientists of all sorts).

Okay, well here's the thing. I agree that everybody is messy and fallible. I agree that hand-wavy "Science people are right!" talk is wrong, imprecise and has potential to be harmful. At the same time, I believe in the scientific-method-applied-to-the-world. I believe in its power to reveal truth. I do not have that same belief in scripture-or-organized-religion-applied-to-the-world. And I think that's REALLY important. Of course people do stupid things and make mistakes, but when someone puts blind faith in people-trying-to-adhere-to-science, it scares me a lot less than when someone puts blind faith in people-trying-to-adhere-to-a-religion. In fact, I'd much rather people put blind faith in "scientists" than in... any other type of group, really, at least when it comes to revealing knowledge.

Hopefully that made sense, if anyone has thoughts or disagrees, I'm more than happy to hear it.

Let's put it this way, do you feel a monarchy is as equally corruptible as a democracy?

Both are institutions constructed by greedy, corrupt, stupid, fallible human beings. It's just that the latter has built in several mechanisms to address this. Like science.

So over a long period of time, democracies have proven to be less corrupt then monarchies, and like-wise, science has proven to be less wrong then religion.

Define "democracy." Purely democratic systems are absolutely fallible; mob rule is a thing man is prone to falling prey to in such systems. This is why basically nobody uses straight-up direct democracy today, especially in the age of everyone having read/write access to a global information network in their pockets at all times.

But even putting that aside, and accepting for sake of the argument that the political system in use in countries such as the United States is a "democracy" ...still, yes. Did political corruption magically disappear overnight when we stopped being ruled by monarchs? Were all monarchies corrupt to begin with?

"Democracy is to monarchy as science is to religion" is an incredibly muddled comparison that does not make much sense when you break it down. Modern Christianity would not be where it is today without Protestantism questioning core fundamental beliefs and then-current leadership. When does what is accepted as "Science" get to have its version of Protestantism, questioning not just the dogma of "settled science" (the most hilarious oxymoron of all time), but those who spread it to the masses as well?

Why is it that Christians, even Catholics have no problem admitting to the fallibility of what they consider to be their holiest of institutions, yet atheists seem to believe that "science" is inherently always impossible to be anything but utterly pure use of the scientific method conducted with nothing but the utmost honesty, at every level?

The motivations of man are not always pure, especially when in positions of power and/or authority. Even if you want to disregard religion entirely, at least take lessons from the history it has given us.

You keep raising the straw man of "settled science" - who here, or in fact in the scientific community, believes this let alone proclaims it? Even in broader (non-scientifically literate) society, there are few people (in my experience) that believe science knows everything already.

Science had its "protestant" moment - it was called the Enlightenment, and it result from questioning the dogma of settled knowledge as promulgated by religions through the infallibility of scripture.

I'm not going to list politically-charged examples because that's highly unlikely to lead to productive discussion and everyone here knows it.

I'm not knowledgeable about philosophy or metaphysics but is there even anything approaching consensus on whether or not there even is a "knowledge ceiling" that an individual or even society could ever achieve? (If so, I'd love to know how anyone came to that conclusion lol)

>Science had its "protestant" moment - it was called the Enlightenment, and it result from questioning the dogma of settled knowledge as promulgated by religions through the infallibility of scripture.

You seem to have misunderstood the analogy I was making. I'm a practicing Roman Catholic, yet view Protestantism as having been a positive thing for Christianity as a whole, including Roman Catholicism. When is dogmatic belief in whatever passes for "science" these days going to be scrutinized? Systemic corruption of any sufficiently powerful institution of man is inevitable, and just because the scientific method is about as pure of a means of reasoning about the world around us as we can come up with and has led to profound advancements in technology and our understanding of our world... doesn't mean that everyone's just going to ignore the fact that using the now-widespread dogmatic belief in its infallibility is a pretty powerful means of achieving external political and personal goals unrelated to the pursuit of truth. It's naive to think otherwise.

You keep bringing in disparate arguments as if they are part of the same thing - infallibility, knowledge ceiling, dogmatism - and also throwing in the odd barb - "whatever passes for science these days" (the answer to which, is "science!").

Yes, agreed that human systems have a tendency to corruption, however the scientific method at least has within it the seeds to "keep the bastards honest" (as we say where I come from). i.e.

1. Nothing stops you from learning and becoming a scientist. 2. Nothing stops you from attempting to repeat published experiments, or if you can't, then to point out why (which are likely to be faults in either the description or execution of the original experiment).

In other words, there is transparency and a basis for objective comparison. Lack of transparency (either through gatekeeping or lack of detail) is considered a bad sign in science. That's what differentiates the scientific method, from say, the "political method", or "the religious method".

I think you’re not going to win this argument, but I will point out that you can’t look at a giant meadow of grass, focus on a few weeds and say, “see, it’s not grass!”.

As a system, science has brought about a better understanding of the physical world around us and has dramatically improved the lives of every human on the planet.

You keep beginning your responses with formal criticisms of my posts instead of the content within, starting with "You keep..." This time it accuses my previous post of "bringing in disparate arguments," but said post contains three paragraphs excluding the pull quote; the first two address pieces of the first paragraph of the post of yours my post was responding to, while the third paragraph directly responds to the second paragraph, indicated by a pull quote. It's clear you're either not really interested in discussion, or we're talking past each other, so there really isn't a need to continue this conversation thread.

Science as a system of producing knowledge (and rules for what to do and how to live) differs from religion in key ways:

1. It places empirical observation as the ultimate form of evidence, as opposed to scripture/existing knowledge.

If you observe something that contradicts existing theories and other people can make that observation then existing theories are disproven, the end. This still takes time to propagate, but really only for highly complicated abstract theories(of which climate change might be one!)

2. Science has a built in competitive market type process for selecting 'scripture' and an incentive to constantly be updating it.

Religions have more bureaucratic/despotic approaches to updating knowledge(college of cardinals/pope, influential preachers etc).

3. The core questions science tackles are physical and amenable to observation and maths. The core questions religion tackles are metaphysical, or to put them in evo-psych terms to do with selecting and reproducing rules of behavior that produce good societies in which to live over tens/hundreds of generations.

In as much as science tries to enter into that hyper-long term planning game it should be treated with extreme suspicion, it's a different statistical environment to that of physics and the existing statistical tools of science are probably not up to the task. It's the land of Taleb's fat tails and iterated games and exponential chaos, not statistically modelable quantum experiments(top pick a complicated but tractable problem).

Shitty metaphor: Hard sciences are about solving P problems, or at worst approximating NP or worse, but still computable, problems. Religion and social science are about providing heuristics to uncomputable problems(if you have a C program and all it does is return then it definitely halts etc). In as much as people take the NP approximations as seriously as the P solutions, they're in for some rude awakenings. In as much as a lot of our society does then we're in for a bumpy ride.

I dunno; there are vastly more people doing "science" now than in 1850, and a hell of a lot fewer technological changes, improvements and so on. I look at the people claiming the mantle now (used to be one of them!) as about as credible as if some MBA showed up and took credit for the Hoover dam.

it's funny to see this observation here. HN is one of the worse places for scientism. Having an argument? Drop a citation to NIH. Doesn't matter that neither of you read the paper, the title loosely alludes to your point so you win.

I really like and recommend CS Lewis articles and essays on Scientism

What are examples the term "scientist" being used in an inappropriate way? To me, a scientist is someone who is educated in the scientific method and experience using it to perform experiments. It's mostly applied to people for whom it's their profession but you can be an amateur scientist.

Yes, day to day there's a certain level of trust put in what scientists say based on their research, everyone can't know everything, but it's not blind faith. With priests, ultimately there's an expectation of belief without evidence.

It's other way around. Priests used to be the science class, but a few hundred years ago they split into 2 camps.

Hence our fetishization that results in a watermill of these intellectuals

shopping is making material sacrifices on the altar of the Self. How is buying some designer nonsense at 1000% markup to appease your ego much different from sacrificing a prize animal to appease an external God? Neither are likely to actually help you in return.

Isn't shopping/consumerism deeply entwined with a distorted notion of the "self" ? I am what I have, what I wear, where I fall on the status-totempole.

An alternative would be a community-outlook. I am part of a greater whole. I don't really own anything. We are living a story, together.

Simple skinnerism would also explain consumerism. Oh look! Shiny! That could stimulate my dopamine receptors briefly, I'll get it.

I would say impulses rather than shopping. West is obsessed with being "free" i.e. do whatever I want at anytime

Yes. What's missing from modern life is somewhat intended by corporations and the political elite: the atomizing of people from each other via glowing screens and burning down of community that churches functioned to anchor people together. The multitude of consequences are loneliness, isolation, friendlessness, depression, anxiety and more suicidal than ever. I'm not arguing magical thinking in any form has any inherent value, but the caring about each other and the social commonwealth collectivism, empathy and support it provided are indispensable to sane, decent, good and successful people. The charity, forgiveness and nonviolent disobedience by deed part of many traditional religous traditions embody virtues that to most are inherently inspirational, noble and provide the foundation of civilization as functional, decent and possessing integrity. If we let society devolve into Orwellian, Kafkaesque, social Darwinism, then feudalism, inverted or outright totalitarianism, bullshit and brutality will comprise the primary palette of the social contract.

You are the messiah. Money is the god.

Have you read the book "Stand Firm" ? It was a best-seller in Denmark, with the idea that our new religion is "find yourself inside." The author advises that most who look inside won't find anything, and that we should look outward instead.

Ultimately, the author is making a case for a modern version of Stoicism.

"Wherever you go, there you are." I've that saying a couple of times.

> I think we in the west ended up replacing religion with, not an absence of it, but with a religion of the Self

More like objectivisim or individualism. Many of my small talks with people in the west include discussion about Ayn Rand and her work on FountainHead and Atlas Shrugged. After hearing about it for a long time I read the book. And frankly, the whole concept of individualism is strange to me.

I'm more or less an atheist by most standards, and I'm okay with that description.

I fundamentally agree with you.

We need things (that we imagine to be) outside of ourselves that are good in order to structure what we do. That otherness can be in the form of God or in the form of ethics, or in the form of whatever we unconsciously pickup as meaningful.

Culturally (in the US at least), I don't think that there are a lot of serious options just laying around for people to pick up if they aren't into religion, and so we unconsciously pick up other people, transient material successes, short term goal fulfillment, or novelty seeking as a substitute for these long term orientations.

When we unconsciously adopt those things (human relationships, solving our short term projects, being smart, or whatever) I think that we're bound to be disappointed because all of those things are pretty finite in what you can do with them: there is always a limit to how close a relationship can be, how healthy your body can be, how much professional success you can attain, and so on.

I have a 17 year old who lives with me, and when he goes off to college, I will be happy. I am glad that I have a lot more in my life than just my children, because in the end it's important that they leave, eventually.

Even your closest human relations need to have limits.

So the choice seems to be between living with short term successes, picking up religion, or doing a lot of intellectual work to try and find meaningful stuff that doesn't have the same frustrating limits as the short-term goals.

At this point, I have been finding that last option much more useful... finally, after two decades of being a dead weight of alienating drag, my degree in philosophy is starting to work out some things.

So, yeah, I think that you're right: an ethic where you place meaning in your life in the wellbeing of humanity in general is a strong idea.

That’s more a value system, or maybe an ideology, than a religion. Though I’ll agree the two do more or less occupy the same cognitive space. There is no need for anything mystical to be involved.

Today we are experimenting with new phenomena that have never been available to humanity en mass. Effective birth control, gender equality, freedom from restrictive social norms, all of these are very new, and indeed evolutionarily novel. We have not yet learned a tradition of how to operate in this space, we are the pioneers, and unfortunately a lot of missteps befall the pioneers.

Eventually through trial and error, and a kind of evolutionary process, we’ll figure it out, and then that will get passed down as the new value system. Then we’ll have kids again more or less following in the footsteps of their parents, they’ll just be footsteps we wouldn’t necessarily expect.

> That’s more a value system, or maybe an ideology, than a religion.

The difference is that the social structure which promotes the value system is valuable in and of itself (this said as someone who grew up religious but is not anymore). A lot of people can't "walk the path" without others to walk with them.

The only issue is that sometimes that social structure has downsides like occasionally becoming politically charged, self-serving or abusive.

> Today we are experimenting with new phenomena

Pretty sure every generation from the beginning of time has thought of itself as a pioneer exposed to new forces and new phenomena. It's a bit arrogant to think that you're the one and only.

There are a multitude of other changes that have transformed our environment (agriculture, spoken language, written language, barter, commerce, etc.) over the millennia.

> There is no need for anything mystical to be involved.

And yet something mystical has been involved for thousands of years, in virtually every culture. When we tried to eradicate it forcefully (communism), bad things happened. Perhaps there's more to it than you think?

The pace of change over the last century makes the pace over the last few thousand years look like a crawl. Agriculture was not invented and brought to the point of industrialisation within a single human lifetime. I’d wager that spoken language took a bit longer than a few decades to perfect as well. You’re not comparing like with like.

> And yet something mystical...

People need explanations for things, when they don’t have them they invent them.

> When we tried to eradicate it forcefully (communism), bad things happened

This is a little disingenuous.

Yes, states described as communist attempted to eradicate religion; to do that, they merely replaced religion with the state. The state became the church, its leaders became the saints.

Don't conflate the example of failed, corrupt Stalinist communist states with the concept of the eradication of religion, they're not at all mutually inclusive.

> The state became the church, its leaders became the saints.

