Wednesday, January 30, 2008

5 Reasons to Simplify Your Life


There are a million reasons to simplify your life. If you're new to fatherhood or if you've been around for a while, you've probably discovered that there aren't enough hours in the day to fit in all of your responsibilities and to take care of your family. Simplifying your life is a step to reclaiming the time of your days and showing your kids an impeccable way to live their lives. As we venture down this road, it is important to clarify reasons why we should. The following 5 reasons should help us scratch the surface.

1. Overwhelming amounts of media excert too much control over how we relate to our families.
Media, like advertising, would have us believe that the role of father does not include taking care of family. When advertisers direct marketing at men, they generally portray men who are unattached, with their friends, or at work scoring a big pitch in the boardroom. There is almost no room in advertisments for men to be with their families. This only happens in ads that are aimed at women, usually shown during daytime TV and in Women's magazines.

There are reasons for this. Advertisers think that men, in general, have a greater need for autonomy in a relationship than women do. The idea is that once a man is in a family, he will feel stifled and trapped by his identity as father, though empowered by his ability to provide for the family. And, as in so many other cases in our lives, the products want to prey on that assumed emotional relationship. The ads want us to forge a relationship with that product that will be fulfilling for us, melded intricatley with our unspoken desires to run away from our family. They, in fact, are hoping that the product will represent an escape for us.

Commeradarie, power, acceptance, and independence are the emotions that these products will use to get under our hoods and make a sale. What Miller beer hopes is not that you'll see their ad as a logical argument and say, "Hey, awesome, I'll go out and make a purchase of some Miller Beer." What they hope is that you will be with your friends, enjoying company, and someone will say, "It's 'Miller Time.'" When that happens, the advertisers have found their way in. They have melded with you on a pre-rational level and whatever they paid for that 30-second commercial has now bought them more air-time--but this is air-time in your life. They bought a moment of your life without paying for it. Someone sold it to them without asking your permission.

(This happens again when your daughter puts on the high-heeled shoes and smears lipstick on, trapsing about the room so clumisly but with a serious air of adulthood. Then, someone says, "Wow, what a Kodak moment!" For me, the moment is always ruined once it has been sold to a corporation, but hey, that's just me. )

So we find ourselves living in a society where the primary role of fatherhood is that of breadwinner, working for the weekend when we can finally take off our shackles and hang out with the bros. However, we students striving to be Badass Dads know that our role doesn't end there. There's cooking, cleaning, story-time, play-time, museums, playgrounds, music, bright sunny days out there that we want to share with our children. Stepping away from media entertainment can only help out our sanity. We want to step away from societal expectations and forge lives that we can be proud of at the end of the day.

2. You don't have enough money to buy it all.
If you are anything like me, you live paycheck to paycheck. Congratulations if you don't, but that doesn't mean that you can't stand to save a little more. The pace of our lives is really absurd when you sit around and think about it. Of course, they'd rather have us not think about it so that we remain resigned to a life of chasing the star of consumerism. But as consumers, we are constantly told that whatever it is that we have, it just isn't enough. Or, it at least isn't good enough. We are asked to forge relationships with products rather than people (such as a Civic ad that suggests that the car will never say, "it's not you, it's me"). But products are made to give out, to be unreliable, and to be replaceable. Cutting back on what you buy can make you realize that you are not what you own. You can derive meaning in life without buying things all the time.

3. The Environment
I know it might sound ignorant of me, but this is the reason for simplification that took me the longest time to come around to. For whatever reason, I've always felt like anything pertaining to global warming and all of that was nothing but hippie nonesense and alarmist jaberwocky. But I look at the problems in this world that could be solved if our parents had built a more renewable infastructure, and I see that I have a responsiblity to make things a little easier for my kids. Getting rid of a car, bussing to work, recycling, buying local, not using products that are made by known abusers of the environment, composting, growing your own food, and so many other things are in your individual power to take control of. And, they generally save you money, make you less of a "consumer" and make you healthier.

4. Better relationships.
Having products and brands being the bond between you and your loved ones is shameful. Yet, we do this all the time. Just a few years ago, having a cell phone was too expensive for most people. Now, it has been normalized and everyone thinks that they have to have one. But something that cell phones do is destroy conversations. "What's that you say? Destroy conversations? But they're about conversing, right?" No, cell phones are not about conversing. Like so much of "the information age," informaion has been boiled down to its basest forms. The accessiblity of cell phones and text messages make it possible for us to send quickly digestible snippets of information to each other at any time of the day, not matter where we are.

So what ends up happening to most of us is, we talk to our wives on the way to and from work. We talk to them when we are in the store. Something interesting happens, we text our brothers. We have a quick question, we can get a hold of our dads for a quick answer. But then, the next time we see our brothers, our dads, or our wives, we have nothing new to talk about. The information has been exchanged already, in quickly consumable tidbits. Why not sit down and talk when you get home from work? Why not save that question for your dad for the next time you see him, or sit down in your livingroom to have a phone conversation with him? Why not keep that interesting story under your hat for the next time you have a drink with your brother?

5. It's healthier
I struggle with my weight. And my life is by no means perfectly simple. But I know that if I make my own foods from scratch, ride my bike to work, and build a fort in the backyard for my daughters instead of buying them a new Xbox, I'll be better off. Don't get me started about our idea to build our own house (check out the badass bookstore for books on the subject). I'll feel better, be healthier, and set a better example for my children.

Bonus. Personal Satisfaction
There's a reward that comes with doing things yourself. Food tastes better when you make it yourself. The days are longer without TV to drag you down. You're more at ease if you know that no one can reach you via cell phone when you're at the store or on your way home. You enjoy time better with your friends and family if you haven't been constantly brought up to date about their lives through texting. Ultimatley, your quality of life will be improved.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Agreed. It looks as if you and Ivory are on the same blogging plane. I just read her most recent RSS on my FL and it was of similar discussion. Of course... "tis the season" goes with out saying.

I concur on all of the above.