Love is a Limited Resource.

It seems to be assumed by many that because we can feel love infinitely, we can also give love infinitely. In principle, the idea that love (the feeling) is infinite is not all that harmful. But love is not a feeling. Love is a verb, an action. You can claim to love someone even when you do not support it with your actions, and everyone will agree that is not love. Therefore, in reality, love is the act of loving, not the act of feeling love. And the act of loving is a limited resource.

This is evidenced by people who claim to love infinitely.

Parents of many children claim to love every child, but eventually hit a point where their children are suffering the compression of their homes and their days.

Radical vegans claim to love all animals and to wish harm on none, but will cause another human vast amounts of pain for not agreeing with them.

Animal hoarders claim to love every animal they own whilst simultaneously making all of them ill and even killing some of them.

Polygamous people claim to love many sexual and romantic partners “the same”, but will readily reduce their exposure to all their partners to accommodate a new love.

Hippie types claim to love all people, but will distance themselves from people who are violent, the very people who would most benefit from their world view.

Humans simply cannot love infinitely. Our love is a limited resource. Why? Because the ways in which we show love are physically restricted.

Time.

Our time is limited. If we have six hours a day to dedicate to socializing, then every person we add to that list reduces our ability to socialize with the others. There is a reason we value having a few close friends over hundreds of distant ones. It is simply easier to love and be loved by someone you see and talk to for an hour a day than by someone you see and talk to for an hour a month.

Resources.

We show our love also by sharing resources with others. Whether it’s taking someone out for a fancy meal or simply feeding our children the bare basics they need to survive, the more mouths we add to our list to feed, the less we can feed each of them. Whatever you offer someone as a token of love, every person you add breaks it in half.

Energy.

And we also only have so much energy to invest in people. Maybe we do have six hours a day to dedicate to socializing. But that also involves the energy expense of moving to see people, engaging in actions and, for introverts, just putting on our social faces. The more people you deal with, the less energy you have to deal with each of them. So you could theoretically throw a party every night and socialize with a hundred and fifty people per night. But it will drain you.

Quite simply, we have so much to give. And we need to be aware of that. Otherwise we end up in a family of fifty with nothing to eat, or hurting a friend to prove we love an animal, or adopting three cats into a deadly environment, or seeing our partners rarely to keep face with other partners, or pushing away people who need our help to encourage good feels.

Our resources are limited. We cannot love everyone. Instead, we need to allocate some of our love to everyone of value in our lives and prioritize who gets the most of what we have to give. Otherwise we end up with nothing left to give and nobody to give it to.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

 

For help starting out homemaking, check out The ESSENTIAL Beginner Homemaker’s Guide. For help budgeting all your everday and not-so-everyday essentials, from food to transport to clothes, check out On A Budget: The good homemaker’s guide to economizing.
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How To… economize language and not express neediness.

A common feature of modern human speech is obvious neediness. Perhaps because of the pervasive culture of offense we live in, perhaps because of the steady insecurity that comes with editing and revising emails and comments online, perhaps it’s simply because we communicate more and feel more and more intimidated by the people around us.

Whatever the reason, most people communicate in a way that is needy, insecure and desperate for approval. And this isn’t healthy. We shouldn’t always speak and write as though the audience could sentence us to death.

1: Start with the basics.

Don’t try and build up or lead up to everything you say. Don’t pad it. Consider the difference:

“I am sorry to bother you right now and I know you’re busy and I don’t know if you can help. But I just wanted to ask whether you had a few minutes to help me move the bookshelf so I can clean and repaint the wall behind. I don’t want to be a bother but it really needs doing and the shelf is so heavy. I won’t need you to move it back, I can walk it in myself, but I’m scared of it tipping when I move it out.”

“I know you’re busy, but if you have a minute today could you help me move the bookshelf so I can get behind it. I can move it back on my own. Thanks.”

Which one is clearer about your intent? Which one is more likely to be listened to? Which one would make you an uncomfortable recipient? Which one makes you sound whiny and needy?

2: Identify the basics.

If you don’t know what the basics are, ask the following questions:

Who? The friend and you.

What? Move the shelf.

When? Today.

How long? A few minutes.

Why? So you can clean behind it.

All other details are irrelevant. Likewise for any other situation. Don’t say more than you need to be clear and concise.

3: Extra information.

Sometimes a situation is emotional or a person is involved and they would like to know more about it.