Can you name a single attempt to eradicate religion that didn't end up with the very description you provide?

No, but history’s follies are not the full extent of all possibilities and potential consequences.

Stalin brought back the orthodox church after Lenin got rid of it. When Stalin died, Khruschev cracked down on the church again.

Not quite. When he took power, he ruthlessly enforced atheism and slaughtered anyone who stood in his way. Only when he was fighting for his life with the Nazis did he find the Orthodox Church useful in his efforts. After he was done with the Nazis, he went back to his old tricks.


Stalin's relative clemency towards the orthodox church does give the lie to the idea that the policy is "Stalinist." It was a Leninist policy of long standing. Khruschev reverted to it despite his explicit denunciation of Stalinism.

> After he was done with the Nazis, he went back to his old tricks.

According to the article you yourself linked, he was pretty soft on them from after the war until his death.

>Effective birth control

What if at the end, we end up realizing that all there is to life is a struggle in order to propagate our own DNA, and that really this struggle may not be worth it? Humanity as a whole could decide that this is all there is, and then that ultimately there really is no point other than what you make it. What if humanity bucked it's genetic programming, recognizing it for what it really is. And recognizing that what we are really up against, is the laws of physics themselves. That we've been dealt a raw deal, meaning that we must work in some way to sustain our own being, and that only the laws of the universe stop us from being truly free. That in the end, birthing children really isn't a blessing, but a curse. And that truly the best gift you can give your unborn children is the gift of non-existence.

The other half of humanity that think that birthing children really is a blessing will outnumber you.

A blessing from who?


What's the "this" that is all there is? What is the struggle you describe, exactly, and what would it mean for it to be "worth" it? What do you mean by freedom, exactly, and on what basis is it good (you imply that it's good and important to be "truly free")?

Those questions are semi-rhetorical (although I'd love to hear an answer if you want to have a convo about it), but your paragraph rings some alarm bells for me. Have you read Thomas Nagel's "The Absurd"? I think it directly and decisively addresses many of the concerns you bring up.

Here's a link to the paper: https://philosophy.as.uky.edu/sites/default/files/The%20Absu...

I prefer to imagine our descendants being happy.

The hitch is that you can't work hard enough to stem the tide of suffering in the world. It's a hopeless situation because the world is broken and suffering and death are unavoidable. If the world is broken, then there is no path to salvation through works.

The message in religion, particularly in the message of Christianity, is that life is suffering because of ubiquitous sin - BUT - God came here bodily to teach us how to live, freeing us from the sin of broken laws, and died as a final blood sacrifice to wipe the sin slate clean.

Jesus is definitely the superman to model one's life after (be charitable, be loving, forgive, don't lead others to sin, speak truthfully, don't be a hypocrite, etc...) But, the main point the religion teaches is that salvation can only come through faith that Jesus is God and not by any good works you do.

You can get all rational and say that's all magic mumbo jumbo, but it's actually really good psychology. Belief in a higher power that saves leads to good people. It's beneficial to mental health when you can surrender the notion that anything you do will fix the world and that life isn't hopeless. And there is a power to prayer. We can definitely make things better here, and we are, but no works can eliminate all of the evil in the human heart.

No need of religion, just the new way of doing things. I feel you are talking of a loss of community. Of human beings being of benefit to each other that can be separate from religion. I do see that the church provides a community for many who can participate in that, even though I am a life-long atheist. But broadly, I agree with you.

For my parents and their siblings that meant the furthest apart they were until mid life, ignoring war service, was around 50 or so miles. Not by choice, but there were jobs, opportunities and housing locally. Not in each other's pockets like in a small village, but near enough to meet up regularly, visit when passing, take me over to my uncle or gran if they needed to go somewhere. There was some overlap between friends. There was always someone pretty locally.

For me and my siblings, friends and cousins, we are a far flung bunch, and it is the same for most of my friends. I have a relative 300 miles one way, one on another continent, another 200 miles the other way who I've almost completely lost touch with. Some friends have even more far flung friends and family. For the most part that seems to have come at a high cost. Not just when someone is taken ill, or at Christmas, but in day to day life, in our ways of parenting, in our closeness (or more accurately our lack of closeness) in day to day life. The lonely mum stuck miles away from relatives, the dad trying to keep it together alone. Maybe it even explains some of the addiction to social media.

Maybe I read far too much into it, having reached an age where mortality is far more apparent, and people I thought as young have died. My parents and their peers seemed to have had a level of contentment with their lot, even though many were in WW2 - sometimes at great cost, that me and my peers have utterly lost.

I have no answers. I wish I did.

> I have no answers. I wish I did.

I think this is something that VR tech good enough to make you feel like you're really in the same room as someone (meaning not just visuals, but sight, sound, touch, smell) will help with. That may be hundreds of years away though.

I very much agree and I've been thinking about this a lot lately.

Interestingly enough, this line of thought is not new. People like Auguste Comte in the 1850s saw the industrial and technological revolution as an engine working to erode religion, and he wanted to work towards an alternative.

For many people, religion generally provides two things: 1) An overt faith-based explanation of why we're here, how the world came to be, and how important events are driven (God), and 2) a system of ethical and moral rules evolved over centuries to allow everyone to life their "best life".

As science and technology advanced, many people lost the need for #1, and started to abandon religion entirely. That kind of makes sense, because #1 is often the marquee headline of religion. But in abandoning religion, they also lost #2, the quieter, but perhaps even more important, aspect. There is nothing in today's modern society that can seriously fill that gap. (In the past, fraternal organizations played that role to some extent, but they are largely irrelevant today.)

Comte put together a "Religion of Humanity" in an attempt to provide people with point #2, couched in the familiar structure of religion and ceremony, but without the faith-based belief of point #1. It saw some medium-level success in its day but is now defunct. It was perhaps too early for its time.

However I think the idea is more important now than it ever was. People need an ethical, community-based, traditions-based societal structure they can attend regularly and fall back on, but without the requirement that one believe in faith-based myths and legends. We need a new "Religion of Humanity".



A system of ethics and moral rules that is evolved over time with no relation to how things are in themselves is simply so much legacy code, to be replaced by the stronger man at a time convenient to him.

If, on the other hand, moral rules and ethics are due to the natures of things then there must be someone who intended things to exist in the manner they are intended to exist. That being must be a person because of the principle of sufficient cause (since we exist). Faith is the response to communication from this person. It does not require abandoning of reason, but simply picks up where reason cannot ascend to because of its lack of perspective.

> If, on the other hand, moral rules and ethics are due to the natures of things then there must be someone who intended things to exist in the manner they are intended to exist.

This is not at all clear to me. Can you clarify?

Morals and ethics are either relative or absolute. If they are relative then they are not based on "what a thing is" (it's essence, to use an Aristotelean term) but on "how useful it is to me" or some other relative criteria). If, on the other hand, "what you ought to do with this thing" is based on "what is this thing and what is it intended to be", then there must exist some `intender` who is the reason for this thing's form / end being what that form / end is.

Thanks for the explanation. Something that is absolute needs an absolute reference frame, in other words. Here you’re saying that the absolute reference frame is what God intends.

I’m not sure that there is such an absolute reference frame for morality, but this is too long a conversation to get into here!

I think it is in a "believe in Jesus" way. In the book of Matthew, Jesus reaches out to folks who have finally come to this exhausting revelation:

Matthew 11:28-30 - “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. [29] Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. [30] For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

If anything she is blessed to have finally reached the end of her self-effort and encounter the weighty truth we find in Ecclesiastes -- that everything under the sun is indeed meaningless (vanity).

More Matthew, from, 10:34 and on, writing what Jesus personally says, according to him:

"“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn

“ ‘a man against his father,

a daughter against her mother,

a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—

36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’"

Or maybe Mark 11:12 and on:

"12 The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13 Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. 14 Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it."

Voluntarily serving others through time or money is definitely a good way to find some purpose, or at the very least, just not feel so selfish. A good opportunity that I've found that other HN folk might be interested in is donating your time to STEM clubs at public schools, especially those with less advantaged kids. They're usually after school and the one I'm doing is in the Lego robotics competition targeted towards 5th-7th graders.

Love this.

We don't want happiness out of life, we want meaning. And we have the most meaning when we're impacting other people. Impacting people can start small, like your wonderful examples, or be huge like starting a successful company. There are so many ways.

I deeply disagree with this — if you can achieve happiness without meaning, there is no need for meaning.

Of course, I understand that achieving happiness can be challenging, and that seeking meaning can be a meaningful step on that path.

But it is possible to have happiness without meaning, and that seems more valuable than meaning without happiness, or happiness that relies on a sense of meaning.

According to Aristotle's "Nicomachean Ethics", happiness is the greatest good in life.

The pursuit of a meaningful life puts way too much pressure on identifying what is meaningful and worth our energies. That would probably decrease my happiness.

What if I can't find any pursuit that I consider to be the most meaningful? Am I OK committing to something that could potentially be less than optimal in terms of meaningfulness?

It isn't that important for me to evaluate my actions on meaningfulness - I'm bound to disappoint my self by that metric.

Prioritizing meaningfulness over happiness is putting the cart before the horse, in my mind.

Ha, I think you just explained why Effective Altruists always seem so stressed out.

Ah, interesting. Thank you for challenging my assertion.

Upon deeper introspection, my own personal experience of “happiness without meaning” is closer to “the meaning is just the universe/physics unfolding (and I happen to be a part of that)”, which is so all-encompassing that it has little meaning itself, in the Kolmogorov complexity sense. And concomitant well-being, which I would define as closer to “completely neutral affective experience” rather than the “positive affective experience” described as hedonic well-being in the study you referenced.

Why is happiness valuable?

The lady isn't struggling with meaning - she's struggling with having lived a care-free life and is now realizing that the ability to form a family and/or have a career that earns above average, has passed her by.

There isn't anything to 'do' to solve this - because there is no problem. She's made trade-offs she wasn't fully aware of and now she's coming to see them for what they are. She'll pout for a few days/months/years and then move on with her life.

This 'become something that is worth being' aka Jordan Peterson cult of 2018, is going to run it's course too, because most people are average, and this 'worth being' is always something an average person isn't already doing. When they start doing it, 'worth being' will become something more difficult surely because it's never enough. What a great way to view yourself as above others and continue being an ego-maniac (what Jordan Peterson is)

I agree, she exploited her good fortune (including youth and beauty as a woman in a society that gives that enormous power), and along the way she didn't spend much effort helping others or figuring out how to so that's no satisfaction to her now. She still wants her lottery ticket to win, she just doesn't see how.

Most people are average, which means they can become well-above average at some one useful thing that is "worth being." Most people do get there. "Worth being" clearly implies, that being enough.

If J.P. were actually an ego-maniac he would have been chewed up and spit out by society long ago; standing against the crowd isn't easy work.

> You can always do something meaningful with your life.

There lies the rub. What if you don't find anything to be meaningful to you. This implies that there are some activities that are inherently more meaningful that others and you just have to find them. Now you are back to square one.

Can it be rewritten to

> You can always find meaning in anything you do

This doesn't handwave the problem away. Main task is to find meaning in yourself not keep looking for activities that will give you meaning and hope you get lucky.

It seems like "you can always find meaning in anything you do" turns the sentiment back into being about YOU, which is what OP seemed to be lamenting in the first place.

As you expressed, you see the task as "find meaning in yourself," a concept that can maybe be expressed as "meaning comes from within." This sounds nice! I think what OP was getting at is that this perspective has two problems: 1. It requires you to produce your own sense of "meaning" (whatever that means) that is self-satisfying, AND that works well in the society/community in which you exist; and 2. it is fundamentally self-centered. A hypothesis could be that this perspective seems to most frequently result in a failure to find "meaning" (probably better called "contentment") in anything.

As OP said, faith/religion traditions tend to hand you a set of pre-defined "here's what's meaningful" morals, and these also tend to be skewed towards group value instead of just self-satisfaction. When handed this outlook on meaning/morals, it seems possible there might be benefits - not having to come up with a self-fulfilling sense of meaning that also meshes with broader society, as well as a focus on being useful to the community instead of just yourself.

I personally find the whole "be yourself" / "do what you love" dogma-du-jour to be terrible, and prone to actually resulting in depression and shame. It is at the same time selfish, and self-sabotaging.

Because here's something else that's true. In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism.

There is no such thing as not worshipping.

Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship – be it J.C. Or Allah, be it Yahweh or the Wiccan mothergoddess or the Four Noble Truths or some infrangible set of ethical principles –

is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive.

If you worship money and things – if they are where you tap real meaning in life – then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It's the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you. On one level we all know this stuff already – it's been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, bromides, epigrams, parables: the skeleton of every great story. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart – you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. And so on.

David Foster Wallace, from This is Water, a commencement speech he gave in 2005.

>If you worship money and things – if they are where you tap real meaning in life – then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It's the truth.

The only reason he has to assert it like that is because it isn't true. He has a lack of imagination if he's not able to imagine someone who doesn't worship anything. I imagine he'd just move the goalposts though, and say "oh well they worship their lack of worship, which is a form of eating them alive." It's disingenuous at best, but probably just ignorance, so that he can sound profound without really giving a convincing argument.

You're right, the hedonic adaptation is all imaginary. David Foster Wallace and the many psychologists who support it's existence are all wrong.

Perhaps they should read your dissertation on it?


If you are in this situation, if you have 20 minutes, watch 4 vidoes:


This man specializes in this.

Which 4 videos?

