The Luxury Debt

“One of the history’s few iron laws is that luxuries tend to become necessities and to spawn new obligations” – Yuval Noah

Our tools simplify our lives. We design the world with these tools. The world we create ends up designing us. We shape the world and world shapes us. It’s a feedback loop that started from the first time we held a stick to reach a fruit on a really high tree. Since then we have used tools to constantly redefine the boundaries of who and what we are. Today, creating a portrait of a contemporary man, without a hint of wart in the pocket suggesting a cell phone is unrealistic.

In the era of postal services, people usually wrote letters when they had something important to relate. Rather than writing the first thing that came to their head, they carefully considered what they wanted to say and how to phrase it. They expected to receive a similarly considered response. Most people received not more than a handful of letters a month and seldom felt compelled to respond immediately. Today, we receive dozens of emails and tons of IMs, all from people who expect a prompt reply. We thought we were saving time; instead, we revved up the treadmill of life to ten times the former speed and made our days more anxious and agitated.1

Over the course of last year, I’ve been on strict digital detox for the first half. This meant no consumption and creation of digital content. I rationed my calls per week. I withdrew from popular culture of reviews. I didn’t consume digital news. I didn’t binge on any series. I didn’t share my whereabouts and didn’t click any digital pictures either. As I was working from home and this meant I would have been useless without an Internet connection, ergo I quit the job. I took the bare essentials in my backpack, as the only real estate and embarked upon a journey without planning any destinations. Unpremeditated wandering begets immunity from schedules. I anchored at amusing harbors and sailed the dull ones at discretion. No pings to distract, I was greeted with unfamiliar faces with familiar lives. Judgments lose their bearing when variation becomes the benchmark.

When we’re in a novel experience, our brain is no good at building expectations or making predictions. When everything is new around us, we couldn’t fill in the blanks with past experiences. It’s analogous to entering a new level in a game. Sometimes, nothing changes and occasionally, everything does!

As our perception expands, we break down the symbols and shorthand we created for ourselves. We reconfigure the maps of our world and switch the lens of our psyche to assimilate the experience, upgrading our consciousness. These experiences come at a cost of forfeiting luxury of comfort and inertia. They de-center us, smash our ego and tune us out of the internal chaos to enjoy the lucid synergy of existence. We teleport to a cosmic view of our own experiences, where stars arrange as constellations. All we got to do is connect the dots!

Luxuries are the debt, we repay through morphosis of our consciousness. Let’s embrace the luxury with a pinch of caution and acknowledgment instead of denial. Keep exploring and don’t settle!

I would highly recommend reading Sapiens [1] by Yuval Noah and talks by Jason Silva. The excerpts and musings of these two amazing people have decorated this post.