Being the Branding Adonis I strive to be is not an easy pursuit. Attempting to stay physically and mentally prime is, like everything else in my life, a question of efficiencies. It's not enough, for example, that I jump on the elliptical machine at the gym for the cardiovascular benefits. No, twenty-five minutes of pedal pumping while staring into space seems a gargantuan waste of time when I could be making better use of it. Piping music into my head doesn't seem to fill the mental void, either, which is why my favorite means of simultaneous sensory stimulation is watching TED videos.
TED, for the uninitiated, is an acronym for Technology, Education and Design. The organization sponsors events at which various people in various fields give short talks that are designed to broaden your mind with new approaches to various issues. The talks are supposed to be smart, cutting edge and somewhat inspirational. Most of them are; some of them are not. Watching a a 3D printer create a human organ was fascinating, but honestly, listening to yet another third world human rights advocate or an environmental doomsayer whine for 20 minutes gets pretty numbing after the 124th time. I tend to skip those.
There was one speaker, however, that captured both my attention and my horror, compelling me to notice a huge, dark cloud sweeping over humanity. And the worst part is that his message was greeted with fanfare and applause.
It doesn't matter what his name is, and frankly, I've forgotten it. But his presentation was as clear as it was disturbing. In twenty minutes, he proudly described how he, a native New Yorker, had managed to reduce his footprint down to a ridiculously small size. He lived in a 200 square foot apartment, where every piece of furniture folded into -- or out of -- something else. The coffee table morphed into a dining table. The bed stowed into the wall. All the chairs stacked into a tower. And everything was small. I mean, really small. There was a microscopic closet for his downsized wardrobe. There were no display cabinets because he had no stuff to display -- there was no room. Everything that wasn't absolutely necessary for survival had not only been downsized, but eliminated.
At the end of his talk, the young man proudly puffed with pride, wagging his finger at the audience with his pseudo-wisdom, "Now, if everyone could reduce his footprint, there would be enough resources for generations to come. You just have to make the effort."
I was, in a word, horror-struck. Make the effort? To marginalize myself and live like a hamster in a cardboard box? Is this the sorry state to which human existence has been reduced?
The audience rose to its feet, applauding what had to have been the most depressing, idiotic proposal I'd heard in years. There's no pride to be had in downsizing. In fact, it runs counter to the human sprit. "Go forth and multiply" isn't some random commandment; it's an encapsulation of the innate urge we share to build things up and make things better. No matter how dull you may think they are, humans have an inner drive to expand their vision, not limit or reduce it. That's why people get depressed when they walk into their dark, cramped, tiny one room apartments, but smile joyfully and breathe deeply when they stand before the Grand Canyon. Whether we're exploring vast tracts of land, the depths of the oceans, the far reaches of outer space or even the business marketplace, our natural impulse it to make it bigger, better and more rewarding.
We feel accomplished when we grow; we feel useless when we shrivel.
And here was this yutz was selling the exact opposite, justifying his own failure to achieve by hiding behind the convenience of a misapplied environmental agenda. If I were a conspiracy theorist, I'd swear there's a campaign sweeping the country, subtly encouraging people to be satisfied with less because less is all they're going to get.
There's a voice out there, assuring citizens that it's actually a good thing to marginalize yourself. It's good for the planet, they say.
Well, it might be good for the planet, but it sucks for you and me and everyone else who benefits from the rewards brought about by real accomplishment and true growth. As people descend into depression and low self-esteem, the voice quietly assures them: It's okay to be worthless. You were never going to amount to anything, anyway. It's cool. Here, numb your misery with Pandora. Forget about achieving anything. Make yourself feel better...buy this iWatch.
If you choose to live like a rodent in a cage, be my guest. As for me, I'm not buying into it. I'm sticking with the original plan. No amount of social pressure or faux agenda is going to sway me from pursuing a five bedroom home with a big green garden and big ass grand piano and a 65 inch plasma screen in the living room.
Oh, and the Cadillac DeVille? I'm keeping that, too.