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Perspective

Thousands of years ago humans had a more clearly defined role in society. When food ran low the men would gather for the hunt. They would leave camp for days, or even weeks, at a time. When the prey was caught, the men butchered the animal into carrying sized pieces.

Back at camp the women tended the garden and gathered plants from the surrounding area. When the men returned the women scraped the hides and prepared it for clothing. The women also dried, salted, and prepared the food.

Caveman 5

Only so much food could be stored at a time. A large animal could feed the community for months. The daily routine was more social than anything we see today. The whole village may spend an afternoon playing games. On a normal day the men would fashion more weapons in preparation for the next hunt and for defense. Women would work the hides into clothing and shoes. Children would join the adults, depending on age.

Evening was a special time. As the sun dropped below the horizon, a fire was started. Women and children frequently were separate from the men. Each group would share stories around the campfire. The storytelling could go late into the night. Every member of the community was known by every other member.

The air was clean, land pure, and wholesome food made for a healthy lifestyle. Disease or an injury in battle or from the hunt could easily turn into a death sentence. Injuries often defined the remainder of a person’s life. Outside disease or injury life was satisfying. Modern diseases were rare. Anxiety and depression were unheard of. Heart disease, cancer, and hypertension were the exception rather than the rule. Quality food coupled with an active, community based, lifestyle made for a high quality of life.

History of Everything by David Graeber and David Wengrow.

History of Everything

Modern Man

Humans have not changed much in the last several thousand years with the notable exception of technology. We look the same, have the same desires and feeling, and think much the same. Religious thought thousands of years ago, used to explain the world around us, still marks a center in many people’s lives.

We live longer today because certain diseases no longer threaten our well-being. Technology changed the way humans interact, live, and eat. Modern farming techniques produce massive quantities of food, unfortunately of a low quality nature too often. Medicine cures diseases deadly to us in the past. A simple infection is just that, simple. A hundred years ago and back it was a serious concern.  Heart disease, hypertension, anxiety, cancer, and depression exist at significantly higher percentages of the population than in the past. Type 2 diabetes is turning into an epidemic; fifty years ago Type 2 diabetes was almost unheard of.

Man did not change. Our bodies are the same. Our lifestyle changed and with it came a whole host of new problems. We live longer lives, but are we healthier or happier? Not long ago we lived outside and only for meals and sleeping did we spend time in our homes. Our homes have grown multiples in size to accommodate all the things we do there. Home is where we live and spend almost all our time now. We sit and watch TV for entertainment instead of telling stories around the fire; we don’t play games as much anymore, we watch the game on TV; instead of socializing with friends, we sit in front of a computer all day and Facebook.

Socializing

The new lifestyle out modern wealth has created also hurts us. Just because we can sit around all day and still cover the bills, all our needs, and plenty of entertainment does not mean we should. We are so rich in financial terms today that most of us cover our needs with fewer than 10 hours of work per week. All the rest goes into crazy spending or investments.

Our lives are massively better, but our health has suffered. We live twice as long, but not always happier. The amount of time spent outside enjoying a sunny day has declined. We fear the sun and the damage it can do to our skin, but forget sitting on our asses in the house all day damages our hearts and sucks the life out of our minds.

Socializing too often means going to a bar and consuming unhealthy liquids. Gone are the days when we gathering in a backyard enjoying good food and good company. Neighbors actually knew each other in the past. We talked with each other, knew each other, and for the most part, got along well. Neighbors helped neighbors once upon a time. Socializing did not take place in a dark room in the corner of the house. When we got out and really socialized we were less likely to be offended by every turn of the word. We were not so bored with our non-social life that we felt compelled to share every minute (and disgusting detail) of our personal lives.

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Food

Because life is so easy today I decided years ago to buy a small farm and go back to my roots. The work is hard, but limited since it is a small farm. The hard work is great for the body and working with plants and animals does wonders for the mind and soul.

Quality food is important to me. Processed foods contain so many chemicals and other undesirable products it is no wonder we have so many medical problems. Modern medicine has cured most normal human diseases. With the safety net of medicine we double down on stupid eating and lifestyle habits. Smoking is expensive (bad for your wealth), stinks, and puts your health at serious risk. Why anyone would smoke is beyond me.

