I was looking up something on YouTube and found a Ted video (it happens to me a lot). It’s a talk about selling your stuff and following your dreams.
The author makes a lot of claims, so I thought we could look at the logic (or illogic) or them. Generally, I’m all for getting rid of your stuff (unless its books) and living your life free. Back around 2000 or so, I was working for the Cornell Computer Science Department, and I decided that I wanted to go to India to explore. So I sent every other check I made straight to my student loan bill until I paid it off (my repayment book went through 2040). Then I sold my truck, quit my job at Cornell, and spent five months living in India.
Is that a logical thing to do? Let’s look at some syllogisms:
Consider my freedom,
I’m not taking advantage of it,
Because I’m in debt.
True or false? Run the tests: Test #1: is there a connection between freedom and being in debt? I would say yes, having debt has implications on your freedom. Test #2: If you’re in debt, must it be the case that you are not taking advantage of the potential freedom you have? No, if you like the “script” (working, raising kids, living the American dream) then you would be taking advantage of the freedom you have, potentially by taking on debt.
Consider living my dream,
I must get rid of my debt,
Because I can’t live my dream with debt.
Test #1: You could argue that it’s not true you can’t live your dream with debt. I have a friend that just did a three-year meditation retreat still owing $40k on her student loans. It’s more stressful, sure, but it can be done. But even if you say that test #1 was true, then test #2 would be, “if you can’t live your dream with debt, must it be the case that you must get rid of your debt?” No, you can go on living without living your dream. Sounds sad, but anyway the syllogism fails.
Does that mean we should run around and run up a bunch of debt? I didn’t say that. I’ve posted on this subject before on my old blog, but what mental seeds do you plant by borrowing money and not paying it back? I always say, “I know a lot of Buddhists that wouldn’t steal, but they’ll borrow something and not give it back.” You tell me how that’s different.
Consider borrowing too much money,
I shouldn’t do it,
Because it will plant the mental seeds for stealing.
Run the tests: test #1, if I borrow too much money, am I planting the mental seeds for stealing? Yes, we just discussed it. At some point you will find difficulty paying the money back, in which case you’ll be stealing. Test #2: if I plant the mental seeds of stealing, must it be the case that I should’t do it? Yes, if you plant the mental seed for stealing then it must be the case that, at some point, you will not be able to get something you need.
But there’s another point Adam Baker makes: we buy things to get over the stress we make for ourselves by borrowing more money.
There are thousands and thousands of people out there living lives of quiet, screaming desperation who work long, hard hours, at jobs they hate, to enable them to buy things they don’t need to impress people they don’t like. (Nigel Marsh)
True or false?
Consider buying things,
I don’t need them,
Because ultimately they can’t make me happy.