Noah (angelbob) wrote,

Several ideas are fighting it out in my head, and I need to write some of them down. They'd make a good essay if I could make them click and find time to write it. Maybe later.

On Hunter S. Thompson's tombstone they will carve "IT NEVER GOT FAST ENOUGH FOR ME." So he says in Song of the Sausage Creature, which is a love song to a Ducati 900S, and to Cafe Racing generally.

In On the Road, Jack Kerouac said, "the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirious of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a common thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars..."

Let's look at these two luminaries as bargain shoppers in a thrift store for a moment, shall we?

There comes a point of awareness in many people's lives -- not all, but many. It may be during a statistics lecture, but more often it involves being nearly run over, or crashing into something, or being shot at. Those things may trigger it, which isn't to say it's always triggered by those things.

It's like the realization of mortality, that point where you realize that everybody's going to die and that means you too... It's like that, and it's later than that, but that's not what it is.

It's the point where you become aware that you may make it to the age of 90 and die on your sickbed surrounded by adoringly cherubic grandchildren, but... Probably not. You'll probably die in a car wreck, or of a blood clot getting lodged somewhere it shouldn't, or of a congenital heart defect or liver failure from drinking, and in any of those cases, your odds of making it to 90, or even 70, may not be good.

In short, you may run out of heartbeats before you run out of things to use them on, and it could happen soon, and entirely without warning. Again, getting shot at will help in this realization.

And you can see how it would make people like Thompson and Kerouac write the kinds of things they do, and that's fine. But why are they bargain shoppers? Aren't they extravagant big spenders, if anything?

Not at all.

A bargain shopper is after cheapness. Not shoddiness, which is different. They're looking for a very high quality-to-price ratio. They want excellent goods for cheap, or bad goods for really cheap. This is different from a shopper who has a list of things they need, and it's different from a shopper who's after quality goods regardless of the price.

To become a bargain shopper, what one needs is the understanding that money is limited, and it may run out at any time. To become Hunter S. Thompson, you first need a realization of mortality.

Nobody is ever entirely any one kind of entity. If a bargain shopper is interested entirely in the quality-to-price ratio of goods, then nobody is ever purely and only that. You don't much care if you can get a fifteen-pound diamond for ten percent of the usual cost if there's no way you could ever afford it regardless. However, that doesn't stop it from being, within constraints, somebody's main concern, and that's often true.

If you stop worrying about spending money for a bit and worry about spending life, you get closer to what Thompson and Kerouac are talking about. But they why take all the risks? If you have a sense of mortality around, wouldn't you become a shut-in taking minimal risks to preserve every precious moment?

Ah, but you're not spending minutes. That's not the currency you care about. What you're spending is chance of death, and what you're buying is powerful experiences. If an experience has a 10% chance of death, you can only do it so many times. Sure, it may be more than ten (and it may be only one), but you're still effectively limited in how often you can get away with it.

That's your currency. That's what you're spending. And so doing something likely to kill you is like spending a lot of money. So it's not that you never do it -- it's that you only do it when it's a bargain, when the quality of goods that you're purchasing outweighs the fact that there's a bigger chance you'll die.

A friend asked me recently about living life well, in the particular way that I do that. papertygre called it leaning into life with my full weight. I call it living life like you mean it.

But it's closely related to that kind of bargain hunting. Take risks -- because you are anyway, and it's just a matter of keeping track of what you spend, and how likely it is to destroy you.

Eventually it will, no matter what you do. And if you get nothing in return, how stupid will you feel?
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