Processed foods, snacks, and soda are a large part of too many diets. Warren Buffett and I agree on a lot of issues, but when it comes to soda and junk food we differ. Buffett is fond of saying soda is not an obesity problem (Berkshire Hathaway, his company, owns a lot of Coca-Cola stock). He claims to drink 700 calories per day of Cherry Coke. Yes, Buffett is a healthy (and happy) older man. But that does not mean soda is okay if it replaces other quality calories! George Burns lived to 100 and smoked cigars every day. That is not an indication smoking is a healthy habit we should all take up.

It is impossible to avoid all the crap in food today. High fructose corn syrup is in everything. The goal should be to reduce as much as possible all the garbage we put into our system. Eating whole foods (fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, et cetera) should be the center of every diet. A soda here or an alcoholic drink there is not the end of the world. Junk food, beer or soda in moderation is acceptable for most people as long as quality food and water are the overwhelming majority of foods consumed.

Entertainment

Entertainment confuses me. Parks are empty compared to the increase in population. Kids do not run and play in the neighborhood anymore. Over the 4th of July holiday weekend here in the States the family and I went to Bay Beach in Green Bay. Bay Beach is an awesome small amusement park recalling a time long gone. Parts of the park remind me of a 1950s city center of a small rural town. The rides are fun and the prices low so the whole family can have fun for ten or fifteen dollars as long as you pack a picnic basket. We do.

Bay Beach was busy, but not overcrowded. What confuses me the most is how people consume/enjoy entertainment like Bay Beach. Most people had their faces stuck into their cell phone; I turned mine off (I did not want my family time interrupted). How can you enjoy the park glued to the phone? I don’t get it. I saw people using their phone to record their experiences. Several people recorded their time on the bumper cars, twirl swings, and the slide. It seems like nobody wants to experience an event for what it is. Nothing is personal. We want to record every bit of minutia in our lives and place it on social media. We don’t experience things for the sake of experiencing them. The rest of us seem to want to live our lives through the actions of others.

Something is lost when we are so concerned about recording the event. The quiet moment of reflection is lost when our mind is distracted by what we feel obligated to place on Facebook or Twitter. By focusing on recording the event we lose the real experience ourselves. Entertainment today is nothing like the past. I doubt it is healthy as mankind never evolved to live this way.

Going Back to the Good Life

Social media, junk food, and sitting are not bad in and of themselves. It’s how much of it we do that is the issue. We can have the best of the old world life humans once lived and the best of modern society, too. We can experience so many more things, live happier (and easier) lives, while enjoying a longer life.

I spend most of my days putzing around my farm (unless I am at the office). I read books most nights. I watch zero TV. (Mrs. Accountant and the girls like to watch movies, however, so we do own a TV.) I write a lot (I mean a lot!). I write two fantasy and science fiction blogs besides The Wealthy Accountant (and for other personal finance and tax publications since this post was originally published).

Social media is a major part of most people’s lives, except me. I have social media everywhere, just like most people. Except, my social media is set up by other people and generally auto posted by IT guys or office personnel. For the first time ever (unless my team did it) I have friends on Facebook due to this blog. Facebook was set up by the web designer of this blog and the posts are automatically added when I publish. Social media takes none of my time; it is too valuable to waste. I would rather socialize with you in the real world. I use social media for business only.