How you've written things is exactly how Buddhist mindfulness authors Christina Feldman, Sharon Salzberg, Jon Kabat-Zinn, and Pema Chödrön have been writing and thinking about it. I recommend checking out Wherever You Go, There You Are.

It's clear to me how all of the reaction and distraction we've started to discover that the current Internet lets us cling to will drive people to start seriously evaluating teachings of mindfulness and Buddhism.

Mindfulness interest is trending the highest it's ever been: https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?date=all&geo=US&q=m...

Also interesting, searches for Buddhism peak yearly in the fall/winter?: https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?date=all&geo=US&q=b...

I'm a data point of your last sentence. Meditation and reading Buddhist writings is part of how I survive SAD.

> It's in being of benefit to the human beings around you. And in serving those around you, you become something that is worth being.

I both agree and disagree with you. On the one hand, you're right that most people would be happier if they committed more and gave more. Human relationships are a positive-sum game.

But people who mindlessly follow that advice are asking to be exploited. History is full of dictators who grew rich and powerful off the backs of people whom they persuaded to think of something other than themselves. "Blut und boden." "Deus, pátria, e família."

What religion is supposed to be (whether it succeeds is a different question) is a moral compass so that one may find happiness and meaning in service to others, without your good intentions being exploited or usurped against your interests.

How does it prevent you from being exploited? By only helping coreligionists who are not supposed to exploit each other?

If we see religion as a dominant world viewpoint, it becomes less about one particular religious interpretation (or not), and more about the benefits of having a practice that helps you be better for yourself and others.

It could be argued that belief systems are an inescapable component of the human experience and religion forces a person to channel thinking about such in a deliberate cognitive way.

I fundamentally agree with your message (and, as an atheist, try to live it as well as I can), but I don't see why you need religion to propagate it.

Then again, perhaps religion is just helpful here in the sense that people -- especially those going through emotional/existential crises -- might find it easier to climb out of a hole with dogma as a guide rather than rational thought.

I wasn’t trying to say one needs religion to look past oneself. I was instead tipping my hat to religion, in the sense that I think this is a thing religion very much gets right. And it is through religion that most people in our culture are exposed to the idea.

That being said, religion does a pretty poor job of spreading the gospel of loosing oneself in the service of others. It tends to focus on religiosity instead. But imho it does a better job than almost any other institution we have.

Which is to say that as a culture we are pretty terrible at it.

Until you are the type of person that is always focused on others and wants everybody to be happy, often at the cost of expressing your own opinion. Then you'd need a dose of Ayn Rand and you also won't be popular on HN, but what the hell.

If you strip away all the industrial entrepreneur worshiping, there is a beautiful lesson about the ethics of expressing what you want and allowing loved ones to do things for you, because they want to see you happy, because they love the real, full you. I guess one can come from many sides but in the end I agree with the writer of this piece, it is about accepting yourself, including the things you don't like. If you've seen Naruto, this is the height of the series for me: [0] (None of the movies will play though.)

[0] https://duckduckgo.com/?q=naruto+hugs+himself&t=ffsb&ia=vide...

Religion and conservatism is really good groundwork for those who aren't exceptional. Hard to say if the world is a better place with religion in it but it's easy to say that some people's lives /are/ better because of it.

There's a million ways to be. One of them is good for some group of people.

I identified with the person in the article, and what you described is how I pulled myself out of it. It was a mix somewhere between depression and existential despair. The notion of putting others first, kindness, and empathy is absolutely compatible with a secular lifestyle.

That said, I'd also encourage this person to seek therapy. Sometimes knowing the answer isn't enough and you need help getting there...perhaps with the benefit of medication.

Religion might also be thought of as a part of social evolution necessary to establish trust among increasingly larger social networks. [https://www.researchgate.net/publication/23297205_The_Origin...]

As an atheist I’ve been thinking about that lately and I think I can agree. It looks like in the US nobody cares about the poor people and the homeless and the church is pne of the last organization trying to help people (and convert them, but still).

As long as the US will demonize socialism, people who have nothing won’t get help from the government.

Socialism without morality leads to Stalinism. Socialism with morality requires strict (e. g. sworn) obedience to a higher authority (see the monasteries of Catholicism which are strictly speaking socialist).

But capitalism without morality ends up being America. Where people sleep in the streets at every corners and need to pay to go to college or get medical treatment.

Oliver Twist's England, surely, where children are pressed into service in dangerous factories that can severe limbs and kill, for mere pennies a day?

Otherwise, we definitely agree. We are fallen creatures and will drive earth to hell, regardless of which car we decide to drive there in. Only external help can save us from ourselves.

While the rich own multiple houses in the same street or zipcode.

America has become substantially more socialist over the last 50 years, if you look at the statistics on social welfare spending, or the number and breadth of social programs in force.

In the past, without the safety net, and with anti-vagrancy laws, the street people would have been doing the work now done by low wage legal and illegal immigrants. It was a hard life, but better than slowly poisoning themselves to death with opioids while living on government aid.

I'm from the flock that value his own practical and hard-learnt lessons over prepackaged answers. Yes it could be said it's more inefficient but I see a beautiful depth in earning your own growth.

Following an ethical life path does not provide the same value as rediscovering it.

I think what you're talking about isn't so much a religion as a culture, and we're indoctrinated to actively avoid and make fun of that, so ...

I agree! Society is missing a non-theistic answer to this. The closest I have found is the Stoic concept of virtue.


Religion, like drugs, can be useful and life-affirming, or it can be misused.

Learning to code in high school is great, you should be proud of that!

> Religion, like drugs, can be useful and life-affirming, or it can be misused.

So can computers and programming, come to that.

I think the parents of many 20 and 30-somethings played a role in so many young(ish) adults failing to launch.

American parents could learn a thing or two about parenting from previous generations and from a lot of immigrant families: nobody owes you anything, plan for a rainy day, find a partner you love and commit to them, work hard, cherish friends and family even when it's difficult, etc.

I think parenting has over-corrected from the overly didactic and stern parenting of previous generations to endless "follow your bliss" and "you can do anything" -- which is causing a lot of young people to spin their wheels for decades at a time, never growing up while their body is growing old. It's a shame to see.

> decades at a time

I think we're seeing the result of the baby boomer generation, essentially. They rejected the old, as you put it -- stern way of parenting. I'd argue, perhaps it wasn't so much stern as it was the structured.

There was structure, expectations, and responsibilities. Things previous generates required to live. Since then, we've grown increasingly accustomed to insane amounts of wealth (or perhaps debt?).

This enabled us to lax our expectations, because you didn't need to be super disciplined to make the wealth.

The fact that we rebuffed the social norms has it's good and bad, unfortunately it does appear that we took it too far -- at least from a "you can do anything perspective". Yes, you can do anything, but you have to work to get there. It appears a lot of people forget that last part and feel entitled to their wealth / place in society.

> There was structure, expectations, and responsibilities.

jefftk makes this point in a reflection on raising his own child--that there is great value in providing an environment which is predictable: https://www.jefftk.com/p/how-to-parent-more-predictably

Social trends almost always overcorrect. I wouldn't be surprised if we overcorrect the other way in future generations, then back again, etc. People seem to have trouble with the idea that the optimum is not at an extreme.

> "... the idea that the optimum is not an extreme."

I'd put this as "not an extreme" /on any of the axes that we're considering/. Life has an awful lot of dimensions -- if you imagine a very high-dimensional hypercube and draw the optima randomly, the optima are almost guaranteed to be close to some surface (some "extreme").

To my eye, the real problem is finding the correct perspective -- the one at which an optimum lies at an extreme.

>To my eye, the real problem is finding the correct perspective -- the one at which an optimum lies at an extreme.

Something which has brought a lot of happiness to my life and dramatically changed the way I live is taking responsibility for my own happiness and life choices. I used to spin my wheels and drift through life but at 30 I was diagnosed with cancer. It's a long story and it turned out to not be serious, although I did have two surgeries. There was a time period where it seemed very serious, however, and this period completely changed how I view my own life. I didn't want to die with this sense of being so unfulfilled and I wished I had made better choices. Now I try to make these choices as I live.

I commend you for finding the way to live to the fullest.

And I am envious. I have no impending doom looming above my head and I feel that this really makes me slow and feeling that I have time. I am 38 now and I am pretty aware that my time is ticking away. But there's always another crysis to salvage... I am trying my very best to crawl out of this hole but it's taking way too long.

I feel I lack the very important perspective that you have but these things are profound epiphanies; you can't just talk somebody into having them. They are transformative experiences and the resulting change in you cannot be duplicated by just talking or reading others' stories...


You definitely can't talk someone into having life-changing experiences. In the space of two years I went through:

1) Wife cheating on me 2) Divorce after a year of attempting to make it work 3) A clinically diagnosed major depressive episode (mainly brought on by the wife stuff but also some unresolved personal issues) 4) Cancer diagnosis

These years were incredibly formative, despite happening at ~30 years of age. The years since have seen me take control of my own life in ways I would never have before. If I want something I find a way to make it work.

One thing that helps me now is I don't worry about things. There is typically always a way out of a shit situation if you're willing to work for it. I don't know your personal situation but I recommend trying to be grateful for what you've got, set a 5-year plan for what you work and start doing the things you need to do for that 5-year plan (even if they're difficult and don't pay off for a long time). Treat your future self as someone to whom you're going to give a great gift.

> These years were incredibly formative, despite happening at ~30 years of age.

You know what they say: "No good sailor is formed by windless sailing" or some such. It's absolutely never too late to not only learn but to get transformed dramatically.

I also got through a ton of crap lately -- been jobless for 6 months but that was only the tip of it. Not gonna bore you, bottom line is that yes, these things make you shift priorities and look at everything with new eyes. That much is true.

What is still not true is that I don't have that mythical perspective that people with near-death experiences gain. I wonder if it's possible to gain it without outlasting cancer or barely surviving a car crash.

As for not worrying, at 38 I learned for the first time in my life to take everything that's happening in stride and without sweating. Basically, if paying the bills and food isn't the threat, I really seriously cannot even get stressed or pissed anymore. Took me several months of a ton of stress to transform though. Looking back at the process, even though it's still ongoing, makes you appreciate how painful and slow a profound change in your character can be.

Being grateful for what you got is, again, not something you just read somewhere and start doing it tomorrow and until you die. Suffering and pain gave me much needed perspective to really become grateful. Nowadays I can't even get upset at my wife or mother if they get pissy at something; I just smile widely because I am happy that they are alive and well, and with me. (In rare cases this is misinterpreted which makes the situation even more hilarious.)

As for own schedule and plans -- thanks, that's a good perspective. I am a pretty relentless guy and I have a "grand vision" and I almost never lose the horizon but I fully appreciate that having a self-imposed deadline can be a motivator.

Do you have an advice on how do I sparkle the strong emotional reaction that makes one not want to waste another minute? I really cannot consciously replicate that. I envy people like you who got that epiphany and are now living under its flag.

>I find a way to make it work... I don't worry about things.

In the past I've had goals, I "try to make it work" as you say. How do you not worry about the thing that you are trying to make it work?

> Treat your future self as someone to whom you're going to give a great gift.

Thank you for writing about your perspective. I've heard similar suggestions before, but never really focused/internalized it.

That’s a super deep comment; thanks for wording it so lucidly that I could connect my own thoughts on the matter to it

Demographic replacement in the sense of the original posts "American parents" vs "Immigrant parents" will put a natural damper on whatever oscillations "American parents" try to implement. The woman in the linked story will never have descendants to overcorrect.

Are you over-correcting towards a mean right there?


That's an anecdote, not data; boomers were the hippy generation, that doesn't mean all of them were hippies.

I feel similarly with the differences between me and my family vs my wife and her family. I grew up not desperately poor, but with only just enough money to get by. In the late 90s we had a computer, a basic Windows 95 machine with dial-up and about 1/4 of the RAM/CPU that modern machines had, but we had one. That's about all we had for modern comforts, which I think forced me to be laser-focused on one activity. There just wasn't a lot of opportunity for me anywhere else but the computer. If I decided I didn't like computers and wanted to be a painter, there was no way we were buying art supplies. I asked for a computer and I got it and that was all I was going to get.

My wife's family wasn't rich, but the parenting attitude was "whatever you want, follow your heart". The kids had painting, sculpting, pianos, guitars, drums, dance lessons, soccer, karate, foreign language tutors, and anything else they desired. As soon as they got bored or frustrated, they quit and moved on to the next thing. The hope from the parents was if they were exposed to enough stuff, they'd find their passion. Of the three kids, only my wife has a steady job, and only because I nearly broke up with her when she was job hopping while we were dating. The other siblings quit their jobs at the first sign of any real struggle and move back in with their parents. I believe it's because they've never been forced to work past the uninteresting or difficult parts of any hobby or job in the past.

I don't know where the line should be drawn between giving kids every opportunity to find their passion versus making them stick with something they may not actually enjoy. I hope I figure that out before I have kids.

If your only had a piano, instead of a computer, your story wouldn't be particularly convincing. People who grew up with a computer, before most other people had one, were lucky to find a rapidly growing industry. Most other people are getting very little for their single focus.

If I only had a piano to entertain myself I probably would not be a professional piano player, you are correct. But that's not the point of the anecdote. Replace my computer with anything else, and the frustrations will still be the same. The boredom and experimentation and learning and moments of clarity and joy and pain will still be the same.

