Wednesday, March 4, 2009

How I spend my time

I've been spending my time lately in three activities: reading, watching t.v., surfing the internet. My reading includes a historical account of the forty year battle between Gandhi and Churchill regarding the independence of India; also, Confessions of a Shopaholic.

The story of Gandhi and Churchill describes a classical philosophical and political struggle between two great and sincere leaders. Churchill believed that the hope of the world lied in maintaining Britain's role as a world power; inevitably, he believed, the values of British civilization would lift the state of all humans on the planet. In his mind this could only be accomplished if Britain maintained a strong military presence; he wasn't shy about using force when required.

Gandhi believed that hope lied in the development of individual character, integrity, and personal responsibility. He felt that no political system or government should set the standards for all people; only if the British Empire gave up control would the world and India progress. Nothing could be gained through physical force or violence. Non-violent protest (Satyagraha) in the quest for freedom and truth was the most viable and reasonable course of action.

Both Gandhi and Churchill repeatedly failed in their attempts to implement their ideas, lived very difficult lives, and gained their status as true heroes only after they died.

In Confessions of a Shopaholic the hero views the goal of life as acquiring brand name merchandise and rewarding herself by purchasing everything from moisturizing cream to kitchen utensils to all kinds of useless junk. She gets herself into deep debt, creates tremendous stress for herself and her friends and family, and then finally triumphs by exposing an investment fraud. In the process she learns important lessons about honesty, humility, and self-confidence.

I'm not sure which of these books is more instructive or valuable. I suffer the same conundrum in my t.v. viewing. I spend part of my time watching Fox News, CNBC, the History Channel, and Wayne Dyer infomercials. In contrast to these intellectually stimulating educational shows, I watch: Tool Academy, Real Housewives of Orange County, Millionaire Matchmaker, and The City (a tremendous show). It's unclear which group depicts a more truthful picture of life in the twenty-first century, and mostly it's unclear which is a more productive use of my time.

Surfing the internet is equally confusing. In my search for truth I google. I read tremendous amounts of information. Just recently, I have spent time researching Aristotelian Ethics, The Multiverse, The Ottoman Empire, the Mustang Ranch. I also, out of curiousity, googled "the meaning of life"and found one hundred million sites. I spent a few hours going from one to another.

Finally, I play chess and poker for hours. I sometimes feel guilty about the amount of time I devote to playing (and mostly losing) games of skill. I easily rationalize my guilt, though, when I compare myself to Gandhi and Churchill and see how they spent their time.

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