Happiness: A Focused Effort on Self-Improvement

It took me awhile to get in front of a keyboard today.  I'm still putting up the same obstacles between me and my writing.  A blank page forces me to come face-to-face with my potential and I sit and stare, like I'm waiting for a divine strike of inspiration. The thought of perfection paralyzes my hands and mind. The reality is that I just have to endure the pain if I want to be a professional writer.

I watched an interview with David Foster Wallace in an attempt to lure inspiration from the depths of my consciousness.  It still saddens me that a man with so much intellect and insight into the human condition took his life.  It saddens me to think about what else he could've contributed to the progress of humanity.

In the interview they spoke about the allure of drugs and entertainment and how they both provided a certain escape.  DFW linked these concepts to the ideology of self-gratification that pervades U.S. culture, where this hedonistic pleasure-center is constantly fed.  He touched on class as part of the problem as it is the privileged graduates holding Masters and Bachelors degrees that have the ability and affinity to engage in higher culture, while the uneducated are trapped in a cyclical poverty.  Let's face it - the endurance and focus necessary to read stuff like Infinite Jest is going to lose 9 times out of 10, even in educated circles.  The trick seems to be to expedite the transmission of self-developmental content in an engaging, inexpensive, and for lack of a better word, subversive manner.

A fulfilling life requires effort, discipline and thoughtful action, which are all products of self-development.  The problem is that mainstream media undermines all of these.  The passive satisfaction of our thoughts and desires renders the active life a laborious endeavor, devaluing the fulfilling process of work in favor of comfortable stupefaction.  Work has been an adversary to humans for millennia, but its stigma has grown exponentially since the dawn of the industrial age.

What would the argument for a life of fulfillment rather than comfort look like?  The Aristotelean aim was towards a happiness made possible by virtues like temperance, courage, friendship, honesty, etc.  The world we live in now subverts these virtues in the name of capitalistic enterprise; which means that our current system of values stands in opposition to our actualization of happiness and fulfillment.  We are given instruments enabling passive unhappiness and we are told that we are lazy, ungrateful leeches on the society.  MAYBE if we were given empowering tools rather than those determined by economic and capitalistic ends, we would be a more effective generation!  

This mostly sounds like entitled wishful thinking, but it's important for me to hash out these concepts.  Self-development is critical for lasting happiness and we live in a culture that undermines it around every corner.  Happiness and fulfillment require effort, discipline, and thoughtful action, which means that if want better lives, we need to make a concerted, focused effort on improving ourselves.