Chapter 1 - In the beginning

Hi. Let’s cut to the chase, shall we? Life sucks. If you’re reading this, you’re one of the most affluent, educated apes in human history, and you’re miserable. Right? As in, you just picked up a book with the most depressing first three sentences ever penned, and you can’t resist reading a little further. I rest my case.

It feels good to be known, doesn’t it? Even if it means acknowledging that sometimes, during COVID, when you didn’t have anywhere to go, you were a little lazy cleaning up after a number two.

Let me guess: you try to count your blessings, but after a while you can’t help but ask yourself why counting your blessings, like toenail fungus (at least that small part of you is thriving) and too many pillows on the bed, just reminds you that you’re feeling insignificant and unappreciated?

I want you to know that I appreciate you, baby.

I appreciate you in a way that no one else ever will because we have shared this. In fact, maybe we should think of this book like a little micro wedding between you and me, and at the other end, one lucky reader (maybe two) can join me on our honeymoon. Gosh, I hope it’s you.

Now’s a good time to mention that I have needs. Needs that need to be managed and addressed by you, like say, telling all your friends that this is the best book you’ve ever read, and sharing links to it on your social media accounts. You have needs too. I know that, and I’m about to satiate some needs you didn’t even know you had. Buckle up.

How’s your sex life? Mine sucks. (I’m hoping you can fix that.) I’m divorced. I haven’t had sex in two years and didn’t get much in the fourteen years before that. The most erotic thing that happened to me in the last ten months was a stranger’s dog licking my toes. True.

How about yourself? You don’t have to say it out loud. I know your mind is mulling it all over more often than you’d like to admit. Is it better to be married to someone who obviously doesn’t want to sleep with you anymore? Or is it better to be an ‘ethically non-monogamous’? Or is it better to be having affairs, so the kids don’t suffer? Or to be flirting with your boss because it will give you financial advantage? Or to be in the process of deciding if the person you’re with right now will still be desirable to you over the next fifty years? Hard to say really. None of those options are really attractive. I’m really glad we have each other now. Honestly, I’m really glad you’re willing to settle for short-term mediocrity.

Before I met you, I was on Tinder. Okay, I’m still on Tinder, but I’ll take my profile down if this pans out. Tinder’s good because it helps you see that a lot of people are desperate, and lonely, and some are confrontingly honest about it, which is kind of soothing.

Before you, I’d kind of given up on receiving empathy from humans. Where are you on that spectrum? Are you still convinced that only two percent of the population are pathological narcissists, or have you realized, like I did, that we’re all pretty much mild narcissists right now because we’re under too much stress?

The good news is: it’s not our fault. Both the instinctual-biological deck and the societal-structures deck are stacked against us. Not to mention the toxic-food-environment deck, the ubiquitous-endocrine-disrupting-plastics deck, and the so-called-justice-system deck. Nobody is winning. They’re just pretending.

What about the billionaires? I hear you asking. Surely, they are winning.

You think so? They can’t even go to a park without worrying that their kids are going to get kidnapped. They can only hang out with other really rich people, because plebs like us can’t understand their emotional pain. The scrutiny! The judgment! The impossible moral task of allocating wealth in this day and age!

Bezos and Musk seem pretty happy to me.

Okay fine, you win. Out of the seven billion people on the planet two are happy, and you haven’t convinced me on Musk. They both appear to have unresolved mommy issues, if you ask me.

Anyway, this book is not for them. It’s for you. I wrote it for you, and you alone. I’ve been thinking about us a lot lately. How unhappy we are. How hard we try to do the right thing, eat the right food, teach the right lessons, pursue our values, do meaningful work, stay informed, organize our life well, balance our needs and the needs of others, and still we never feel like we’re succeeding.

Would you feel better if I told you it’s all going to change soon? It is, baby. I promise it is. There’s something I need to tell you.