Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Notes from the Unemployed.

About a million years ago I was given a book called “Days of War, Nights of Love” that was written and published by an anarchist  collective called CrimethInc. It was an interesting read, mostly essays on alternative forms of living and a whole lot of anti-consumerism-ness. Some of it stuck with me and a whole lot of it struck me as the sort of grandiose quasi-Communistic naivete that can only come from being a grad student in the Bay Area. However one of the essays raised an interesting question; I remember that it asked: What if we could spend time like money?

At the time this struck me as an interesting philosophical - but rhetorical - question designed to make a point about how we live our lives under the banner of Capitalism, but now I think that there may be a little more to it.

Now I’m a relatively smart guy and I’m still not exactly sure how one would spend time like money, but I think that I may be starting to figure it out. Over the last few months I have started to realize that a bunch of my seemingly disparate interests may actually be different incarnations of the same idea. Isn’t ultralight backpacking just a sort of minimalism? Is there maybe something - in theory at least - that connects my very very very simple and inexpensive diet to the fact that I’m writing this post on a Chromebook, which is about as simple and basic of a computer as has ever been sold? (Or maybe I’m being grandiose right now, that is certainly possible too).

The point of all of this intellectual masterbation is just that I think it might actually be possible to spend time like money, assuming though that you have the money to buy your own time. That last bit is the piece that the CrimethInc kids were missing. Instead of buying the fancy cars and the giant televisions, you make the choice to buy your own time. To some degree that is what I have done. For more than a year I was banking about 40% of my take home pay and when the time was right, I was able to cash in that savings in order to buy some of my own time. This current unemployment of mine was engineered. And that savings account is allowing me to push my life in a different direction; quit the job, travel a little, find a new place to live and then I’ll be back in school in the fall. (A grad student in his thirties. I’ll happily suffer the indignity of this because it affords me the ability to maybe maybe maybe do something with my life other than manage other people’s money.)

In this moment right now, sitting in someone else’s hotel room in the the Bay Area south of San Francisco - getting a little poorer with every purchase - I think that I might actually be somewhere close to understanding how one spends time like money. I can’t afford to spend much money, so I have found myself evaluating every single purchase based on what amount of life - of experience, of happiness, of memories to come - that it is going to bring to me. For this moment at least, being alive and feeling that way is what I’m spending both my time and my money on. And right now I like that.

Somewhere out there is a manifesto-publishing anarchist collective that would tell me I am doing it wrong - that I didn’t have to buy my life back from The Man, because it always belonged to me in the first place - but what the hell do they know, right? Maybe we’re all doing it wrong.

I think that if you have ever had one of those transcendent moments of happiness - think of the last time you were in love, at the beginning, when things were amazing, or at the end of a bad day when you slip into bed with your favorite person in the world - those are the moments when time becomes more valuable than money. I think that there is virtue in trying to make more of one’s life feel like that. I’m using this time that I have to try and figure out how.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Quite insightful and a very interesting take. I truly think you are on to something. Most certainly worth some reflection i think.