We, the Cosmic Clan, live a fairly typical middle-class American life. The main non-mainstream thing about our life is that we live in a small mountain town with a fairly large lot that is mostly wild and has lots and lots of pine, fir and aspen trees. But that’s not a major distinction for the purposes of this post.
We “own” our house. In our case that means we’ve paid about half of the value of the house on a variety of refinanced mortgages, but in the “seek the American dream” sense, We are “home owners”.
We own three working cars of varying vintage, but all in servicable shape capable, if necessary, of taking us anywhere in the country on a moment’s notice.
We have closets, bags, boxes and a garage full of clothes. We have enough clothes to clothe a literal army, if the army was made of mostly children of varying sizes. But we have plenty of adult clothes too. In fact one of our frequent struggles is how to decide what to keep and what to throw out, donate to charity or sell at a garage sale.
We’ve got five TVs. Two of them are large hi-def LCD models (although admittedly one is out for repairs at the moment). We have a live satellite connection to receive literally hundreds of available programs ranging from 24 hour comedy channels to live feeds from our government’s active legislative chambers.
We’ve got over a dozen radios, four of which are dedicated to the prospect of waking each individual member of the house according to their needs or whims. All of them have “snooze” buttons if we really would rather lie in bed another ten or fifteen minutes than get up when we thought we wanted to the night before.
Every member of the house has private space to retire to when needed, although Mr. and Mrs. Cosmic do technically share bedroom and office, Mr. Cosmic tends to retire to the home office, while Mrs. Cosmic tends to retire to the bedroom for privacy.
We have toys of every shape, size and cost. Toys include such universally unnecessary things as ice cream makers, musical instruments, games, sports equipment, camping gear… Mr. Cosmic no doubt has the most expensive toys, and Mrs. Cosmic probably has the fewest, while the Cosmic “children” have by far the most extensive collections of toys. In fact our toys are overrunning the house and have flooded into the garage where we are struggling to categorize and properly dispose of no longer used toys.
We have leisure time. We probably should have less leisure time than we do have, but that’s mostly a reflection on our tendency to “boom and bust” house maintenance. That’s a lifestlye choice, not an economic one.
We go out. Not every week, but probably about once per week on average. We watch movies, eat at restaurants, go to shows, on occasion we take in professional sporting contests in fancy stadiums watching players compete on lavishly maintained and exquisitely manicured playing fields.
We shop. On a typical week we visit over a dozen individual retail establishments, not counting restaurants. It’s a rare week that we aren’t in the local grocery store, three or four “big box” retail stores, specialized clothing stores, or wandering around a local mall where we can sample dozens of individual shops on a whim. All of these retail establishments are virtually overflowing with goods, whether it’s basic food items or high-end fashionable clothes or electronics.
We have open access to the world’s largest and most powerful communications environment. Our family includes among its friends and acquaintances people living on four continents. Geographical limitations are almost inconsequential due to the wonders of modern electronic communication. And other than a small monthly access charge, this communication is free.
If an event or destination is too far to conveniently drive one of the three Cosmic Cars, then a quick trip to a local airport provides us with the ability to literally fly to any destination within reason within hours of boarding the airplane. If desired we could plan a trip where we fly a thousand miles, then board a luxurious ocean liner and “sail” for days or weeks to exotic foreign ports.
My job requires virtually no physical labor. I am allowed to work from home on virtually any pretext. If I am having a new TV delivered and need to be there for the UPS truck, that is not a problem. If I am not feeling like driving in due to weather or just feeling a bit under the weather, that is also no problem. My company has specific rules protecting me from harassment of any sort. They go out of their way to publish hot lines and web pages that provide resources to report and correct any unprofessional behavior.
In fact in every meaningful way, we live a life that would have struck our ancestors of just a few generations ago as being unimaginably rich and fruitful.
And we are about average for a typical American suburban lifestyle in just about every meaningful way. Except that we don’t have air conditioning.
And yet survey after survey indicates that Americans are far from content with their lives.
Is it possible that human beings are simply incapable of being content? What else could a human family possibly hope for, in terms of material goods, freedom to roam, ability to participate in events…. etc?
A thousand years ago lives like ours were considered to be the lifestyles of literal gods. The Olympians themselves had less wealth and luxury at their disposal than the average American suburban family.
What sort of ingrates are we?