Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Endowing Future Me

For years I've been buying super interesting books - little-known great ones. I hope to read them someday. Also DVDs. And CDs. My coffers overflow with goodness, attained at considerable trouble and expense, all waiting to serve and delight Future Me.

My attention has lately shifted. Like many people, I mostly want to play with my iPhone and iPad. Unsurprisingly, the impulse has transferred. I queue great articles to read later in Instapaper. I queue great web sites to browse later in Pinboard. I download great apps I'll love to try someday.

None of this is mindless/compulsive hoarding. It's all treasure, hunted down with great care. But I rarely touch any of it. It's not for me; it's an endowment that will one day serve and delight Future Me.

At this point, I can hardly read, watch, or listen to a thing. I've built a trove, but where is this Future Me for whom I've been slaving all these years? When will he arrive to bask in all this goodness?


Anonymous said...

If it's useful to you on your ever quest for self improvement, that sort of thing falls under the modern definition of addiction (from wikipedia): "a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry."

You keep seeking the dose of pleasure you get from finding these things as that is easier and more reliable than the hypothetical pleasure you anticipate from the slog of reading them.

I mention it because many people think "I'm not addicted, I can stop any time" but that's not the test. The test is, do you stop, and do you find it a problem, to which your blogpost just answered "no" and "yes".

BTW there is an interesting parallel in your life, as seeking and finding is something you have always brought to the fore.

Jim Leff said...

"You keep seeking the dose of pleasure you get from finding these things"

No, it doesn't seem to stem from my pleasure-seeking centers. It's more from my compassionate/helping impulse. Like saving for retirement, I feel like I'm doing a good deed for someone else: future me (which is why I used that construction).

And it's true. Every single one of these things would give intense pleasure to future me. It wouldn't feel like a slog to read the books or watch the DVDs, it would be pure pleasure. Really, I'm absolutely ace at knowing his taste!

The dysfunction is not in the accumulation (which I should stress is not out of control; I have modest libraries of this stuff, it's not taking over my life and space). The The dysfunction is in my laziness re: the partaking. The accumulation only starts to look dysfunctional when viewed in light of the realization (which is only just starting to dawn on me) that the recipient of my generosity is a lazy-assed jaded ingrate. So, really, I should stop getting him stuff.

Yet, hope springs eternal!

Anonymous said...

It's at your discretion, you could easily choose to do something else, yet you choose to do it over all else... that's what I mean when I say pleasure, the satisfaction you get.

Some people get pleasure from spending with no thought to the future, while for others a sense planning and securing feeds a need.

I'm not going to try to talk you into it, just pointing out that what you are talking about is what I'm talking about.

Jim Leff said...

"a sense planning and securing feeds a need."

....or is simply good judgement. Saving and building resources for future use is deemed by most people to be a healthy, worthy undertaking. Conscientious and prudent, not addictive or "pleasurable" in its own right.

Again, my living space isn't stacked to the rafters. There's nothing obsessive, no dysfunction. The gathering and saving are prudent and reasonable. The dysfunction and disconnect lies in the non-appearance of the fellow who's supposed to enjoy it. He's the problem.

If I prudently save 10% of every paycheck so that I can have a comfortable retirement, but, at age 70, choose to live in a hole in the ground and catch mice for supper in spite of a well-padded bank account, would you say the saving represented addictive behavior, or brought pleasure at the time?

I think most people would deem that crazy talk. And for someone who loves books, films, music, and other high quality sources of insight and pleasure, these gifts-to--future-me are akin to money in the bank. If he chooses to shun it, that's disappointing and irrational. But there's certainly nothing irrational or addictive in the gathering, and it's amply clear the pleasure is deferred (and, ultimately, pointless).

If you're coming from an academic economic perspective that everyone operates moment-by-moment to maximize her/his pleasure, well, godspeed with that, but IMO that truism doesn't shoehorn in here....or into many other real-world situations.

Anonymous said...

actually, "endowing future me" is the academic economics perspective.

I was coming from a psychological perspective, but I failed to follow one of the smartest rules I've learned: I forgot to talk to the mask ;)


Jim Leff said...

Hmm. My article about talking to the mask ( http://jimleff.blogspot.com/2008/08/always-talk-to-mask.html ) described an unpleasantly deluded type of person who pretends so forecefully to be someone they're not that they come to believe the lie...and expect everyone else to do likewise, in spite of all evidence to the contrary.

But I don't see the connection. I thought I was speaking with you quite directly and earnestly, and can't imagine what my hidden agenda might have been. I have not, it's true, been agreeing with you. But isn't disagreement acceptable?

Anonymous said...

I didn't mean it in that sense, I meant it in the sense that in some ways we can never see ourselves as clearly as other people can, as in, the kind of tiresome pattern of back and forth our parents might engage in that we can see but that they can't. And it can be a really witty back and forth that everybody loves to be around, except when you've been around it your whole life and you die a little when you hear "it" start up again.

There is always a mask, but that doesn't mean that what is behind the mask is bad, could be good. I'm sure that there is a great person behind Mother Teresa's mask, but I'll bet you can never speak directly to her, it's always to the mask.

Which, if that's not what you meant by the mask, you should have.

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