Whether I carry the piano into my adult life doesn't matter. I've still learned how to stick through something difficult without quitting and moving on to the next exciting thing. The most valuable lesson learned in this story is that everything worth doing is boring and difficult sometimes. If you never stick through it beyond that point, you'll never learn that lesson.

I do think it matters, because we are trying to establish some sort of utility of having focus in the context of the conversation. The theory of this thread is that a lack of focus is harmful and, at least partly, to blame for why young people are struggling.

You can be the most dedicated piano player, but if you later decides to channel that dedication into e.g. writing you are very likely to be struggling anyways. So now you are essentially in the same boat as everyone else.

Young people are mainly struggling because education, housing and long term careers are competitive and costly. Of course dedication can help with being successful in almost any sense of the word. But overall it is very likely overshadowed by other factors as e.g. your position in the housing market.

How many people who could afford a mortgage in a major city in their early twenties, by any means, are struggling with their lives today? Certainly a few, but surely a lot less than those who don't yet have a stable home in their thirties.

I personally think learning how to focus and power through a struggle is the important skill to learn, regardless of what form it takes. Finishing 10 imperfect paintings is more of a learning experience than never finishing one perfect painting. Finishing a terrible novel in NaNoWriMo is more important than giving up because your story is bad. Making it through school with a C+ is more important than dropping out because it's too hard. If you're going for a run, the first mile might be excruciating pain but then the runner's high kicks in. Now every time you go for a run after that, you'll know to grin and bear it because the pain will go away and it will get easier.

I'm arguing that it's not what skill you learn, but rather that you did. You moved past something being new and exciting, got to the point where it was frustrating and boring, and you kept going anyway. I'm now wishing I hadn't use a computer as my example because I still feel like you're taking the wrong lesson from my anecdote. I don't credit my childhood computer use for my successful career as an adult. I credit my (forced) single-minded focus, where giving up was not an option.

In this story, my siblings-in-law never knew that it gets easier, never knew that there is a plateau you can overcome, and never made it to the other side. Because they never had to. It's a story about not giving up, not a story about how everyone should learn to use a computer.

I just don't think it is accurate. Often pursuing something means giving up other things, which won't help you not to struggle in life. There is often no plateau in menial or highly competitive professions. Trying to e.g. become a writer will leave you struggling for a long time. Unless some can provide for you in the meantime, which has little to do with your own focus. I just don't think focus as such is that relevant for whether you will struggle or not in life. A lazy programmer is still on average very likely going to struggle less than a dedicated service worker. There are plenty of, say, high school football players who have more grit than most of us but are doing worse in life than the kid who barely knew how to tie his own shoes.

Maybe. My brother had access to a computer and a piano. For a while he was big into computer graphics and everyone in my family thought he'd be a graphics designer. He ended up becoming singularly focussed on music and is now a professional music producer. We're quite similar, we're both very focussed on a single skill and have reached professional levels in our respective areas.

So I'm not sure that sort of life is an inherent quality of growing up with a computer. It's perfectly possible to push through the hard parts and find a passion with music.

As far as I know that is a similar deal. Knowing how software works is an essential part of being a music producer today. You would have great benefit from already having extensive experience with a software suite. The same isn't true if he had been dedicated to music and dancing. People don't generally lack dedication so much as they lack opportunities. Learning about computers gives you opportunities, learning about something else might not.

You are onto something with letting kids be bored and struggle to create their own activities.

You taught yourself to use a computer, without taking an expensive "kids learn computers class", right?

Signing kids up for all these classes and structured activities can lead to a sort of passivity where they expect adults to tell them what to do.

And what if he had Fortnite etc back then? Would he have really excelled at computer work? Maybe.

We didn't have Fortnite but we had many other venues for entertainment on computers: MUDs, Ultima, DOOM, Duke Nukem 3D, Wolfenstein, Wing Commander, etc. etc. The list goes on.

My early family life resembled the parent's. The difference in my case and related to your point wasn't the absence of distractions it was to get at them I had to learn how to make the damn computer work. I once tricked my 286 into thinking it was a 386 so that I could install Windows 3.1. All for the purpose of... playing solitaire. Yeah, that's how bored I was.

I'm not even sure I could replicate doing that today. As a 9 year old I was better with a rudimentary BIOS than I am today with a modern one. I'm pretty sure it was because there was a barrier between me and what I wanted and the only way to get it was to figure out that horrendous system.

Well, now kids would be learning about overclocking video cards, messing with refresh rates, optimizing their gaming mouse etc. Same idea. I had Zork and PAC man growing up and while I enjoyed it I wasn’t completely addicted to it possibly because the graphics, multi player gaming etc weren’t there yet. It does bother me seeing my son play fortnite rather than learning python etc like I’d have been inclined to do if I were his age. Then again, I’d probably be addicted to fortnite as well.

I think all parents stress about video games. Mine did. Sometimes I'd get a new game and play it incessently. Eventually I'd get bored and go back to programming. If someone is interested in the topic fun games won't stop them exploring it, I'm sure.

So much truth. I must have beat Wing Commander 100 times. To play it, I had to tinker. I didn't want to tinker, but it was the only way to blow up evil cat people in space. Things are more stable and reliable these days. I prefer it for the usability, but I recognize the limited hackability of most modern computers means few people will take an interest.

My family was relatively rich. We also had a computer. With lots of games. I played Red Alert and then started programming. My brother played Counter Strike and now plays Dota or whatever, he never learned to program. I'm a successful programmer and he's a successful lawyer.

Anecdotes, is all.

I wasn't a "follow your heart" kid, but school came super easy to me and I never learned how to force myself to do things I don't want to do. It's a constant struggle.

I understand the failure to launch part that modern parenting contributes to. However, from personal experience, I do not believe it is only limited to American-born parents. I grew up with a lot of Chinese/Indian/Korean immigrant families around (which are among the most "successful" immigrants in America in terms of wealth and educational attainment).

We grew up with high expectations to study hard, go to a top university, get a 6-figure job, and start a family in the suburbs. Throughout years 4-18 our parents told us "You will do X, Y, and Z because these are the ingredients that worked for us to live a good life in America, so this is what will work for you."

While this does a good job providing structure, it doesn't take the individual into account. So many of my friends from immigrant families came out of college wondering "Now what?" because being a person was new to them in the sense that they had to figure out what to do with their life once things were no longer as pre-determined.

This created a new wave of 'failure to launch' where 20-somethings found themselves living at home trying to figure out what to do, or working down a path of some job they hate because their parents wanted them to do it. "The road to hell is paved with good intentions" is a good way to describe the situation.

"You can do anything" is a troublesome parental mindset to establish, but so is a mindset of "You can't do this because this is not one of the 5 jobs we believe is best for you". For example, my 25y.o. Chinese female friend is just now getting into CompSci (what she is good at) after dropping out of pharmacy school (her parents goal for her because "you are a girl, you should be a pharmacist or a dentist").

The pleasing-the-parents issue is one that affects every family, since there are all kinds of hidden sociocultural expectations that tend to start being confronted near the end of the educational years and the start of career building and family formation. It's expressed more strongly in this time period because the job market has quickly reshaped itself around computing, and the traditionally safe options for young people are drying up while new aspirational fantasies like "become a pro Fortnite player" or "become a cryptocurrency baron" are working their way in.

And it isn't just a generation gap - a whole set of institutions are like this, motivating the popular "Millenials killed tradition" genre of journalism. And for the Millenial generation that amounts to having to reinvent each institution in a new form. Not an ambition anyone particularly signed up for, but one where the jobs are now.

It’s tough, the balance between the two extremes that you’re talking about. Immigrants, and the previous generations, were a lot more preoccupied with survival than with self-actualization. Watching a movie like Office Space becomes interesting to view from the perspective of survival. It’s almost indulgent. This guy has a well-paying job, his biggest woe is that his manager is not likeable, and he’s unhappy? But when you live it, you understand.

For me, the balance has been most aptly described by the phrase: you can have anything you want, but you can’t have everything you want. You can travel, follow your bliss, whatever it takes to find some self-actualization (very important in the western world), but you pay a price. This way, you’re not completely discounting the value of ‘finding yourself’, but, like any major decision, you assess the ROI.

"you can have anything you want, but you can’t have everything you want." I heard this quote for the first time in ray Dalio's book Principles. It's one I intend to use in the future lol

I've at times felt resentment towards my baby boomer/hippy parents for spoiling me and failing to teach me discipline, which I've had to learn in adulthood at what I imagine is a steeper opportunity cost than if I had learned discipline as a child.

But on the other hand, I'm sympathetic to their impulse to reject the parenting styles of their parents. My father's father beat him brutally throughout his childhood. My mother's mother would shame her relentlessly for any slight failure to comply to her will, even well past childhood - when she earned her PhD, despite her mother's wishes for her to instead become an MD, after 7 hard years of working on her dissertation her mother's 'congratulatory' card ended with "I'll still pay for you to go to medical school" (and she had not helped her pay for graduate school).

They rejected the cruelty of their parents world, but gained a false optimism from the progressive, high growth times of the 60s through 90s, and failed to prepare me for the real world which is still plenty cruel.

It's easy to blame other people. The fact of the matter is, my generation drinks the "quit your job, sell everything, and boat around the world to find yourself" kool-aid because they like it.

Even here we'll get a few blog posts a month from a one-man-show who's just got their start-up off the ground -- or alternatively, the one that's just burst into flames.

It's the same story. "I keep putting all my money into lottery tickets hoping to make it big, with no plans for what to do when I don't." No one tells us to romanticize it. We're not ignorant of the risks. And yet, we still do.

The romance around travel and adventure has been around for centuries, if not millennia. The Homeric cycle has plenty of that, and other cultures have analogous stories. I think it's a young person thing, not a generation thing.

Travel for self-discovery has the well-understood problem that self-discovery is not about the places you go or things you do. It's about how you react and change in the process.

Hedonistic travel is fine and can be restoring, but pleasure only gives you insight into what you like, not how you handle life's challenges. The latter is where you actually find yourself. For that, travel is useful because it makes you uncomfortable, but first you have to seek discomfort.

How is that any different than the hippy, free love, counter culture of the 60's. People in every single generation have wanted to do that and many have. The only difference between your generation and all the ones of the past is you now have social media around to amplify and make you feel subliminally jealous of the ones who actually do it. You're a real live productive member of society, so why aren't all these people your age able to do it right /s?

It's also easy to look down on others from a position of moral superiority. Yeah, it's the same story, but why is the behavior so wildly rampant now when it wasn't previously? I seriously push back on the position that "nobody romanticizes it" - the self-made entrepreneur, the kid who backpacked around Africa for two years then started a successful NGO and now gets to meet celebrities every day (this is completely made up) - the point is, our culture DOES romanticize this, and frames it all in the context of "they followed their passion!" or some other baloney like that.

I have two kids, and the ONE THING I try the hardest to teach them is personal responsibility. Yet I recognize that generally the term "personal responsibility" is kind of used as a gatekeeping term against the poor and the young. Whatever their problems are, they are self-imposed as they lack personal responsibility. Sympathy, compassion, charity not required.

Every generation of parents is a generation of first-time parents. The best we can do is learn from past generations. I don't see any harm in identifying causes and effects of generational shifts in parenting style in order to better correct for the next round.

> nobody owes you anything, plan for a rainy day, find a partner you love and commit to them, work hard, cherish friends and family even when it's difficult, etc.

My SO is doing all theses things, a bit to the extreme too but she feel EXACTLY like that person in the post.

- She planned for rainy days, much more than anyone I know, much more than her parents, much more than mine too.

- She was in love with someone for a pretty long time, way too much, but he had pretty big issues and whatever she did, he would never fix his issue, he was taking her down so hard, yet she loved him and she kept committing to him, it took her 5 years to decide it was enough, 5 years where he was the priority and not her own life.

- She worked pretty hard, again, way too much, she had a good well paid government job, they had nearly no resource because of cuts, the department of one of her colleague went from 8 to 2 employees. Right before she quit, they learned that they were only replacing 1 out of 8 employee that was quitting (she was one of the youngest, most were 45+). She pushed herself up to a depression, again also after nearly 5 years of this.

- Cherish friends and family even when it's difficult. That girl has a heart so big, it's crazy. She hated spending time with her mom, her mom always denigrated her, she always pushed her to her limit and never ever she would fight back. She die recently and my SO was there for her up until the end, more than anyone else in the family.

It has NOTHING to do with what you say. You may believe that's the right way, fine, but it has no bearing over the feelings of that person.

I only started reading the answer from Polly and that make much more sense. It may help quite a bit my SO.

> American parents could learn a thing or two about parenting from previous generations and from a lot of immigrant families.

My parents and most of their peers got married right out of high school just to get out of the houses their 1st generation Catholic parents filled to the brim with like, seven or eight semi-neglected kids.

A lot of them didn't make it out of those environments unscathed, and there's no guarantee they learned how to save money or hunker down for the long haul with a partner because of it.

It's easy to look back on those times with rose-colored glasses, especially if you weren't there.

I get why you would say that and why it is alluring for people to agree, it even is for me to some extent. But I don't really see any, even indication of, evidence that it would be true. I think you are confusing cause and effect.

The people who are spinning their wheels aren't the once who just want a decent job and modest life. It is if you don't want to go into debt, you don't to move to a major city, you can't or don't want to get help from your parent and you believe in making your own way that you are spinning your wheels. The "follow you bliss" kids are all getting money from their parents.

