Why We’re So Unhappy

The other day I came across a brilliant parody article from the satirical site Newsthump, highlighting how hard a basic task like buying a vacuum cleaner has become in our society. The point is not necessarily that vacuum cleaners are difficult to buy, but how much more effort it seems we must spend on mundane tasks. An excerpt of the amusing piece is below.

David described the moment he knew he’d bitten off more than he could chew. He told us, “The first error I made was to do a Google search for ‘the best hoover’. This led me to learn that Hoover is a brand name, and not the name of the device.

“So, then I searched for ‘the best vacuum cleaner’, and I was overwhelmed by a mass of convoluted results that went on for literally hundreds of pages of search results.

“All I wanted was to find the most affordable vacuum cleaner with the best suction, but apparently that’s nigh on impossible.

“I searched, read and compared for weeks – some nights I’d stay awake until 3am, comparing reviews and watching videos on YouTube.

I’m sure most of us, except those who love the minutiae and specificity of household items and shopping for them, can relate to the collapse of patience, the onset of frustration, and the sheer banality that we find ourselves exerting active effort to participate in.

I think for many of us life is just a hamster wheel of banal issues. There are bright spots: jobs might be meaningful (though that is a luxury for most workers), family time is wonderful when spent well, and there’s nothing like a night out with mates. Yet the routine of life itself – paying the bills, commuting, cleaning the house, washing up – can often feel tedious, bewildering, and plain annoying and dispiriting, just like finding “the best vacuum cleaner.” The modern world has made the necessities of life a tedious serious of procedures, which are becoming more convoluted with the proliferation of different social media platforms online, with “targeted commercials,” and the 24-7 corporate advertising circus on TV. When people feel like their lives and conversations are dominated less by art, exploring happiness, and getting in touch with people, nature, and spirituality, and more by the rat race, office politics, material and financial obsessions, and status anxiety, they try to be even busier, to drown out that nagging voice…

It’s that uneasy, indescribable feeling that can only be papered over with yet more activity, yet more stock market chat, more materialism and more worldly distractions. We complain about being busy, but it’s actually when we have nothing to do that this uneasiness threatens to overwhelm us. Especially those of us who have filled our lives with lots of noise and pretty things.

Would that we had much more time to reflect, love, play, and make art than to spend endless hours looking for the perfect plane ticket, the most efficient vacuum, or the most popular headphones. We are consumers, but there is too much for us to consume. It’s as if we’ve been eating too much at a buffet for too long. We are stuffed with “stuff” and self-loathing and resentment of others. We need silence and space. We need sensual human touch, as in, physical reminders of the healing power of physical tenderness. We need spiritual counsel, a kind and wise ear, a friend who doesn’t run away from our neuroses. Such things are rarer than the best vacuum in the world.

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