Dichotomies of the Dominant Paradigm
Dichotomy: a division or contrast between two things that are or are represented as being opposed or entirely different. (source)
Dominant Paradigm: A “dominant paradigm” refers to the values, or system of thought, in a society that are most standard and widely held at a given time. Dominant paradigms are shaped both by the community’s cultural background and by the context of the historical moment (source)
I work with a great team of people at an awesome company that makes a very ethical product. I have a great job, and I’ve had several other great jobs in the past. I’ve worked for mega-corporations, I’ve worked for tiny little startups, and everything in between. The vast majority of the people I worked with were hard workers and sincere people.
But when that alarm clock goes off in the morning, I feel a deep seated anger towards the ‘system’: The rules of society that all but force us to pursue money at the expense of all else. I feel weird that I’m 32 and despite having had several great jobs, I haven’t found contentment in my job, as the dominant paradigm says I should. At its most simple root, I can’t give up the idea that humans aren’t supposed to live this way.
Here are some things I just don’t get. Call these the dichotomies of the dominant paradigm:
- According to positive psychology any activity that is said to bring you pleasure, engagement, meaning, and a sense of ‘flow’ can be said to make you happy. I certainly get all these aspects from work at my job, but it still leaves me feeling hollow and dissatisfied.
- Trying to find contentment outside of work has proved unfruitful. Even when I am not working, I can’t achieve the ‘flow’ and engagement that a full day sailing, hiking, or snowboarding can. There’s not enough time in a day to decompress and achieve that special mental state I associate with happiness and contentment.
- Most intelligent people would agree that it is rational to seek the highest good. If a rational person was free to choose between the cubical-based life of a knowledge worker vs leisure time while immersed in nature, doesn’t it seem more rational to choose leisure time? If so, why don’t more people do it? Can one conclude that people are therefore not free to choose? Why is there this vast sea of humanity dedicated to the cubical-based lifestyle?
- The dominant culture encourages young people to go to college and take on debt. Then they are encouraged to get married, have kids, and buy a house. The house puts you further into debt and children are a worthy choice, but a financial burden. This lifestyle encourages you to be a good tax payer and good consumer, certainly. And yet, I have met very few people who have followed this path who can be said to be ‘happy’ and ‘content’. I certainly wasn’t. Instead I would describe them as ‘harried’ and ‘stressed’. Why then do more people not pursue alternative lifestyles?
I’ve had ‘great’ jobs and sincerely great coworkers. When I look back at all the people I’ve worked with since college, I can’t image better people. Yet the job leaves me hollow and I can see the same hollowness in most of their eyes. I can’t find contentment in activities outside of work or those social relationships developed at work. In my experience the benefits aren’t worth the cost.
Perhaps that’s my ‘flaw’. I have always felt socially inept. Capable of intimating empathy in others, but unable to palpably feel that empathy. Additionally, without children and a mortgage, my financial back isn’t up against the wall. I think that explains my lower tolerance for the pain of daily life, too. Most people have a ‘better reason’ for putting up with these flaws in the dominant paradigm than I do.
Whatever it is, I have found the middle class lifestyle lacking. At no point can it match the overpowering sense of freedom, creativity, and inspiration every time I go sailing around the San Juan Islands. That’s why my time spent cruising this summer is not a vacation. It’s not a sabbatical. It’s my real life. When I come back to work in the winter, that will be something else.
I’m fond of saying that ‘boating is an expensive hobby, or an inexpensive lifestyle’. This is what I mean when I say that.