It is easy to have an opinion about how other people should live their lives. So just tel me, after they had your ideal upbringing, what do they do then and why would they not in that scenario benefit from essentially being spoiled?

> cherish friends and family even when it's difficult

I generally agree with what you're saying except for this. You should cherish friends and family... unless doing so ends up being a net negative. Maybe that goes beyond "even when it's difficult", but... life is too short to keep people around who hurt you, even if they're blood relatives.

Set boundaries. If people fail to respect those boundaries, then they don't deserve to be in your life, at all. Cutting someone out of your life shouldn't be a decision taken lightly or on a whim, but it's a tool in your toolbox for keeping toxic people from bringing you down.

You sound like someone who has never experienced poverty.

Meanwhile, the original prompt of the inciting content has... Two days' hotel stay of savings.

That's what this is about. The lack of meaning, the alienation after being told "we could be anything we want" when we grow up, to having no choice but to settle for careers in "whatever almost pays bills" since the collapse of 2008.

We're bitter. We're ashamed of where we've been and what we've done to survive. And you know what happens when we get over that? We get angry, we may get political. We might even snap.

If we're technically minded? I'm mad that I dont see more hacktivists.

>If we're technically minded? I'm mad that I dont see more hacktivists.

If you're skilled enough to be a hacktivist that can contribute significantly than you're also skilled enough to find well-paying work and you won't become bitter.

>I think parenting has over-corrected from the overly didactic and stern parenting of previous generations to endless "follow your bliss" and "you can do anything" -- which is causing a lot of young people to spin their wheels for decades at a time, never growing up while their body is growing old. It's a shame to see.

It will likely be the last generation that has this opportunity. I don't imagine our children or their children living on a planet with much 'bliss' compared to their parents. Earth's trajectory is not looking good.

Boomers didn't just reject the old way of parenting. They rejected anything which didn't improve the bottom line for them individually. There has never been a more self-important, self-centered generation.

Don't forget that they give advice they never followed themselves.

If a millennial loses a once-profitable career due to sudden market shifts, "that's his fault for not persuing additional skills". But if a Boomer loses a job, it's never their fault.

As a relatively "young" person (teen) I feel as if I subconsciously witness or experience this all the time. However I'm not fully aware of what exactly took place that ultimately got us to where we are today e.g., boomers and their effects on modern society, aside from people wanting to have sex/kids after WW2.

I've been getting really into history recently so if anyone has any resources on the socio economic impact of other generations, specifically boomers, please let me know!

It isn't just the boomers. The "Greatest Generation" were the ones who were the most politically active at a time that they yearned for political leadership from grandpa Reagan, who had a large hand in helping weaken unions, eliminate pensions, and balloon the national debt... but at the same time they were a hell of a lot more pragmatic than their kids, who somehow decided that America had a soul that needed to be fought for by voting for corporate kleptocrats who hugged the flag and the Bible and sent kids to wars they would have protested against at that age.

On the flip side, many of the previous generations of parents would kill to have the choices their kids have. They simply never had those choices when they grew up.

> It's a shame to see.

Really depends what you want from life doenst it? It becomes problematic when people do it without realizing the consequences.

I can't disagree with your comment more. As someone who falls squarely in the Millennial Age range, late 20s to 30s (btw that's how old millennials are now), I find the issue with so many people in this position has less to do with their upbringing or personality in particular, and more to do with the fact that we are in many ways playing a game in which the rules have changed. And that's a direct consequence of the actions of not our parent but our parents' parents', who are somehow, still in power 20 years after they normally would have passed on control on the economy and government to the next generation.

And what I mean by that is, that those who have come of age over the past 20 years have spent pretty much their entire lives being read a recipe for success. Go to college -> get a degree -> get a job -> live a successful live. It's a simple step by step plan that every single person in our lives have reinforced ad nauseam, because for most of the 20th Century that has been the surest path to a happy middle class life.

The problem is that of course every single step in that path is now significantly more difficult than it was 20-30 years ago when our parents' generation did it. You can't just go to college anymore. It costs 10x what it did in the 80's and you can't even compare the cost to the 50's or 60's. It's also way more competitive getting into a top school. Even if you manage to get into college and pay for it, it's no longer good enough to just get a degree. You need to get a degree in the right thing and or find a way to differentiate yourself from the other 1 million students who graduate each year, because oh by the way our generation is the most well educated in the history of the world. Even if all those things go right finding a job is harder than ever. People retire later if at all now so the market is flooded not only with too many well educated applicants but the multitude of experienced candidates competing for the same entry level jobs. And even if you get a job, the crushing levels of student debt and the fact that wages haven't kept up with inflation, basically mean that it's incredibly hard to live a successful life on your own.

So basically the issue is that people have spent their entire lives calibrated for a set of conditions that no longer exists. There isn't a golden path to a cozy middle class lifestyle anymore. And once you start compounding that with the normal issues everyone runs into adjusting to an adult life you get this malaise. Everyone's poor and hates their life and social media is there so you can compare yourself to the 10% of the population who seem to have it all figured out either because they have rich parents to subsidize their life, or they got lucky and picked a major that actually pays decently, or they married their HS sweetheart and hate life somewhat less than everyone else.

And because it has to be said the fact that everyone keeps calling Millenial's lazy, and entitled for somehow not being as successful as previous generations despite the changing landscape doesn't help.

People always use the same old argument that it's this "you can do anything" that's ruining this generation. There's no real evidence to support that, and I can tell you there are many people who were able to advance to high places using that mindset.

"cherish friends and family when it gets difficult".

I'm not trying to sound harsh, but what I hear in the article is just a lack of perseverance and persistence. Relationships are hard, if you leave because the other person fails to lift the toilet seat, or you quit your job because your boss is an a-hole I find that to be a lack of character.

Strife is what gives people a sense of satisfaction. Buying the new car after driving a POS for years that needed constant work on the weekend is massively more satisfying than having mommie buy you a BMW for your birthday. Having a good year with the wife after a couple where you barely talked... That is how people grow, not sitting in flower beds having everything handed to them and running away every-time the world doesn't respond as you wish.

Indeed, real love is a choice you make, not a magical feeling that persists throughout life without any effort on your part. Even though that is how it is portrayed in all movies.

I know some American parents who very much believe what you said, but they think that it only applies to other people and not themselves.

I spent my 20s getting a PhD. I don't think I've ever gotten the most out of my degree professionally, but as a way to spend one ones 20s, it wasn't too bad. I never had more than about $10K to my name until sometime in my 30s. Having a career in tech certainly helped--I took very few loans, but the ones I did have were paid off within five years of exiting academia and smartening up about my career.

I just wish I had gotten patents for the things I worked on in grad school, even if those patents belonged to the university.

These days I strongly advise young people to just get a bachelors and forget the rest unless it's required (e.g. for teaching).

I think the issue isn't the "wasted life" but rather how one measures their life.

If she was in a committed relationship, had offspring, a home with equity, savings, and a career, there is no guarantee that would bring her fulfillment.

And even if you had that fulfillment, there is no guarantee it lasts.

Life is hard, it's cruel and not at all fair. And the way to survive is learn that no matter how hard it hits, you have to keep moving forward. I feel for the author. I do.

I had "everything" going for me and in less than a year I found myself jobless, homeless, and prohibited from seeing my kids except for a few hours a day. Why? Because I finally stood up for us and called 9-1-1 on their mother for domestic violence.

I'll edit:

I'm now working on a new startup, loving every minute of it. I have a small apartment, and I have joint custody and parenting decisions with my kids. I'm getting help through a DV survivor group, making sure to prioritize my self care, and starting to date again. This struggle has brought me closer to friends, family, and to God, and has made me a better father. And it reminds me never to take for granted the things in life that I find joy in.

Thanks for sharing. I had a close friend who was in a similar situation, and came to court to support him during the custody decision. It was so emotionally draining for me even as an outsider I can't begin to imagine actually being in that situation while trying to keep a career.

I had an experience with a woman who was banging on my door at night and threatening me. She had said she "already claimed me." I dont care about this woman and I dont have any ill will towards her but the whole thing was extroardinarily insane. Apparently she was working as a prostitute (someone else told me this and then showed me her ads on a website called backpage). After she threatened to physically hurt me, I eventually filed for a protection order. One witness said they would testify because they saw it. I asked my landlord for the video surveillance, but she said she would only provide it through subpoena. I couldnt find an affordable lawyer or figure out how to subpoena it before the court date. Later that witness renegged, saying they were threatened and said frankly 'I dont want you to get hurt, but who I really care about is myself and my family.' Others told me she had gone around saying her family was heavily involved in gang activity and she had told them to hurt me. She had posted strange things on FB about blood and violence, which some had shown me.

Nobody really wanted to help me beyond that, though. One lawyer I visited said "I cant help you," because she assumed I was the aggressor. I explained I wasn't and that I had proof, then said, 'yea I know most of the time it is probably is the guy who is the aggressor' and then she said "I knew you were a rampant sexist." What in God's name is this?

Nobody seemed seriously interested in putting things down to help me. Several other people seemed to end up hating me without ever even talking to me. It turned out my state had strict 2-party consent laws so whatever other evidence I could have possible have had was illegitimate. Many others privately told me they were sorry and that I should just 'move some new place and dont tell anyone.' Jesus Christ, I dont know, I didn't ask for this. Honestly, what the fuck. Sometimes the world seems insane.

This is becoming a common thread these days; assuming the male is the aggressor. I've heard stories of girlfriends beating their boyfriend so bad as to have him visibly bleeding, yet when the he calls 911, he is the one that gets arrested with the police saying something along the lines of, "Yeah, there's no way a little girl like that beat you up."

I would venture to guess that the majority of domestic violence is male against female, but we have to start recognizing and allowing for the fact that it happens the other way around more often than we might be willing to think.

Apparently abusive mothers are more common than abusive fathers: https://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/parenting/kids/why-arent-w...

Only 15% of men who are abused ever report it.

There is also more to DV than just physical violence.


The police doesn't have much of discretion on the subject according to common training material. Consider the following points selected from Stop Violence Against Women website[1]:

  To determine the predominant aggressor, police must consider:
    The seriousness of injuries received by each party
    The height and weight of the parties
    Which party has the potential to seriously injure the other party
    Orders for protection that have been filed by a party
    Whether a party has a fearful demeanor
    Whether a party has a controlling demeanor
-- [1] http://www.stopvaw.org/determining_the_predominant_aggressor

I can't find the source right now, but I've read the male victims of DV are more likely to be arrested themselves when the call the police on the female perpetrator.

In Kevin Hart's audiobook he talks about how his ex-wife beat him until he was visibly damaged. When he called the cops the first thing they did was ask his ex-wife "Is everything ok?" Keep in mind, Kevin was the one who called the cops!

> I would venture to guess that the majority of domestic violence is male against female


The data suggests it’s close to 50-50.

Really? Wow. I didn't realize that. Are there good sources for this kind of information you can refer me to?

"Nearly half of all women and men in the United States have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime (48.4% and 48.8%, respectively)."

More numbers here:


Abusers are about equally men and women. A surprisingly large percentage of those partners are mutually abusive (I forgot if it's more like 25% or more like 50% but both are high IMO). Men hurt women more because men are, duh, stronger.

In an abusive relationship, there is always a dominant abuser.

Just watched a documentary about a female investigating the mens rights movement. It was very eye opening and some of the things they talk about hit home being a man. Its called The Red Pill[0].

Its not about the crazies on reddit by the way. It starts off a bit rough talking about controversial article written by mens rights activists, but just keep watching, I swear they explain it.

[0]: https://m.imdb.com/title/tt3686998/

There are people who are perpetually single, with pretty much no relationships at all in their adult life. I don't know what is worse - having a handful of relationships that don't last a long time, or not having relationships at all.

We have so many communication tools at our disposal today - ideally, it should be ridiculously easy to make friends, love/date etc as one can reach a person on the other side of the planet. And yet, more people are single and lonely than ever :(

Could it be that, because people are online more and communicating in person less and less, that actual in-person meetings are fraught and awkward? It's a lot easier to just have "online" friends to whom you can present your "best" self, and only see their "best" self in return (photoshopped, carefully edited comments etc.)

Part of the problem, yes. I also find people unwilling to put in even the basic effort to make and maintain friendships, offline. It is easier to text than email, it is easier to email than call, it is easier to call than meet in person and so on...

Things are bad for men than women, from what little I see around me. Broadly, I find people are more willing to help women than men, all else being equal. Maybe this is why men's lifespans are shorter than women's? Men are expected to "man up and shut up", whatever that means. So they don't seek out friends, don't speak up...

>> "If she was in a committed relationship, had offspring, a home with equity, savings, and a career, there is no guarantee that would bring her fulfillment."

All of this. Also, I'd bet more than a few of her friends in relationships with homes are jealous of her! They probably have a false impression of how exciting her life is.

Also, I am happy you were able to get out of your DV situation and can see your kids. Can't imagine what that must have been like.

> If she was in a committed relationship, had offspring, a home with equity, savings, and a career...

I literally finished this sentence in my mind - before reading it to the end - with "she'd be fine!", which just goes to show how easy it is to misconstrue fulfillment with its signifiers.

As a youtuber I admire put it in words much better than I ever could: "... and then we'll be ok"


Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain. You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today. And then one day you find ten years have got behind you. No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.

So you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it's sinking. Racing around to come up behind you again. The sun is the same in a relative way but you're older, shorter of breath and one day closer to death.

