A Thought Experiment from Wilson

by F.

In Strangers to Ourselves, Wilson describes the following thought-experiment:

Imagine that you are part of a grand experiment in which you are provided with everything you need. At regular intervals you are given gifts of money, love, sex, fame—whatever you want. The only catch is that you can do nothing that increases or decreases the likelihood of obtaining these rewards. In fact, in order to receive the rewards, you have to spend eight hours a day in a room doing nothing—no career to occupy your time, no one to talk to, no books to read, no paintings to paint, no music to compose—in short nothing to engage you.

Well, that’s not exactly the job description of my last position… but as a caricature, it’s pretty close. At least most of the time. As Wilson says, “this would be a hellish life.” Yeah. Pretty much. And now for the alternative:

a quite different existence, in which the tangible rewards are modest. You make only enough money to meet your basic needs and have few luxuries. But you get to spend every day absorbed in activities you love.

Preach it, brother. The takeaway?

Daily absorption is more important than the paycheck at the end of the month, as long as the paycheck covers our basic needs.

(These quotes are from pages 144-45, by the way.)