If the situation is an emotional one, then add an acknowledgement of their feelings or a mention of yours. You still don’t need to go on about it, justify your feelings or anything of the sort. Just explain as simply as possible and leave it at that. Compare:

“I’m so sorry and I’m sure you’re angry at me and I wish you weren’t. There isn’t anything I can do and I don’t want this to come between us or hurt you. Please forgive me.”

“I know you’re angry, and I’m sorry. Please forgive me.”

If the situation is one where they’re very involved they may want more details. But even so, these details only need to be mentioned, not explored and repeated. Compare:

“I was thinking we should repaint the walls in green, the same as the kitchen, we have a bucket left and everything should go with it. But perhaps blue would work as well, only the curtains don’t quite match. What do you think?”

“I’m torn between the green we used in the kitchen and a blue. We still have some green. What do you think?”

Even when elaborating or emoting, you can be clear and concise and eliminate neediness or anxiety.

4: Wait for questions.

If anyone wants more details, generally they will ask. Offloading everything you know about something won’t give them the information they need, it will just confuse them and make you seem nervous, needy and insecure. Compare:

“Sorry I’m late, but I ran into Sam. We got caught up talking about the elections and our favourite show. Apparently the show will be very good this season and I’m really looking forward to it, if you can let me have the TV to myself on Sunday. We just stood there and talked and before I knew it we had been there for two hours. I tried to leave but Sam just kept talking so I stayed a bit longer.”

“Sorry I’m late, I ran into Sam and we had a chat. By the way, my favourite show is back on Sunday and I’d like the TV to myself if possible.”

Then, perhaps the person you’re apologizing to will question the three or more hours you were missing. And you can explain after that “I got caught up, I noticed after two hours but it was hard to leave.” But preempting someone’s questions could annoy them and leave them without the information they actually want.

5: Emotions and offense.

A big reason why we overwork our words is because we want to elicit or prevent a specific response. And we get so caught up in it that, even when it would have been possible, we can make it worse.

The first step to tackling this problem is to acknowledge that emotions are unreasonable and therefore, no matter how much information or of your own emotions you throw at them, some people will feel differently, some people will be offended and some people will overreact. Nothing you do will ever stop someone from feeling.

However, when someone is open to change and reason, often a little goes a long way.

Don’t assume you know exactly what they’re feeling. Ask.

Don’t try and argue against their emotions.

Don’t get caught up in a battle over who got offended or hurt.

Compare:

“Person1: I am angry that you said that.

Person2: You can’t be angry. That’s not at all justified. What is there to be angry about? I’m unhappy, but there’s no reason to be angry.”

“Person1: I am angry that you said that.

Person2: There’s no reason to feel that way.

Person1: Well I do and it’s your fault.

Person2: How is it my fault?”

“Person1: I am angry that you said that.

Person2: That’s how you feel. That’s fine but it doesn’t concern me.”

In all three cases person1 is looking for a response and person2 feels that the anger is over the top and an apology isn’t warranted. However only in the third example does person2 achieve what they want: end the conversation having made their side clear.

6: Stop yourself.

When you catch yourself getting caught in an argument, going on and on or expanding on something endlessly, you need to stop.

Stop talking. Take a deep breath. Think of the most concise way to sum up your point and finish on a summary. You don’t need to finish the ramble first!

7: Move on.

Sometimes a remark may fall awkwardly, or something may need justifying. If you’re making yourself uncomfortable and trying to talk your way out of awkwardness, don’t carry on, just stop and change the subject.

Awkwardness only gets worse the more you speak or justify. By stopping you make the moment less memorable and by moving on you can make yourself comfortable again.

8: Use plain words.

People use all sorts of euphemisms and fancy terms when they feel they are in society that’s too polite for common language.

But every layer of higher language, euphemisms and extra description you add makes it harder for you to be understood, meaning you need to talk more to explain what you were saying. Being vague when giving commands isn’t the same as delegating. Compare:

“Would you let the dog out through the conservatory into the small garden for a moment?”

“Please let the dog out in the back garden.”

“I need something starchy and sweet, some greens to go with it and please be back before five or we won’t have anything to eat.”

“Bring sweet potatoes, some greens and be back before five for dinner.”

You don’t need to use complicated language, euphemisms or vagueness to make yourself sound more distinguished.

9: Think rather than feel.

