Monday, October 17, 2016

thinking outside little boxes

Sometimes I wonder about the extent to which some things in American life, and Life In General, are unquantifiable, but some people still try to quantify them, because that's a way to be able to judge, or say, if Things are Good or Bad.

A recent poll quoted in a news story said Trump supporters' average income was $70,000 / year.  Now, is that a lot or a little, or pretty good or not enough?

What is enough?

What is good?

What is "successful"?

If a guy gets paid $70,000 a year, and lives in a town where the median income is $29,000, then he could be said to be "doing better" than most other people "in town."

If he moves into a different town where most of the people working outside the home are paid an average of $650,000 a year, does the $70,000 earner suddenly say, "Damn!  I'm -- like -- the poorest guy in town!"  Here he used to be "the top of the heap" -- (a phrase I don't like).  People do not live in "a heap."

OK, take -- a guy in a small town in the Midwest who has four  million dollars.  To many of us, Four Million Dollars sounds like a very large amount of money, it would be enough to retire on, if managed carefully, one would assume.

On the other hand, if the small Midwest town guy meets a Wall Street Dude from NYC who gets paid 31 million dollars per year, does Midwest Guy feel diminished by this?  Are his four million dollars "dwarfed" by the 31 million per year Manhattan Guy is getting?

"Don't compare yourself to other people," was advice one of my roommates in Boston quoted her mother as saying. 

It's good advice: like most good advice, it is both good to live by and impossible to live by, and possible...  everyone "compares themselves" at some time -- partly, that's how we learn norms and stay within them, or respect them, in order to be properly socialized. 

On the other hand, we don't have to do things just because A Lot Of Other People are doing them.

If the Midwest guy minds his own business and doesn't pay attention to Manhattan Guy and the 31 million dollars per year, then he can be happy with his flat four million.

And Manhattan Guy could look at Midwest-Four-Million and his bills, and say, "My gosh, look how much less he pays for auto insurance than I do!"

I wonder sometimes if having Enough Money, or a High Enough Annual Income is kind of like a spouse being Home Enough.  "You're never home!"  Anyone could say that to a husband or wife, and the person might be home as much as they are home - every night, every evening at 6, every weekend...  Whatever the "norm" is for those people and the careers they might have.

How does a person quantify these items?  How much money is enough?  How much is a lot?  How many hours a day of Being Home is enough for a husband?  For a wife?  According to the spouse...  Well, it might never be the right amount of Time At Home, if the criticizing spouse just wants to nag....


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