This is an old true story. And the answer given by the article is mostly useless, some nonsense about the nature of art and accumulating a "treasure that doesn't disappear" or something.

One thing you realize when you're old is that time is finite and life is all about trade-offs. Every day by choosing the things you do you are continuously foreclosing a whole range of things you aren't doing, and soon will never do.

We live in a consumerist culture increasingly dominated by those with a financial interest in keeping us ignorant of this fact, but that doesn't make it any less true.

So you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it's sinking

And you might be racing for something you don't really want.

Figure out what you really want before you chase after it. If you're unmarried at 35, do you really want children, or do you think that you're supposed to have children and that doing so will make you feel more fulfilled? Not everyone needs or wants to be a parent and there's nothing wrong with not being one.

Wow, I've heard this song a million times but never listened closely to the lyrics. Then I read the next verse which depresses me immensely because its so true.

Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time

Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines

Hanging on in quiet desperation is the english way

The time is gone, the song is over, thought Id something more to say

"We live in a consumerist culture increasingly dominated by those with a financial interest in keeping us ignorant of this fact, but that doesn't make it any less true."

One of the more subtle, but powerful cultural subplots in the TV series "30 Rock" was the salutation that Dennis Duffy[1] would greet Liz Lemon with whenever she involved him in her life:

"Hey dummy..."

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_30_Rock_characters#Den...

+1 for the Pink Floyd reference. Thanks for giving new context and meaning to an amazing song.

Everyone around us is fighting their own little war. I've felt similarly to the writer -- I moved out of my childhood home the day after graduating college and started work that Monday. I only moved 215 miles (NYC to Boston), but it felt a world away, especially considering most Americans live relatively close to where they grew up and 215 miles in Europe goes a long way.

I've made and abandoned friends at almost every stage in my life. I have no idea who will be the best man at my wedding because to be honest my brother probably isn't up to the "responsibilities", but I have no alternative.

I now live on the west cost, a tough 6 hour flight away from home. I visited my family this Thanksgiving and am noticing so many changes, people are dying, babies are being born, my cousins who I've always viewed as children are about to graduate college. It's tough being away from home and not feeling like I have roots (I'm considering a move to Seattle or the Bay Area in early 2019), but at every step I've justified my actions because the next step always came with a significant pay increase and more career opportunities.

This January will be my 13th anniversary with my high school girlfriend (soon to be fiance). I can't describe how valuable it's been to have someone so close in age (I'm 3 months older) that can relate to the things that I'm going through, and who has my back, and knows that I have hers. Things haven't been easy, but it's become so much more than a girlfriend/boyfriend relationship, which is why marriage is in our future.

I've met so many fellow millennials who are serial monogamist or date freely, I don't judge them at all and at some times have felt a tinge on envy, and these folks may have a friend or family member who is to them what my girlfriend is to me -- I guess all this is to say that in today's society I just don't know how we can traverse this reality with at least one person who you are tightly integrated with. It's just too tough out there.

'Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.'

As an addition, I really love Robert Anton Wilson's flavor of this idea:

“under the present brutal and primitive conditions on this planet, every person you meet should be regarded as one of the walking wounded. we have never seen a man or woman not slightly deranged by either anxiety or grief. we have never seen a totally sane human being.”

Gorgeous, thanks for that!

Your story has a similar outline to my own. I moved from the UK to Canada which has been excellent for my career but at the same time has put enormous strain on my relationships as I just don't get to see people thanks to splitting a really shitty vacation allowance (3 weeks Canada wtf).

Now I'm torn between putting down roots in Toronto, moving out to the sticks, moving to Europe to be close to everyone or doing the right thing for my career by going to the US.

I am in the exact same situation. I moved to Canada from Europe and it has been really tough thanks to three measly weeks of vacation. I can't remember the last time I have been on a real two+ weeks vacation somewhere that is not my home country.

I am thinking about all those same options except the moving to the US thing. Even though I could earn much more money, I don't think that would be worth it living in a country like the US.

It's a shame that vacation isn't as easily negotiable as salary. I'd take a 10% hit on salary for every week of vacation.

Hell. I'd take a 10% hit on salary for a week of unpaid vacation.

I've been trying that for years and I never get anywhere. Makes all the hoo-rah about negotiating over a job offer feel pretty hollow - the form of compensation I really want is never, ever on the table.

You should try contracting. When my son was in high school I switched from full time employment to contracting. The pay was about the same and I took every summer off.

3 weeks is good. It took me 3 years to get to 3 weeks vacation in the first company I was at. I was a product designer working for Google.

When I left the UK I had 5 weeks. When I started as a junior dev I had 5 weeks!

As a Canadian who moved to the US for work, I've felt many of the same things you've mentioned about your move to Canada!

I think that this the reality for the majority of people. We are the first generation, as a whole, that will not do as good as their parents. That the is the economic reality.

One major issue though is education. Giving a good technical education to people is fundamental. No matter how much a person falls, they have something that they can build on. They are never starting from scratch, as many people in this generation do, over and over again.

I'm happy to be your best man when the time comes. Email in my profile.

Maybe this is why you have "toomuchtodo" ;)

It's challenging to fit everything enjoyable or worth doing in one lifetime, but I intend to try. :)

Me too. But I don’t know how to give funny speeches in the wedding. This resonates with me because I moved from Philippines to USA to pursue my graduate degree. Friends get lost along the way and it’s a big effort to reconnect due to time zone issues. Now married to my wife ( gf of 10 years) and have kids. It’s a difficult but fruitful journey.

Sounds like the setup to "I love you, man"

Do you need to have a best man? Just go without if it doesn't feel right. My brother was mine, and my wife had five bridesmaids, but I don't see why you'd be obliged to have one or give them any formal duties. Always baffles me when couples go to awkward lengths to balance each side of the aisle.

Yep, Your wedding is yours and you get to do whatever the fuck you want, "wedding party" itself is totally optional.

If you've been with your girlfriend for 13 years, how have you guys been managing the movements? Does she follow you to your new job or do you follow her?

When I was in Boston and her in NYC we would drive up every other weekend to visit. I moved to the west coast and tried to make one trip every other month while we did the long distance thing.. she eventually got a job at my company and for the past two years we've been living together. However we both are about ready to move again and are preparing to be separated again, but this time we're trying to align our movements to reduce the amount of time we'll be apart.

damn dude that is rough. I did 3 years apart from my GF before she moved in with me. 13 years is redic haha. After a few years of dating and multiple years of long distance i was like 'move down here and lets fuckin do it babe!' . we dids it all right and marriage is great, even though she brought along 63k debt from grad school =(

I moved continents twice, starting 18 years ago. I feel your pain.

It’s politically incorrect, but I feel like feminism has sold a massive lie to women like this.

Admittedly much of what she describes could apply to either gender, but it’s women who are hit hardest by fading looks and declining fertility.

It used to be accepted cultural knowledge that if a woman desired marriage and children, she should probably spend her ‘best years’ looking for and committing to a husband. Now you’d be labelled a misogynist for even suggesting that.

Women have been indoctrinated to think that they can spend their 20s and early 30s being ‘the poster child for serial monogamy’, and then have a husband fall into their lap when they’re ready for it. I’m sure it works out for many of them, but I feel sorry for the ones for whom it doesn’t.

This is true for men as well.

Me and my wife have an 8 year old son, however I'm 36 years old and right now I don't feel like I'm capable of having another child.

Our son is a premature baby, born at 30 weeks, after what was a very troubled pregnancy. And then when he was one year old he suffered from Lyell's syndrome. Plus he's always been more sensitive to catching cold, etc. Now at 8 years old he's a healthy, good looking boy, does well in school, etc and I tell you, it's a miracle that he turned out as well as he did.

We were also fortunate to live with my mother in law. It's great to have one of your parents around. She babysits for us, she cooks for us, etc. Other people aren't as fortunate.

Being a parent is freaking hard sometimes. Being a parent is also the only thing that I'll never regret, possibly the best thing we ever did in our life.

But you need the energy of your twenties to do it. The sooner you do it, the better. Even if you're a man.

It’s not true for men to anything like the same extent.

I totally understand why you don’t have the energy for another kid. We’re the same age and I don’t think I’ve got the energy for one kid.

But the fact remains that biologically you could have another kid now or in 10, perhaps even 20 years. For a woman that’s a virtual impossibility. You can’t pretend it’s the same thing.

I'm a man, and I had my first kid at 45, just had my second at 49.

I didn't plan for it to be this way; my wife is 10 years younger than me, and she wasn't ready to have kids until she was in her mid 30's.

I do sometimes wish I'd been able to have kids sooner; I'll be pretty old by the time my kids go off to college, and I'll be very old if/when I ever see any grandchildren.

However, I'd like to say, don't not have kids just because you may be a bit older than average. I'm pretty able to handle it so far, despite the lack of sleep and stress that goes along with having kids. It's such an incredible experience and greatly enriches one's life.

It is so true. A woman thinking about her declining fertility for the first time in the age of 35? This only happens in modern western countries, where feminism has convinced women: "do not marry early", "explore your feelings", "meet new people", "have a career", "children and family oppress you" and so on. Of course, such things were unheard of some decades ago, and still are in many parts of the world, where women start a family routinely at 20 and it is not unheard of that some women are already grandmothers at the age of 35.

I am sorry, but of course there is no hope of a normal family for a woman of this age. Her fate has already been sealed by feminism. Life is tough. The question is, what happens with the next generation.

> I am sorry, but of course there is no hope of a normal family for a woman of this age.

Eh. While we married much younger, my wife and I had our two kids when she was 38 and 40, and we have age peers who found life partners around or after 35. Unless you are involving a simple tautology by defining “normal family” to be one started before leaving the 20s or something like that, you are just dead wrong.

Exactly, while the ease and likelihood of "having it all" are likely oversold, and an argument for ensuring that kids realize that adults don't get a trophy just for showing up is worth having, pretending that people can't start a family in there 30s from no current relationship (especially if they're willing to make it a focus) is ridiculous.

I agree that radiator is wrong to say “no hope”. You’d only need to find one example of a couple who met and had kids after 35 to disprove that, and I’m sure there are plenty.

But I think both you and the parent commenter are deliberately missing the point. The amount of “hope” is severely diminished, and it gets smaller every day.

The woman is faced with the task of finding a guy who wants kids as much (and as quickly) as she does, without the chance to first bond and grow together in a relaxed and unhurried relationship. She’ll have to reassure him that no, she isn’t settling just because she wants a baby, even though the same thought sometimes crosses her mind.

Plus she’s broke, so this guy will have to love her enough to make a considerable financial sacrifice and then continue to support her through motherhood. (NB this applies whether or not they stay together).

So sure, there’s hope, but you’re being disingenuous if you pretend that there’s a lot of it.

I said this upthread, but at the risk of being repetitive: the possibility of adoption addresses many of those concerns.

There are tradeoffs (nontraditional family dynamics with kids being raised by older parents, hassles with the adoption system itself, etc.), but a) you could consider those tradeoffs to be in exchange for the benefit of spending the first parts of your life doing other things, and b) the benefits to adopted kids are often truly huge.

> I am sorry, but of course there is no hope of a normal family for a woman of this age.

You could adopt, coparent, or marry a spouse who already has kids.

None of those things are "well, duh"; they have their own challenges and tradeoffs, but so does starting a family when you're young. There are many, many other options, especially as a first-worlder, and many kids that could benefit from another parent, or that could benefit from any parent.

As other posters mention, no path in life is guaranteed to be fulfilling for all individuals. Given that, you shouldn't feel sorry for anyone who has had the opportunity to lead their life according to their own principles. And that is all "feminists" want, the ability for women/all people to be considered equal, responsible agents.

This is very incisive comment. Indeed the woman in the article has had the opportunity to live her life according to her own agency, and it’s perhaps condescending of me to feel sorry for her.

But on the other hand, I still think it’s ok to feel pity for someone who has been misled by a social movement that claimed to have all the answers, when it really didn’t.

And most importantly, we should be free to criticise that social movement and point out its shortcomings.

I think the heart of the issue is that feminism promotes what the end state should be. If you're a woman and try to live your life as if feminism has already "won", then you're going to encounter some setbacks. Hopefully there will be a day when men and women actually are considered socially, legally, economically, etc. equal, but we're not there yet.

I'm a little confused when you say that feminism "has sold a massive lie to women". Feminism as a topic seems really large to me, and I'm not sure what about it you mean when you say that a big lie has been told. Would you be able to clarify?

Sure. I used the word ‘feminism’ for brevity, and because I wasn’t really sure what else to call it.

I’ll try to summarise what I mean. Women used to be under great pressure (cultural, religious, family) to find a good man and settle down. They were also shamed for promiscuity.

In the western world, we’ve largely got rid of all this pressure and shame (thank goodness) but the fact remains that women face a very different biological reality to men. Most of them have a powerful urge to be a mother, and a limited window in which to do it.

Anonymous city living, dating apps and the removal of shame associated with promiscuity have made it extremely easy for a young woman to enjoy being a “25 year old sexpot” (her description, not mine). Male attention is plentiful, and as a result there’s no reason to hang on to a particular man, why not keep looking and see what else is out there? Ask any younger guy who has been on the dating scene recently - 20-something women are increasingly flaky and unwilling to commit to anything.

I don’t begrudge women any of this, but the big lie I mentioned is the idea that a woman can just switch into “long term partner mode” when she decides the time is right. Building a relationship stable enough to have kids in takes years, and a man (generally speaking) doesn’t want to feel like he’s been chosen just as a sperm donor. Guys who want to commit, want to commit to a 25 year old sexpot. And the ‘alpha’ guys who will never commit can always find another 25 year old sexpot.

