babysittingTime is precious. As far as we know, we live, then we die. Maybe there’s something afterwards; maybe not. Either way, we don’t get to be us again. We can’t go back to being two years younger, or not knowing something that scares us once we’ve learned it. Life is a rare commodity.

And yet, most people can’t stop wasting it. I don’t mean the kind of loafing where you look back on an afternoon or a weekend and think, What did I do? in a haze of laziness, but I mean that they need to be constantly occupied. People no longer have an internal narrative. They need constant distraction or they feel empty and lost.

What it amounts to is babysitting. You go to school all day, where they dole out knowledge in spoonfuls; whoever writes it all down, and then writes all of it down again on the test, wins. You could learn it in a lot less time. But then what would you do all day?

Your parents would have to stop working early or only one of them could work. That means less money; frown on the parents’ faces. Most people can’t invent things to do, so you’d probably commit mischief or crimes or get abducted into a child slavery sex ring. Governments would fall.

It’s the same way with jobs. Some people have real jobs, like doctors, police, firefights. Even if they spend a lot of their time waiting, they have to perform and get it right. Most jobs however are redundant. You are doing the work of 1/5 of a person, and spending a lot of time in meetings.

Why not go home early instead? The babysitting would be over. You would be in your cold apartment, trying to invent something to do. And again most people can’t do that. They can’t do that because they don’t have an internal narrative. They aren’t driven to accomplish something; they serve their own pleasures and beyond that, do nothing.

I heard about a man who invented an ultra-efficient shop. You could breeze in, pick your selection quickly from a logical arrangement, and then checkout with a wave and be done. He went bankrupt. People don’t shop because they need things, but because they need something to do. More babysitting is required.

When they’re at home, people don’t invent either. They can follow instructions in magazines and make things, or imitate something their friends did. They can play video games. Sometimes they go on the internet, and repeat things they’ve seen on TV or that other friends have told them.

Babysitting fills our time. It makes us uneasy, because we’re aware that this time is departing like water down a bathtub drain. And yet, few of us know what to do with ourselves. We don’t want to give our time to society, because that would require a common standard and that would restrict our freedom.

So it’s off to the bar. We like to be free, and we’re doing exactly what we want to. Which is… uh… well, couldn’t figure it out, so it’s the same stuff as usual. Have some beers, let conversation guide your mind, go home when you can’t walk or everyone else is gone.

In the name of freedom, we have emptied our souls. We have emptied them of direction, and so as to not feel bad about that, we have emptied them of honest enjoyment. Instead we babysit ourselves, by drawing out every activity to fill our time so we don’t feel empty. But even that doesn’t work.

The reason that emptying our souls has failed us is that the question isn’t filling our time; it’s dedicating our time. Every day is a trade with death. When we trade for something good, our souls fill up with enjoyment, and we remember our preferences. Every day we dedicate only to our pleasures is a day in slavery.

This doesn’t seem intuitive. In fact, it would seem to be the reverse: enjoy life, live for yourself and only yourself. But it turns out that we are not islands and we need to feel a sense of purpose. That can only come from bonding with our world, coming to love it as ourselves, and acting on it to make our mark, however small.

13 Responses to “Babysitting”

  1. EvilBuzzard says:

    “In the name of freedom, we have emptied our souls. ”

    Nailed it! Bravo.

  2. Owl says:

    Whether or not it’s even in the name of freedom, you sure have it nailed with how pointless most peoples’ little lives are.

    When I was about 13 I sat bolt upright in bed one day and said to myself, “holy s**t, I’m actually going to die someday!” My little autist brain was constantly crunching numbers on autopilot even in my sleep, and it suddenly and horrifyingly decided of its own volition to calculate for me the percentage of my reasonable lifespan I had expended to date.

    From then on I had seen the death curve and just understood – 99% of what we do, sometimes 100% in the case of most idiots, will be crap we look back on from our deathbeds and wish we had replaced with something of meaning – something nobody told us to do, some big dream we invented for ourselves and chased just because it felt good, something that makes a good story, something to be truly proud of.

    It seems to me that the majority of people today consider success as simply not getting the short end of the stick. To them, success is what happens when you roll up to your driveway and your car is not the junker of the block, nor your house the hovel. Success to them is what happens when all of the people at the party/bar/club start talking about their jobs and theirs is NOT the lame childish underpaid gruntwork job of them all.

    Success to them is being average or better as determined by quantitatively comparing traits they ALL share.

    To me, success is about building traits nobody else has, nor could they have unless they were as fanatically dedicated to them as me.

    That’s why I listen to nobody for advice on what to do with my life: if I listened to them they’d just tell me to do what they do but “better.”