This starts just as how you express yourself. Thoughts and statements need less justification than feelings and opinions. So swap…

“I feel…” for “I think…”

“In my opinion…” for “I find…”

“I believe…” for “As far as I’m aware…”

Essentially, step everything up in terms of certainty and clarity. Communicate what you know and understand above what you feel.

After a while you will also start thinking in terms of what is certain and clear, rather than in terms of what you feel and sense. By doing this you make your communication clearer.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with explaining… when asked, feeling… when it doesn’t run your mind, or expanding… when the information is necessary.

But if you can economize your language just a little bit and make yourself just a bit clearer, more secure and more decisive, then you will come across as more secure, more confident, more reliable and more sensible.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

Why Do We Connect To “Things”?

In a world of abundance, it’s only rational to consider that people will want to have things. Humans are meant to accumulate, exchange and use resources, be they consumables, usables, culture or consumable replacements such as money.

But we also see an interesting phenomenon in the Western world that is not quite as strongly reflected anywhere else. We see an extreme attachment to physical objects that don’t have a specific use or job. And, because we have so many things, this attachment can happen in five, ten, a hundred objects. On a simple level, almost everyone has an item they feel attached to, such as a simple wedding band or a tatty childhood toy. In extreme cases we see problem hoarders: people who accumulate things everyone else would consider rubbish to an extent where their homes are full and their lives are impossible, but who can’t bear the thought of parting with it. Often we see a deeper attachment to these things than the person feels for unknown humans. Sometimes the person will feel better about driving away a loved one than parting with their things.

But why does this happen?

As mentioned above, there are only four purposes for something in a human’s life:

1: Consumables. Things you need to use to survive that cannot be reused or recycled. Water, food are the basics. Firewood, underwear and deodorant are less obvious consumables.

2: Usables. Similar to consumables except they are not quite as degraded by use and are often not absolute essentials. Houses, machines or phones come to mind.

3: Consumable replacements. Bartering chips we use to obtain consumables and usables. The main one today is money in physical and digital form.

4: Culture. Something that serves no utilitarian purpose, but provides entertainment, satisfaction and a bonding opportunity with the individual’s social group.

When we consider what these things often are, we realize they are not consumables, replacements or usables. They may have started out that way, such as a favourite jumper, a childhood toy or a phone, but they have been elevated beyond that. The jumper isn’t worn for warmth, the toy isn’t played with and the phone isn’t used only practically. They aren’t anything practical, they’re “just things”. These things must, therefore, be cultural.

However they aren’t cultural in the traditional sense. Art is culture, ceremony is culture, fashion is culture. These are things shared by groups of people. They are understood and appreciated. They have a shared meaning, shared rules, shared boundaries.

The things people become attached to don’t have that shared meaning. Nobody will know or understand why your toy cat is so special to you until you explain its history, its meaning to you. Even then they may not understand. Your phone does not bond you to people. At best it creates a weak association-by-trend between you and users of similar phones or brands. At worst it serves as a divider between you and the people you most often interact with.

So they aren’t culture. They are culture surrogates.

In societies where they still have faith, tradition, arts and a life rich with meaning, they rarely need such items. Parents will hand their last remaining childhood toy to their own children, knowing it might be torn apart. Children will more likely treasure an item with a shared meaning than a personal one. After all, this is how culture is born.

But our society rejects culture. We actively fight it. We seek to understand a little bit of every culture around us and embrace none of them.

So we have branded “things” as surrogates for religion. They help us bond, find new people, find some sort of a meaning to life.

We have childhood “things” as surrogates for memory and family. They help us remember pleasant times, feel loved, feel worthy.

We have nonsensical “things” as surrogates for art. They make us feel individual, unique, eclectic and special.

We keep all these things around us. When we are lacking associates we find a new brand to associate ourselves with. When we are lacking memory or love we find a new trinket to hold some memories in. When we are lacking individuality, artistic appreciation or visual stimulus and pleasure we find a new random item to put in our room to collect dust.

And I guess having a few of these things is just natural. We’re human, after all, so a family heirloom or a painting that actually resonates with us will elicit strong emotions of joy, belonging, satisfaction and meaning. But do we really need quite so many of them?

What about you? What “things” do you have in your home? Are you a clutter bug or a minimalist? Do you find yourself attaching meaning to objects easily? Or do you have one or two things you need in your life and everything else is disposable? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!