What’s Obtained Too Easily, Is Valued Just as Cheaply

Irrational 8. While I was in high school, I was given a very important laminated quote.  It was given to me by one of the most influential teachers I have ever had and it’s a quote that I’ve carried in my wallet ever since (going on six plus years). The quote is as follows:

“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious that triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives everything its value.”

— Thomas Paine, 1776.

It was and is a very inspirational sentiment that has helped during my years in high school, college, and to this very day. There’s a notion that’s expressed here though that serves as one of the major themes spanning, Irrational Health. What’s obtained easily doesn’t carry as much value as something that’s obtained through trial and tribulation. It’s the struggle that makes an accomplishment so worth while. It’s knowing that you had to offer yourself up in every respect to a cause that makes the moment the cause is realized so great.

A symptom of Irrational Health is without a doubt a focus on what’s obtained easily most times. While many people see it as worthwhile to struggle for their professional future, every other segment of their lives tends to fall more towards the easily obtained. Why isn’t it that this concept transfers into the other parts of our lives anymore? That’s the question to ask. We already know that people who can delay gratification in life are much more likely to be successful. These are the people who can substitute the higher pleasures for the lower ones, the satisfactions that are short and fleeting. This understanding that we have of human psychology and philosophy runs directly parallel the concept of the struggle being correlated with the value of a success.

We live in times in which people are more concerned with the present day, what they did over the weekend, what they’re doing today, and what the following weekend will look like. I think that when you put together the themes we’ve talked about, such as independence, convenience, and lies, you come to see that people in the modern day can be very successful and at the same time be ill-at-rest because the grand value they want to see in certain parts of their lives just doesn’t exist. They have this feeling that there should be this great value there and they will even act like there is… and yet its the equivalent setting up a plastic tarp outside with an inflatable pool and insisting it’s a water park. It’s very bizarre because at times you might be the one person in a room who just doesn’t get it, but no one is going to speak up to set you straight. Why? Well, they might not want the stigma as being the first person to say something questionable, but I think that further no one is saying anything because they wouldn’t want someone to set them straight. They prefer to keep pretending. The point is you can set up a make shift water, obstacle course outside, but it’s still not going to be a water park. You can accept an expensive gift from someone, but you won’t value it as much as if you had worked for it yourself. You can add certain components to your life to make it whole, but it won’t be whole if it all came together too easily. You can jump out of an endeavour when it gets too difficult and you just don’t want to deal with it… or you can stay and struggle to eventually find yourself at the top of that mountain… to look back at the distance you’ve come and value that achievement for the struggle and not just the view, which would be all that someone would have if they simply got dropped off by helicopter.

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The Irrationality of Misplaced Value, Irrational Health 7

Getting back into our usual routine, I’d like to present the 7th major theme of Irrational Health, misplaced value. The concept of independence and the self was one of the first concepts I brought up when I started this book. It is key to understanding the problem of bringing to light, the problem that is the sickness of Irrational Health in our modern culture, particularly in the west. I’ve brought that differentiation between western and eastern cultures up before. I’d like to clarify that Irrational Health is not an argument for why we should be more the east. It’s simply a distinction. The focus that we have on the self has lead to massive obfuscation of what’s of value. Further, it’s my belief that this misplaced value throughout one’s early years, leads to a great deal of difficulty in the future and like many other things I’ve discussed it is quite possibly one of the main causes of mid-life crisis. 

If we were to take a survey of random sampling of people, we could very well predict before hand what the answers of most people would be when asked the question, “What is of the highest value to you?” What would those answers be? Well, people would say their family, their friends, their health, and their happiness. This is just to name of few of the usual suspects. You could very well argue differently. Here’s the catch. I don’t see anything wrong with these answers. So what’s the problem? Well, people say that these things are of value to them and yet, they don’t act in a way that actually values these things. Success is one thing that people value more than these other things as based by their actions. This is where the irrationality lies. Jobs are one of the things that people will in action value more than their family, their friends, and the many things that are of value to them, including their values. So the question if you value so many other things over a prospective job, then why would you sacrifice all of those things for that very job? We live in a society that is composed of individuals who are at the ready to hold their independent pursuits over the things that they say the value. Now you can make the argument that technology has eliminated in large part a lot of the constraints of distance, but as always a screen is never as good as the real thing. You might further say that when you’re young, it’s okay to pursue your life’s dreams even given a great deal of sacrifices, but like so many other irrationalities discussed here, there is always a limit, a line at which something has crossed over from truth into fiction.

Modern life often makes people feel like they’re a cog in a system, but I think that this feeling is also connected with what your actions say about what you value. If you embrace enough irrationalities, then it is easy to become someone who is fulfilling a function and living a life that lacks the kind of value that can give your life meaning… and further true happiness. Irrational Health does promote happiness whether that has come out or not. It just doesn’t support fabricated happiness. It doesn’t support the kind of happiness that comes easy or the course of action that bares the least resistance. If you truly value something or someone, then you should demonstrate that through your actions and if you don’t then you’re embracing the irrational. The value of money, commodities, and stocks are all numbers that change, but something a person truly values, never depreciates in value. Things that are fleeting shouldn’t be valued. Things that last should be. Misplaced value leads to fabricated happiness. Value placed and kept in the right places yields true happiness. From an investment standpoint, I would rather invest in the a sure thing then something of chance.