Mini-Feature: Privacy and Envy

Something to think about during the Christmas season

What is your lifestyle tip to readers this week?

If you want to have a shot at living a fulfilling life, you must methodically eradicate your envy of others. First, you need to ask yourself: What is it to you? Why do you care in the first place? What assumptions are you making about yourself and what you deserve—never mind what justice is—that lead you to take offense at the circumstances of others? Answering those questions will reveal your own flaws and unresolved tensions. Your assumptions and judgments are likely unjustly and illogically favorable towards yourself, of course. "But what no one understands about my situation is..." Grow up.

Second, and even more significantly, let's assume that you know what justice is. You know yourself relatively well, and thus you see what is just and unjust in your own situation clear enough. Now let's consider the other person you are envious of; consider what, in particular, you are envious of. Do you realize that no one is given anything, no one gets lucky, and no one is undeserving in the sense that, whether are cognizant of it or not, everybody pays for everything in some way? Everybody pays. To take the extreme example: winning the lottery probably does lower lifespans, on average. And you and your grubby self, from your smudged and partial vantage point, likely have absolutely no idea of the cost they're paying or the toll it's taking from them, never mind whether or not they have whatever they have justly or not, never mind how this compares to your own circumstances, if they are even comparable, which is unlikely.

In general, being given much leads to higher expectations and often damages perception and distorts ability; but having little can often similarly damage perception and distort ability. The claim that someone else has something unjustly or undeservingly, never mind the claim that you ought to have it, usually requires an almost comically outrageous amount of assumption and pride on your part. How could you possibly ever really know that? And what would it even matter if you did?

-Matt Peterson

I enjoy raw kefir—pasture fed, naturally vanilla flavored. Just a swig now and then throughout the day. You can feel the vitality surge through you. It basically tastes like a milkshake. Even better than the proverbial handful of almonds to sub for stress eating. What’s not to like?

-James Poulos

Share American Mindset

You really need to inculcate the fact that you no longer have any privacy. Period. Everything you type or search, on phone or computer, everywhere you walk, every purchase you make, and increasingly each of your conversations, is being recorded and stored. In perpetuity. This is not an exaggeration, it's a fact. So, try your best to keep your digital footprint as shallow as possible. If you are not on Twitter, don't join. (I try and quit from time to time, but am unable.) Never join or, to the extent possible, allow your children to join, Facebook or TikTok. If your wife is given over to posting your children's pictures on Instagram, tell her to stop, or at least make it private. Try, above all, to carve some little privacy out for yourself. Read a solid (not Kindle) book, get in your head, and explore. It's safe there ... for now.

-David Bahr

One thing that always makes me very suspicious of workout tips is when they are framed as the secret knowledge that you must have in order to get swol, or cut, or whatever, without which you are just a miserable chump flailing helplessly about in a way that will never get you results. 

I exaggerate, but only slightly. There’s a version of lifting culture that consist mainly of saying things like “nah bro that’s garbage, you can’t do it that way or you’ll never get [insert result here].” I have actually had people say things like this to me immediately after telling me I’m looking good and asking me how I got where I am. Seriously. The conversation goes like, “what’d you do to get those big traps?” “Well I do shrugs with a pretty light weight to failure and then—” “DUDE you’re an idiot no that’ll never get you big traps.” I—hm. 

Let me propose a potentially revealing reason why this mode of fitness advice is quite successful. It plays on people’s suspicion that there exists some secret knowledge, the lack of which explains their current dissatisfaction with their physique, or energy levels, or relationship status, to date. Even if we know better, we secretly hope we will soon be inducted into the Hall of Secrets where sits, framed perhaps in gold and written on parchment, the Recipe for Success.  

But much as in the Scroll of Truth meme, if we ever found such a document it would likely contain quite pedestrian knowledge we don’t particularly want to hear: eat more calories to get big, eat fewer to get cut, wake up early, get good sleep, work out every day for at least six months before you look back and expect to see results.  

And, also as in the meme, your elaborate quest for the Secret Scroll is likely a coping mechanism you have been using to keep from facing those basic truths, which in your heart you already know. After you get those basics down, there’s actually a fair bit of latitude in how you structure a lifestyle that’ll get you where you want to go.  

Which is not to say that everything works equally well: I wouldn’t be writing this Friday workout tips column if I didn’t think there were some things that worked better than others. But it does mean that one of my tips is this: be wary of dudebros who treat this like a science, with hard-and-fast rules you can’t break on pain of becoming a foolhardy, contemptible failure. Like so many things, lifting is something we want to treat as a science that isn’t: it’s an art.  

Besides which, learning to shrug it off when someone disdains you for behaving “unscientifically” is itself one of life’s great skills these days. Mastering it will be just as good for your health, mental and physical, as anything else I’ll tell you to do.

-Spencer Klavan