So, I am one of those crazy guys who watches virtually no TV and refuses to use social media for anything other than business or even the cell phone a lot. (I don’t text either.) Not everyone wants to be a knuckle-dragging Neanderthal like me. I get it. Here is a sensible list for finding balance in your life, mixing the greatest stuff from the past with the greatest stuff of modern times:

  • Limit social media to one-hour or less per day.
  • Don’t record every last thing you do. Just live your life.
  • Don’t share it on Facebook either.
  • Live in the moment. The moment does not require a digital recording of the event. This is not the signing of the Declaration of Independence!
  • Turn your cell phone off for most of the day or leave it at home. Believe it or not, twenty years ago you had a phone hanging on the wall at home and you were not on call 24/7, Doctor Riley. Your cell phone has a built in answering machine. Use it. The world will not end if you do not answer every last call instantly. Make a goal to have your personal customer service on par with Comcast. (I don’t have Comcast, but I read the news.)
  • Limit TV to two or fewer hours per day.
  • Make it a priority to socialize with real people in the real world more than in the virtual world.
  • Limit your consumption of advertisements.
  • Eat good food. Limit your intake of alcohol, soda, and processed foods.
  • If you smoke: STOP!
  • Save more than you spend. (Trust me on this one.) Invest the savings.
  • Not all entertainment is on TV, YouTube or social media.
  • Don’t limit yourself to spectator status of social events. You can actually play a baseball game, too.
  • Modern technology gave you the gift of a luxurious lifestyle. Use it constructively. Dump depression and anxiety by focusing on the important. Stop worrying about everyone else.
  • We live longer today. You have plenty of time to sit and smell the roses or watch a sunset.
  • Did I mention social media? Of course, I did. Take a social media holiday. Facebook and Twitter (or whatever they call the platform now) are not your job. Stop providing free content to multi-billion dollar companies. Any other job would give you paid holidays. Take one from Facebook.
  • Meet people. Strike up a conversation with someone new at least once per week. They do not have to become close friends. Instead, just be a good person sharing the moment. It is an awesome feeling.
  • Leave your cell phone at home. You will not die, trust me. Honest.

If life is worth living, it is worth living well.  Accept all the gifts modern society has to offer. Closing yourself off in a room, only experiencing the world on a computer screen from the eyes of others, is a poor substitute for a good life. Enter the real world, the world that existed for thousands of years.

And who knows. Maybe I will see you at Bay Beach. Anyone for bumper cars?

Cork

Friday 26th of April 2024

Very timely, Keith. Looking back to "pre-internet/cell phone" days, it's amazing how well we kept in communication with pretty much anyone we wanted or needed to. While the digital age has certainly enhanced that, it has also brought on a whole slew of issues, from mindless frivolity to dependence and even addiction. It's easy to let it creep up on you. My wife and I are retired now and in relatively good health. We're onboard with most of your list here. With several acres, we stay as active outdoors as we can. We have also taken up kayaking and birding - both excellent activities for seniors. Our TV watching is maybe 3 hours a week, usually a designated night for a subscription type show. No cable and limited network access. Phones have been the main tether. They are useful tools at our age, but they still become invasive, making us believe we can't live without them. We have a FB account, but not sure even why as we don't get on there much. Sometimes it's fun to see all the drama in other peoples lives that they seem to compelled to tell the world about. Since retiring, I have started writing a couple of newsletters on Stubstack. I have found many others there who write about the whole digital detox trend. Many of the younger set are seeing the advantages of un-tethering. So, limiting phone usage is what I'm working on now. It's a challenge when it's so convenient to do everything with it. We had a visit from friends we haven't seen in a couple of decades. He is a retired Navy Captain and still uses a flipphone. Maybe that's the way to go.

By the way, your blog is perfect for publishing on substack. Not sure how much you know about that platform, but it's worth looking into. Lot's of options there. Just a thought.

Appreciate your thoughts here.

Gwen

Tuesday 5th of July 2016

But but but how will others know how awesome my life is if I don't share it online!?! I have almost every form of social media out there and am slowly trying to cut back. I'm honestly addicted and it's something I'm trying to work on!

Keith Schroeder

Tuesday 5th of July 2016

The first step, Gwen, is to admit you have a problem.

alamodest

Tuesday 5th of July 2016

It is very true that things get "lost" ironically when you record things and you don't take time to fully engage in person what you're experiencing before you. This reminds me of when my husband proposed to me through a song, and I was recording it with my phone. He asked me if I could just sit and listen instead. I really respected him for that!

We've actually stopped using cellphones completely in my household, and we find that we are able to appreciate each other better with the quality time we give.Awesome post!

http://alamodest.com