Yesterday I listened to a podcast of Tim Ferriss interviewing Sam Harris. Even before I started listening, the subtitle of the blog annoyed me: Experiments in Lifestyle Design. So, while other people live, Tim ‘experiments in lifestyle design’. Jeez. His website has photos of him hanging upside down from a tree and doing head stands on the grass. So this is lifestyle design, huh? In the old days it was called ‘showing off’.
Then there was his way of speaking. Some modern Americans sound like they are very pleased with themselves, almost as if they think they are living out an episode of Friends. Tim’s laugh sounded artificial and premeditated to my already annoyed ears.
I’m sure that he would agree that losing one’s self-importance is a good thing. From the things he said during the interview I would say it was one of his main goals in life. Even so, I couldn’t help thinking that were he ever to actually go and live quietly in some obscure place, it wouldn’t be long before we were hearing just how wonderful the quiet life of Tim Ferris was. Daily updates on his blog would see to it that no one was able to forget him.
Neither can I imagine him fitting in to an already existing system and settling for being just another cog in a machine, though millions of people all over the world do this every day. I am convinced that Japanese salarymen feel in their bones how unexceptional they are, despite often being clever and having interesting views and personalities. This feeling of one’s own ordinariness is necessary to ditching your sense of self-importance, which surely must be more useful than losing your sense of self, which is what Tim and Sam are trying to do.
Tim seems to me to be an example of the kind of westerner who gets into meditation and drugs with the ostensible goal of gaining self-enlightenment and humility yet ends up even more self-infatuated than before. Most people could probably teach him a thing or two about feeling his ordinariness in his bones and dropping his obsession with his uniquely fascinating self and ‘lifestyle design’.
I would argue that doing your tiny bit for your local community in a forgotten corner of the globe is likely to give you a better perspective on your insignificance than is sitting cross-legged on your floor while attempting to lose your sense of self. Or asking someone to photograph you while you hang upside down from a tree.