This is what I meant by the big lie. I’m not trying to say it’s all terrible or that society is going to hell, but it has backfired on the women who don’t recognise it.

Thanks for taking the time to clarify what you meant. I think I can see what you mean about how you don't really have a word to describe the picture you're painting.

I don't know if I agree with you about the idea that women want children more than men do as a matter of biology. Speaking "as a younger guy who has been on the dating scene recently" (your description, not mine), women seem really varied to me in terms of what they want. Some hate the thought of having children and wish other women would stop talking about them. Others tell me being a parent is something they've always wanted. I've known plenty of 20-something women that don't really care for children, but their long-term 20-something male partners vehemently do. I say this as someone partaking in anonymous city living in a "liberal" west-coast environment. I think women's attitudes on children are actually pretty varied, and the shadow of how we used to expect them to act/live still lingers over the twenty-first century.

Philosophers like Butler[1] often propose that we're treated as a child specific ways due to our sex, and we internalize it and kind of have this self-reinforcing culture. I think this plays a lot into our assumptions about women's attitudes, and how we treat them in turn, and they respond in turn.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_construction_of_gender#...

I think it's less a problem with feminism and more a problem with the corporate misappropriation of feminist attitudes - so, rather than worrying about actually supporting women (paid time off/maternity leave/onsite daycare, etc), society sells women the idea that they can "have it all" - a family while also being treated like men in the workplace (which, it turns out, means being disposable pawns for the capitalist machine). The "Lean In" phenomenon and the mandating of % of women on corporate boards are good examples of this.

Because it makes for the situation where women is comitted to familly and husband seeing her as nagging wife preventing him to do more fun things then boring familly. And she is nagging in truth, because it is not that great as single people without children imagine. It makes for moms who are criticized for living through children and damaging them that way and kids are supposed to leave anyway. Kids are not supposed to stay to make company to parents anymore.

I wouldn't call it feminism, but the lingering effects of the sexual revolution, which was dominated heavily by male interest. (Read Dworkin's "Right Wing Women." TLDR version, the sexual revolution was heavily influenced by male desire to make women more sexually available: https://www.feministes-radicales.org/wp-content/uploads/2010... (pp. 94-95)) Iliza Shlesinger has a great point about this in one of her routines.

> You’ve also been holding in… your intentions. We have this really nasty habit in our society of labeling women very cruel and unfair things when they express their desire for very normal things. Monogamy, exclusivity, a relationship, a family, babies. Right? We like to call them desperate, sad, psychos, baby crazy. “We’ve been married for six years. She already wants a kid! I’m a fuck man! They can’t get me.” It’s very normal to want these things.


Or you could read Dawkins' "Selfish Gene" and or if you want something lighter Matt Ridley's "The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature" to have it debunked.

Have what debunked?

> I wouldn't call it feminism, but the lingering effects of the sexual revolution, which was dominated heavily by male interest. (Read Dworkin's "Right Wing Women." TLDR version, the sexual revolution was heavily influenced by male desire to make women more sexually available: https://www.feministes-radicales.org/wp-content/uploads/2010.... (pp. 94-95)) Iliza Shlesinger has a great point about this in one of her routines.


Hm. And there was of course no female desire to not be stigmatized for wanting to be sexually available? Because only men want that, right? This thesis smells funny.

Yes, everyone should read feminist theory ( of course we must exclude Paglia because she is not a true feminist as she contradicts the true feminists ) to debunk Evolutionary Biology.

/s, in case it was not obvious.

What exactly is the point of evolutionary biology that you feel is being attacked? To the contrary, Dworkin's point is rooted in biology, specifically the fact that sex is expensive and risky for women in a way it isn't for men. She describes the women in communes who had to take care of children without any support (or risk unsafe abortions) due to the free love culture. She deemed the sexual revolution male-centric for that reason: it was about more sex for men and diminished responsibility for the outcomes, which for biological reasons is borne by women.

Because communes? That's a small nail to hang a theory on. Sounds a lot like what-about-ism.

And what's the revolution about today? Because its still here. And women are advancing into every social institution continuously, the risk having been abated by chemistry and physics. Is it still male-centric? Should it now stop because of a 1960's confused theory?

That's a highly reductionist view of Dworkin's point. The sexual revolution was not merely about reducing the stigma on women for having sex outside of marriage. As Dworkin explains in Right Wing Women (p. 89):

> The pop idea was that fucking was good, so good that the more there was of it, the better. The pop idea was that people should fuck whom they wanted: translated for the girls, this meant that girls should want to be fucked—as close to all the time as was humanly possible.

She continues (at p. 91):

> Empirically speaking, sexual liberation was practiced by women on a wide scale in the sixties and it did not work: that is, it did not free women. Its purpose—it turned out—was to free men to use women without bourgeois constraints, and in that it was successful.

Hence Iliza Shlesinger's point:

> > You’ve also been holding in… your intentions. We have this really nasty habit in our society of labeling women very cruel and unfair things when they express their desire for very normal things. Monogamy, exclusivity, a relationship, a family, babies. Right? We like to call them desperate, sad, psychos, baby crazy. “We’ve been married for six years. She already wants a kid! I’m a fuck man! They can’t get me.” It’s very normal to want these things.

Calling women "baby crazy" for wanting kids is the product of a male-centric sexual revolution that prioritizes what men want out of sexual relationships and criticizes women for wanting perfectly normal things out of those same relationships. I haven't read the "Selfish Gene," but I strongly suspect it doesn't "debunk" the idea that it's normal for women to want kids and that our popular culture shouldn't stigmatize that desire.

> Empirically speaking, sexual liberation was practiced by women on a wide scale in the sixties and it did not work: that is, it did not free women.

I think that calling this empirically true requires a highly dubious operationalization of “free”; it is absolutely the case that sexually (and in other ways which are indirectly related to sexual and reproductive choices), women have more options that will not lead to near-universal condemnation.

It is true that this is not cost-free for women of all preferences (and particularly for women who strongly desire universal acceptance), in that the one option that previously had near universal approbation now only produces large minority approbation, overwhelming majority (but not near-universal) acceptance, and small minority condemnation.

Alternatively, it requires (as seems to underlie most of Dworkins fact claims, in RWW and elsewhere), simply the willingness to claim whatever suits your ideological agenda as proven fact no matter whether it has any correspondence with reality whatsoever.

You're ignoring the male side of the equation: "Its purpose—it turned out—was to free men to use women without bourgeois constraints." The sexual revolution dramatically reduced the reciprocal obligations men used to have in connection with sexual activity: i.e. taking care of the resulting kids.

> in that the one option that previously had near universal approbation now only produces large minority approbation, overwhelming majority (but not near-universal) acceptance, and small minority condemnation.

This is an understatement. It's not one option--it's the option. Wanting kids is a nearly universal preference: https://news.gallup.com/poll/164618/desire-children-norm.asp.... Among adults age 45+, if they had to do it again, only 11% would have chosen to not have children. (7% of those who had children, and 44% of those who never had children). But for women, expressing this nearly universal preference is quite taboo these days during their prime reproductive years. And if they choose to have kids (which men and women want at similar rates), the sexual revolution has meant that they are much more likely to be bear the cost of taking care of them alone, because reciprocal male obligation has been greatly diminished.

> The sexual revolution dramatically reduced the reciprocal obligations men used to have in connection with sexual activity: i.e. taking care of the resulting kids.

This kind of miss a massive aspect of the sexual revolution. It dramatically reduced the reciprocal obligations women used to have in connection with sexual activity: i.e. giving birth to the resulting kids. Roe v. Wade decriminalised abortion nationwide in 1973. The sexual revolution happened between 1960 and 1980. A rather big coincident that.

> You're ignoring the male side of the equation

No, when I'm not ignoring the fact claim you point to when I say that Dworkin’s fact claims tend to be unsupported Fabrications of whatever is convenient for her ideological agenda.

> The sexual revolution dramatically reduced the reciprocal obligations men used to have in connection with sexual activity: i.e. taking care of the resulting kids.

Except that it, well, didn't do that at all. Except maybe in a transitory way, at the height of the sexual revolution, as far as informal social obligations within the subculture at the center of the sexual revolution, but that subculture had almost entirely collapsed as a coherent group and social force by the time Dworkin wrote Right-Wing Women, and is a distant memory today.

There's actually a not insignificant political movement centered around the fact that the increase in women's acceptable (including legally acceptable) choices in recent decades (in part, but not entirely, stemming from the Sexual Revolution) was not matched by a reduction in men's obligations (which the movement sees now as unilateral rather than reciprocal) but instead increased vigor in social and formal/legal enforcement of those obligations.

It's also hilariously ironic that people are resorting to Right-Wing Women as an authority in support of a reversion to the previous degree of support for traditional gender roles for women, quoting bits where she paints the sexual revolution as a false effort at women's liberation foisted upon women by patriarchal elements on the Left, since the central point of Right-Wing Women was describing how Dworkin saw those values as tools of patriarchal enslavement of women and, more to the point (hence the title of the work) female support for such values as a defensive adaptation to patriarchy that reinforces and normalizes their enslavement by it.

At the end of Chapter 2 of Right-Wing Women, Dworkin writes:

---[begin quote]---

Right-wing women see that within the system in which they live they cannot make their bodies their own, but they can agree to privatized male ownership: keep it one-on- one, as it were. They know that they are valued for their sex— their sex organs and their reproductive capacity—and so they try to up their value: through cooperation, manipulation, conformity; through displays of affection or attempts at friendship; through submission and obedience; and especially through the use of euphemism—“femininity, ” “total woman, ” “good, ” “maternal instinct, ” “motherly love. ” Their desperation is quiet; they hide their bruises of body and heart; they dress carefully and have good manners; they suffer, they love God, they follow the rules. They see that intelligence displayed in a woman is a flaw, that intelligence realized in a woman is a crime. They see the world they live in and they are not wrong. They use sex and babies to stay valuable because they need a home, food, clothing. They use the traditional intelligence of the female—animal, not human: they do what they have to to survive.

---[end quote]---

Not only feminism. The media, the government, capitalism and globalism. Everyone is selling lies. It is how it works: You should not believe what they tell you. Probably doesn't work in your advantage either.

Think about it like the stock market: Would you buy a stock that it is being pumped by the media. Maybe yes, maybe not. But if someone is profiting it is probably not you.

I married very young. My wife and I had very little, both were working jobs for close to minimum wage with no marketable skills between us. So we sat down and decided what we wanted. We both wanted kids, she wanted to stay home with them when they were young. We both wanted a house of our own. We both wanted to live somewhere with family and friends that we could rely on to help us lay down roots and build that home.

So the first thing we did was move to the place we wanted to try and stay forever.

The second step was to go to school and get a skill. We both worked while I went to college for computer science. I'd been building computers since I was a little kid, was always good at math, decided it would be an easy way to get into the job market at a decent salary. I was right.

Next, we paid off all that student loan debt. Stayed in our tiny apartment with next to nothing and just put that new tech salary into the debt until it was totally gone.

Then we bought a house where the mortgage wouldn't be much higher than our tiny apartment. We could afford something three or four times bigger on my salary, but we didn't do that. Stayed small. Maintenance costs are low, cleaning it up is easy, and we don't even have an HOA to bother us (and I don't care, because it's not like I bought my dinky little house as an investment).

Next came the kids. Started having one after another. She stays home, I work, we spend time together as much as possible. We have friends and family nearby that make life so much better in a million ways. Honestly, I have all these roots and commitments and still...zero stress. Life is great.

And now all our extra money is going into long-term investments and traveling. We've started going all sorts of places. We'll be doing a tour of Europe in the next few years and I am in my early thirties at this point.

So here is my message to anyone that read the person above and is reading this post now and hasn't yet spent their twenties and thirties having hobo adventures:

Life is so much better if you just do what you evolved to do. There's no way to hack life and make it better in any real way. Pair up, get a trade, build a home, and enjoy that for what it is.

> So we sat down and decided what we wanted.

How did you know that's what you wanted? What gives you the authority to say that's the best path for everyone?

Consider an analogy for me - you mentioned travel. Have you ever driven through the mountains? Hiked up a few? Even from the road, it's easy to look up and see spectacular peaks calling out your name, begging to be climbed.

And coming from a flat, midwestern state, you may need to recalibrate your eyeballs for distance: You can't park the car for lunch and walk up most of them if you start in the afternoon...it's likely to take most of a vacation to hike in and up one or two peaks, so you need to plan your route before you arrive at the park.

The tragedy of the story is that there's no better viewpoint from which to gaze at a distant mountain and imagine a climb up it than from the path up the adjacent one you're climbing up.

I'm not yet thirty and have a family, a home, savings, a degree, and a career. I've got life-long commitments and am building solid roots like I thought I should, but now that I've got that all checked off it's not what I thought it would be. I've just got to continue trudging up this mountain I picked as a 17-year-old applying for college and dating one of the girls from high school. It's time to work my 40 hours, enjoy a few weeks vacation every year, and wait for retirement until eventually dying. It's quickly starting to feel unfulfilling and stifling.

The author of the article has spent her twenties and thirties bouldering up dozens of smaller cliffs and clambering over foothills all over the place. You denigrate them as "hobo adventures" but it sounds magnificent to me. I won't get to spend my thirties adventuring like that because I have a wife and a kid and a trade and a home, and it's just not all it's cracked up to be.

