The Rat Race: Thoughts on Consumption, Misery, and the Sysephean Nature Of Our Lives…

In Greek mythology, Sysephus was a king who was punished for his own self aggrandizement. His sentence was to push a rock up a hill only to have it roll back down for all of eternity. This example seems to speak to our present day condition of working for stuff. It seems that more and more we are running ourselves ragged to get all of the things the world around us says we should have. Commercials say that we need a new car and will allow us to finance it for years beyond its expected mechanical dependency. Mortgage companies will give us way more house than we can really afford on interest only payments that balloon into ridiculous sums after a period of time. The dopamine rush your brain gives you when you buy that shiny new car gives way to stress and depression as you try to find a way to pay for it. That 4,000 square foot house is beautiful until you find yourself broke every month trying to give everyone around you the illusion that you have wealth. This recent Coronavirus crisis and the accompanying financial crisis have exposed the flaw of consumption. Most Americans are living paycheck to paycheck with nothing in their reserves for emergencies. We are spending our time working to maintain the things we have bought on credit to keep up payments on things that need replaced the moment they are paid off. We live in what amounts to a socially constructed hamster wheel. We become human “doings” instead of human beings and we forfeit part of our lives to pay for things and impress people that won’t matter in 20 years anyway. I recently made a decision to cash out one of my investments in order to pay off all of my debt with the exception of my house. I never imagined how freeing this could be and while it was freeing, it also caused me to pause and reflect on my spending habits and motives over the last 20 years. For years I have always wanted the newest cars and the nicest phones. My budget was set up around monthly payments rather than the actual cost of things. Gradually over time those monthly payments start to stack up and suddenly we find ourselves in a financial pit creating a deep and stressful hole that was ultimately caused by the things that we thought would make life better! I realize now that happiness requires us to be grateful and gratefulness is difficult without contentment with what one has. Moving forward, my family time and my mental health are more important that driving a shiny new car. The cell phone that is a couple models older than the newest one works just as well as the latest and greatest release. It has only taken me until the age of 40 to realize that stuff doesn’t make me happy. Certainly not happy enough to carry the added stress around and to pawn my time to work extra to make payments for it. Stuff cannot fill the internal void, but connections can. Our relationships with others, God, and ourselves are constantly being placed on the back burner for our own survival in the rat race. I wonder what would happen if we made those things a priority. Yes, I will have to work a couple of extra years to replace that investment, but I will gladly do that rather than constantly sacrificing my present for the unseen and unpromised future. Life is meant to be lived. God created us to live, connect, and create. He did not cheat us to stagnate on a hamster wheel living our lives under Sysephean conditions. It is time to move out of the rat race. Jump out of the hamster wheel and run towards the things that give us meaning and purpose in life. This is what it means to live a life of no regrets and to become the beat version of who we were created to be.-

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