    I wish I could somehow communicate to people what it means to be an actual free person inside your own mind, but people either just seem to get it or they don’t – there doesn’t seem to be a lot I can do.

    Thank you, Brett Stevens, for thinking about life to the extent you have and then taking the time to write it down. I guess it has meant a lot to me over the years to be able to come to this place and read these articles and know that I’m not the only person who realizes this or notices that.

    Simply having that… uh… reciprocity of thought, if you could call it that, has made this site more of a feature in my mind than most of the rest of the internet. I can honestly say that when I am old and dying, I will look back on reading this website and probably congratulate myself at least a little bit for taking the time to think as hard about life as I did and read works by others who do the same.

    • crow says:

      Haha :)
      Definitely Comment Of The Month!

    • Eric says:

      I agree, a good comment. I come here and read once and a while myself, often when I am looking for some rationality in things. I don’t agree with everything, but then again I don’t always know what I believe anyway. But I did know I am looking for greater truths in things, or at the very least trying to figure out what it means to be a stand-up individual within the context of the modern world. Turns out you really have to wake up and think for yourself, because there are a lot of lies being sold, and a lot of stuff that might seem cool in the short-term, but a big fail in the long-term. Anyway, the fact that people are thinking and talking about it is a great catalyst for one to practice and engage one’s own faculties for critical thought and observation. And ideas build upon ideas, and ideas are things that can be shared freely. I guess that is about it.

    • RiverC says:

      One of the constant, old, but forgotten Christian practices is ‘the remembrance of death’. It is not a practice which was reasoned into, but seems to come out of those moments when you glimpse your death and get a real idea of what your life is in the span between the now and the then; it is if you will an atemporal moment, and one when you are forced to look at material things as passing at least for you, and to reconsider all of them and even your own achievements in that light. Practicing bringing yourself back to that place has a profound effect on attachment; it kills all pointless and sick attachments like Weed-Ex.

      On my poetry blog it’s one of the flipping handbook quotes:

      “Wherever you go, always keep death before your eyes.”

    • Justin says:

      I’ve written of that sort of “Oh bugger, I’m going to die one day” phenomenon. I call it the Epiphany:

      “It is the realization that one day you will pass away from the world, that the organic vessel your mind occupies is decaying through time and space.”

      I think it takes a certain level of introspective ability to recognize one’s mortality at a young age. That’s why there are so many people running around like headless chickens.

      “To them, success is what happens when you roll up to your driveway and your car is not the junker of the block, nor your house the hovel.”

      Exactly. I think that’s why the Epiphany is so essential, because it clears away all misconceptions related to “success” or “wealth” and so forth. To me, it is one of the most important spiritual experiences. Bravo, Mr. Owl!

      • Ted Swanson says:

        I say if and when you’re a father, you have to make it clear to your children, in no uncertain terms, that on any given day you or their mother could die. When I say “you” I mean yourself, the father. Obviously you don’t tell the children that they may die tomorrow. But by extension, this gets the ball rolling in the child’s head about their own mortality.

        I remember distinctly my dad telling me essentially this. I was probably like 5 or 6. It was in the general context of a sort of religious/this-is-how-life-works discussion. He basically just said: ‘God could take me or your mother on any given day, even tomorrow. That’s how things work.’ I applaud him for it. Kids are actually really resilient when they’re that young.

  3. Sageor says:

    Well you know the problem with this is that pointing out babysitting is just another form of babysitting. I am not being overly critical. I just figure perhaps there is another way out – through. Perhaps all of this internet stuff finally lets people experience what they were denied by traditional media. The ability to express themselves “publicly”! So there is a transitional period were they flounder around in the immensity of it all: Facebook, The Early Years. But then they gradually begin to find meaningful things to do with their time that are based upon their own interests. They weren’t simply handed them on high. And if this pattern of socialization extends outward analogously to other areas of life before some evil force merely takes over the world then perhaps we all have a chance.

  4. Stratovarius says:

    Lawrence Auster is one of those rare Jews (Paul Gottfried is another) who seems to have an appreciation for the traditional people and culture of America and shares Brett Stevens concept of “Amerika”, only he calls it America 2.0.

    “We could look at the problem this way. The great majority of Jews are extremely liberal and will remain so, but a large number of white gentiles (perhaps a majority) are also liberal and will remain so. To put the point differently, a large majority of Jews do not identify with or support the white race, but a large majority of white gentiles also do not identify with or support the white race.”

    […] “of a reborn America, named by me America 3.0, that will have separated from liberal America, America 2.0, which has now definitively destroyed and replaced the original America, America 1.0.”



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