Sounds like your perspective involves an omniscient ideal that does not and can not exist. Tradition exists for this very reason. We pass on what works, we do what works, and we don't presume to know what is better. That is what makes human beings so good at learning - we have the ability to hyper imitate one another. I see you doing something successfully, I don't need to know the actual process behind it, I just need to do it the way you do it.

Gratitude for what you have is a critical component of the formula. You seem to lack that. I hope you find it. You won't last long without it.

I recommend church. It helps. You evolved to do that too.

I'm assuming you're American...

What you've written (own a home, have job, make kids, go to church) really only applies to american's, who make up ~300m out of 7b people currently inhabiting our planet.

That definition of what we're evolved to do, is incredibly myopic; more so if you consider that definition of middle class has really only been around since the mid 1900's?

Home ownership is very much ingrained in American culture because of it's ties to the US economy (for those who own homes, it's typically they're only investment).

FWIW, I think it's great that you and your spouse have found meaning in your lives.

You're 100% correct, but I'm posting this to the audience of Hacker News. I highly doubt we have too many representatives from the true lower classes here.

And to be clear, I don't mean "own a home" when I say "build a home." A home is composed of the people you are committed to and the people you love. I don't mean buy a house or buy anything, actually. I mean building an identity for yourself that includes the notion of "home."

> What you've written (own a home, have job, make kids, go to church) really only applies to american's, who make up ~300m out of 7b people currently inhabiting our planet.

No... This is true for middle middle class and richer people almost everywhere in the world.

>I recommend church. It helps. You evolved to do that too.

Wait, what? I laughed out loud at that.

I'm not sure what you think religion is if not an evolved social construct. Do you actually think religion, with all its ritual and structure and beauty exists because cave men tried to explain away the things that scared them? It is the foundation of broader social order. It makes you feel part of something bigger than yourself. It makes it possible for you to relate positively with human beings outside the 300-400 or so that you are capable of remembering and caring about at once.

> ...an evolved social construct. Do you actually think religion, with all its ritual and structure and beauty exists because cave men tried to explain away the things that scared them?

Is that not what "an evolved social construct" means? Some cave man's explanation was a social construct happened to have good characteristics in favor of its survival in the environment of human society. Like the process of evolution in biology, it contained traits that were useful for its preservation and propagation. It possibly (but not necessarily) included utility for its adherents, and it possibly formed an effective foundation of social order.

You're right, that's exactly what I think religion is. This stands in stark contrast to where most religious people think their religion comes from: not from some cave-man's misguided guess but from the genuine revelation from God to people.

I do not want to feel like part of something bigger than myself if it consists of mutually pretending that something false (or at least uncertain) is certain. If it is untrue, I do not wish to believe it, regardless of its utility.

I don't disagree, I just found it funny because I live in the Bible belt and you'll be hard-pressed to find someone who both recommends church and believes science. I go to church, but would recommend therapy over church for personal issues.

Religion and Evolution are typically at odds with each other.

One is a social construct.

The other is science.

You got lost in the meta. There's a difference between someone's beliefs about evolution, which might be true, false, or nonexistent; versus evolution itself, which is a force that will act on us regardless of what we believe.

Are we evolved to have religion? Maybe, but the answer to that has absolutely nothing to do with the question of whether or not evolution itself is true.

This is hilarious anti-religion rhetoric, complete unwillingness to have evolution and religion in the same sentence. Twisting from how religion historically promotes community into the content of the religion itself. The content is irrelevant, what is important is the sense of community and bonding that religion has offered people for forever.

> what is important is the sense of community and bonding that religion has offered people for forever.

Religion doesn't have anything unique to create community and bonding, other than large numbers. It's not any better at fostering that things over any other shared interest, and at it's worst causes significantly more damage to communities.

>It's not any better at fostering that things over any other shared interest

What is another shared interest that builds positive community bonds at or above the scale of religion.

> What is another shared interest that builds positive community bonds at or above the scale of religion.


What religion at scale hasn't also done significant damage to communities.

Anthropology shows religion exists in various forms, but across societies. That's not a statistical accident.

Right, it's a baby step to science: actually explaining how the world works. It's a powerful meme that tends to run away with itself once the scientific method is stumbled upon in society.

You are conflating communities formed around religions with explanations that religions have about the world. Religions provide many different things, one being community and sense of belonging, another being a sense of understanding of the world. You can be part of the former without necessarily beleiving the latter.

> I recommend church. It helps. You evolved to do that too.

We may evolved to follow each other but just because one person wrote a hit sermon doesn't mean we evolved to mindlessly church it out every week. Religion is really just something we do on the side that usually doesn't get in the way of evolution (unless it involves sacrifices or suicide).

Thank you for sharing the other perspective. I am a sophomore in university and there is a lot to choose. Reading posts like yours make me even more confused. I just assumed that people generally have stuff figured out in their 20's. I don't have student loans to pay-off, no debts and can get placed in a big tech company (pursuing a CS degree at a top 10 college in my country) with relative ease. But for what? To optimize ads? Starting to think that I should join an NGO or use my technical skills to help humanity somehow.

The work you do is unlikely to provide you with that much meaning. The position I have does a lot of actual, tangible good in the world. After a while, even that carries diminishing returns. The truth is that even though I am doing good, if I was not here, someone else would be here doing the same work. This doesn't provide meaning for me being me, it just doesn't feel meaningless. The sort of sense of meaning, purpose, and belonging that comes with building a family and putting down roots is a sort of meaning that requires you for you. If you weren't there, it wouldn't be the way it is. That's different and special. I recommend you give it a shot before you move into the "career will bring me meaning" camp and realize it is too late to ever feel irreplaceable.

Sounds like I am in a similar boat, 28 here... I feel some similar feelings now after having a kid, i dont want to work all week I want to do stuff with my family. It's possible to retire earlier but requires sacrifice now. Stash as much $$$ as you can away.

Also i think i'm just lucky but my software job has been pretty smooth sailing i got very lucky with my company. The weeks are going by so fast now, i just cruise thru the workday and cant wait to go home and see my little baby!

Neither is right, neither is wrong it just is. You're still in your 20s with a solid foundation and assuming you maintain your health you will see your child graduate leaving you with plenty of time and money to use as you see fit. Use your time and money wisely now and make your life goal to retire early so you can travel and have "hobo adventures."

I traded my 20s for "hobo adventures" and I hope to have another round of them.

The grass is always greener...

>> There's no way to hack life and make it better in any real way.

This is a very close-minded statement. You've found happiness in your personal life by successfully aligning your actions with a traditional value system, and that's great! But, it's apparent you haven't fully considered other walks of life that align with different value systems.

Take, for example, a man I know who is paralyzed from the neck down, has no family to call his own, yet is probably the happiest man you'll find around. He has found meaning in his injury and its ability to help others grow.

The mind is extremely resilient and adaptable. I would argue that your life path is the EASIEST path to long-term fulfillment in modern western society, but it is NOT the ONLY way. Making such a claim is doing a huge disservice to people like the woman in the article.

I'm really glad that this worked out for you. You have a great partner and are very lucky for that. This won't be the case for everyone that follows your path. I can't help but be reminded of this quote:

"Realize that sleeping on a futon when you're 30 is not the worst thing. You know what's worse, sleeping in a king bed next to a wife you're not really in love with but for some reason you married, and you got a couple kids, and you got a job you hate. You'll be laying there fantasizing about sleeping on a futon. There's no risk when you go after a dream. There's a tremendous amount to risk to playing it safe."

> Life is so much better if you just do what you evolved to do.

> Pair up, get a trade, build a home

You have evolved to reproduce.

Getting a trade, building a home are very recent constructs and certainly not what you "evolved to do"

Contributing to the resource needs of your social group and establishing a safe location to live and raise your young is exactly what you evolved to do. You aren't an amoeba, you're the most advanced mammal species on the planet. When you say "you evolved to reproduce" as if that doesn't include the other things I mentioned, you're kind of missing out on what gave you a survival advantage to begin with.

There are different reproductive strategies, but for the majority of men, raising a child to adulthood has been the way to go.

> do what you evolved to do

I agree you can't fight your nature and win. However, the counter argument would be:

1. Evolution is not concerned with your happiness, it's concerned with successful survival and reproduction - and keeping you just happy enough to do so.

2. Building a stable relationship and career in one place is quite counter to the thousands of years of itinerant hunter-gatherer, questionably-monogamous lives of our evolution lineage.

I said life is better, not happy. I am not happy all the time, but my life is extremely meaningful. I'm leaning in to what evolution expects from me because that is the only thing that makes any sense at all. What real, meaningful purpose do I accomplish by struggling against the things I am most suited to do?

I would also point out that thousands of years of itinerant hunting and gathering is not the same as evolving to be itinerant. We are a highly adaptive species and we can live many different ways - we often do - but that doesn't mean we are ideally suited to all of them. The vast majority of people, including those in under-industrialized nations, are not itinerant and of those that are, it's not often by choice. There are clear advantages to staying in place. The fact that most people, in their current evolved state, choose to remain where they are, is just as valid evidence that we are suited to be stationary as the existence of itinerant hunter gatherers in the past is evidence that we are suited to move around.

Onboard with meaning > happiness in general.

However, you could argue that we evolved to optimize our reproduction in one of several strategies. For some, it means their best bet is to settle with one family, for others it means profligate mating with dozens of partners. If so, by your logic, neither lifestyle would have any more inherent meaning than the other.

And, well, the 400,000 years of itinerant existence with much stronger evolutionary selection pressures vs. 10,000 years of agrarian society with less intense selection pressures doesn't seem commensurate.

You're arguing very hard for your chosen lifestyle, which includes some sunk cost bias.

Personally, I've done the settled-down thing and the hobo life and neither is more inherently meaningful than the other.

Perhaps you could argue that a pair-bond and a single location and community makes climbing Maslow's hierarchy of needs easier in our current society - that I might buy.

I would point out the other component to this, which is that the ideal structure should be what rewards the group, not the individual. So some people might be most suited as an individual to mate with many partners, but that would need to fall someplace within the larger hierarchy of their social suitability, in which case an absent or unavailable father is not ideal (children do objectively - although not universally - worse on average without their fathers). In that instance, whatever they are personally inclined to do is actually harmful to the broader group, meaning they should be given a compensatory incentive by the group to adopt a less promiscuous lifestyle. In either situation, whether it is natural for them to be monogamous or not, they should end up monogamous for the sake their young. So we have to look at the broader group structure as well.

Reading this comment struck me more than any HN comment has before. This seems to mirror my own life pretty well (married at 22 and finishing up a CS degree). I've been experiencing some anxious feelings in the past few weeks about whether I've made life decisions too hastily, seeing as it's such a normal/traditional path. Spending substantial time on this site tends to give me those feelings, like having a normal family life is antithetical to meaningful work as a programmer. Seeing such a similar situation played out in a fulfilling way was of great encouragement. So thank you for sharing!

I'm glad! Don't give up. Stick with it. Make smart choices, and don't be afraid to commit to things like family, home, and children. You gain the most meaning from the things that demand the most of you.

So, you got lucky and found your soul mate when you were young, correct? Not everyone is so lucky. For some, they don't find them til they're in their 30s, 40s, or sadly never.

You wouldn't have been the same without her, so once again - lucky ;-) Many modern men, I'd estimate at least 65%, need to settle down (happily of course) to truly become men, and civilized human beings.

Seemingly unrelated, but what was your relationship with your parents like?

i was thinking the same thing.. alot of these comments seem to be coming from people who married their highschool/college gf

> Life is so much better if you just do what you evolved to do. There's no way to hack life and make it better in any real way. Pair up, get a trade, build a home, and enjoy that for what it is.

That's where we differ. It's great that you enjoy your life, but it sounds horrible to me. "Pair up, get a trade, build a home" ends up going very badly for some people, there is no single path to an enjoyable life.

It sounds terrible to me too. That's the weird thing about doing what you are most suited to do - even if you dislike the idea of it, it still works.

we evolved to get a trade building and using computers and build a home?

You evolved to contribute to the resource needs of your social group and establish a safe location to live and raise your young. If selling vacuum cleaners door to door paid the most and I was good at it, I would have done that instead of computer science. The point was to have the resources I needed to build something meaningful, not to work on computers.

That's great, I'm so happy for you.

> Pair up

That could be challenging for many people for multiple reasons. Have you considered the possibility that you found (by luck) a rather exceptional partner and thus your model could not be replicated on the society at large.

Nah, the notion of holding out for "the one" is overrated and just makes you pass over plenty of acceptable candidates. Everyone has flaws and overlapping interests isn't really necessary either. Just find someone you find attractive, who's in your league, and who shares your values and work at it, you'll be fine. I hear the divorce rate of arranged marriages is pretty low.

Maybe because the cultures that have arranged marriages also have stigmas about divorce.

So do protestant churches, but you don't see them divorcing any less.

It is very true that many people can't and won't be able to pair up, but they can group together other ways. You can build a family many different ways. One of the major problems with modern society is that the only reliable companionship any of us ever really find is in our romantic partners and that's a sad byproduct of our alienation from family, community, and work in general. You can find others like yourself, commit to one another, care for one another, and build a home together that has meaning in its own way. I have an aunt like that who never married, but she has close friendships even into her old age that mirror a marriage (maybe she is gay, I don't know or care). But she found a way to build a home like that.

But pairing up has been replicated in many societies at large.

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