This month’s guest blogger is Paul of Crazy Like Whoa (pictured left, carrying Pacific Ocean water), who you may also know as Paolo or Paolaccio from comments here on my blog.
Paul recently left behind his desk job in San Diego for a cross-country road trip, blog version here. Stops included the Grand Canyon, Roswell, Austin, N’awlins, Nashville, Baltimore and Baaaaaaaaston.
Paul’s America is not to be missed!
[I put that in bold and centered it, so it must be true.]
Paul and I have bonded over our southern Italian heritage, ties to Pennsylvania and views on American and Italian politics as well as other pressing issues like the social phenomenon that is the LOLcat movement.
For the record, I cant haz it.
Aw shucks, I feel like anything I say about Paul would be cliché (smart! funny! joy to read! witty banter! biting sarcasm to boot!) so I’ll just leave it at this: I cannot stress how much I recommend jumping on the bandwagon and seeing what The Crazy‘s got cooking.
Below is one of my all-time favorite posts of his, originally published here on June 8, 2008, a few weeks before his Coast to Coast adventure would begin. A huge, enormous thanks to Paul for allowing me to republish this, one of the most beautiful collection of words, thoughts and emotions I’ve ever read on the Internet or elsewhere:
The Pursuit of Happiness
A lot of friends and acquaintances have had the occasion to ask the perfectly reasonable question of why I wanted to give up a good home in a beautiful city on the Pacific — where I have nice friends and associates, a decent job which pays well, health insurance and all the trappings of middle class American existence — in favor of life on the road and an uncertain future.
(They usually don’t use highly caffeinated run-on sentences like the foregoing, but you get the idea.)
Part of it is for the same reason that dogs lick themselves (because I can!!), but the overarching reason why is very personal, and has to do with the quest I have been on since I was self-aware enough to think of such things: I want to live a good life and be happy.
That quest has taken me in a lot of different philosophical directions and to a lot of destinations on the Earth. I think of it as kind of a winding path that has trended in the same general direction. There was a period where I thought the key to a good life was self-knowledge and spiritual discipline. I studied Zen under a renowned master and practiced about as diligently as an attention-deficient Gen-Xer could.
Then, I spent a number of years of my life learning, so that I could earn a decent income – never as an end in itself, but what I saw as a necessary means to an end at a time when I was lurching from job to job in an island economy.
Then I entered a period of my life where I sought meaning in being a good partner and supportive boyfriend: again, not as the be-all and end-all, but as an important step I felt I needed to take.
It seems to me that a good life is lived by giving your gifts fully in the service of some greater good. Some people find that good in family: I see that as a noble and appropriate purpose, though one that will not be mine, for biological reasons at least.
Others find it in religion, or in a career. I have never been especially religious, though I would say that I am fairly intensely spiritual. And, as far as a career goes, it’s hard for me to imagine that I could find lasting satisfaction in a job, at least as the Anglo-American economy is presently constituted. I find the world of work far too reductively focused on abstracts like profit and productivity… and in any regard, the things I think of as valuable (equality, justice etc.) are not really market commodities.
This journey, for me, will be a time to break out of my routine so that I can meditate deeply on what my true gifts are. In addition, I intend to leave myself open to inspiration as to how I can give those gifts in a way that will help create the kind of world I want to see… or, in any case, somewhat slow the slide into barbarism and brutality that I see happening day by day.
I’m trying really hard not to pre-judge the outcome, though it’s not like I haven’t thought long and hard about these issues. I have the gift of communication – this makes itself manifest in my ability to speak multiple languages and also to explain complicated technical issues to others in an effective way.
I am widely-read and curious about the world, and history: I feel I have a pretty good understanding of this historic moment and the underlying trends — and this understanding is not limited by either an America-centric or a Eurocentric perspective.
And above all, I have a real desire for social justice and want to play some small part in creating a world that works for everybody.
It may be that I somehow find a job that pays me to harness my gifts in order to create social change on a massive scale. More likely, I will have to put the pieces together in a more ad-hoc way: a job that supports my values along with some sort of part-time occupation in organizing, speaking writing… who knows.
Jefferson declared the right not to happiness itself, but its pursuit. Aristotle held that a happy life could only be judged so after death; until then, as Solon admonished Croesus, a man could not be called happy, but merely fortunate.
I have been fortunate to have lived a life that has allowed me to learn a little about what brings lasting happiness. I am very fortunate to be in a position where I can actually act on some of the things I have learned.