The Saving Ninja, who is a fellow UK FI blogger, does these thought experiments every two months where he invites other blog writers to join in.
His last one was about ‘your unpopular opinion’ and I wrote about how public enterprise is better than private.
Today’s is on the subject of happiness:
“Most people’s lives are filled with so much commotion. We’re constantly moving and thinking like an electron jumping from atom to atom. There are very few moments when we experience true clarity, when we have a chance to really think clearly. These moments may come when reaching a mountain peak in the early hours of the morning or when you’re sitting up late one night and silently staring at the stars. Lots of life-changing decisions can be made in these moments; when you have the time to think about true happiness.
What do you need to achieve real, true happiness? What are you aspiring to? Paint that perfect picture, you will need it as a guide whilst you make your way through life.”
Here’s my best guess…
Well, first of all a bit of throat clearing.
I really don’t think about this very much. I am the electron mentioned above, although broadly speaking my views align closely to the Mr Money Mustache cult dogma.
So what follows is a bit sketchy and questioning.
What makes me happy – free time
Ok, given the theme of this blog it may be that this is stating the obvious.
I’m starting with this sentence:
Lots of life-changing decisions can be made in these moments; when you have the time to think about true happiness.
For me, having the time to think about true happiness is itself a big part of what I want. And I reckon that’s probably quite common.
The best argument for FIRE isn’t negative (escaping a shitty job). We want something positive, which is properly free time to carve out our happiest existence.
And even though the labels we use are a little alienating – managing to combine lame skateboarder cool (FIRE! YEAH!) and bloodless spreadsheetery – I think in this way we have quite a bit of common ground with other people looking for happiness.
I’m thinking about the older woman who finally divorces her partner so that she can get some time to watch her box set in peace.
Or the millionth guy to realise that his happiness lies in giving up the day job and running a local pub.
It’s even what inspired utopians who you might not want to be associated with, like Karl Marx.
His characterisation of the epoch known as capitalism is that we serve the interests of the ruling class (the holders of capital) by selling our labour time to them, therefore allowing them to own the value we create in this world.
The bargain in return is that we get back some of our labour in commodity form, which we obsess over as a poor and never adequate replacement for what is truly valuable.
He saw the ideal replacement of that as being a society where people had control over their own labour-time, structured through a free association of individuals, which he called communism (this way of working only being possible if the technical and material means of production are held in common).
[I’m not a communist but I find this stuff interesting]
What makes me happy – politics(?)
And that leads nicely into the most absorbing interest of my life, which is politics.
I bring this up because I don’t think true happiness can come from just free time.
Just wanting time to yourself is selfish in the most basic sense.
For almost everyone this individual approach would of course be cushioned somewhat by bringing family and personal relationships into the picture.
These are very important to me. I spend as much time as I can with the people that I love, especially my girlfriend.
But I think you need some kind of purpose too.
Partly because a life of free time without structure would be maddening.
For me that purpose is political.I’m not exactly sure why. It started when I was a kid, reading history books and feeling quite intensely patriotic about what I encountered.
Then a love of history started becoming more political. I think because I realised two things.
Most importantly, that what I felt patriotic about – the bigness of Britain on the world stage – was built on slavery and oppression. I know that sounds obvious, but it was actually quite an epiphany for me. I remember a short period during my teenage years when my beliefs were turned over very rapidly.
Something else that occurred to me was that the people you’re meant to care about (kings and queens mostly, who even ‘popular’ historians like Lucy Worsley seem to have a lot of time for) were way less impressive or interesting than the people that railed against them.
So I fell in love first with Cromwell and liberalism, and then with Luxemburg and socialism.
This took just a few months, but the love of politics has stayed with me until now.
The main way it has developed since then is through getting involved with the practical application of campaigning. I found out that I enjoyed the camaraderie of having a common cause a lot more than I ever thought I would.
So the big question I would now like to answer through a freer life is whether I can achieve that same camaraderie doing something other than party political campaigning?
Because that’s what I want my life to be.
I do know that whatever I get involved in, I need to be convinced by it. I think I have to feel a sense of moral purpose in quite a full way, and that’s even true of my 9-5 working life where I recently moved on from a job that was grating against my convictions just a bit too much.
Ultimately that’s why I want to be financially independent. Because my vision of personal happiness is having more free time, unencumbered by financial needs, to experiment with living a more purposeful life.
If you have any thoughts on this topic please do comment away!
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