I used to love coming home from university.
After being away for several weeks at a time, those last couple of days were always filled with excitement about the people I was going to see, the things I was going to do and all of the home comforts that I was going to revel in. Sometimes, I was only back for a couple of days so it meant I had to focus myself in the present and really enjoy those couple of days before it was back to reality again.
Those weekends or holidays coming back from university made me truly appreciate everything I have with my family, my friends, home comforts and all that good stuff. The reverse was true as well. After a good stint of home comforts and enjoying myself, I was excited to get back to university, get a routine going and see all of my friends again.
But of course, after a few weeks of university life, I was used to it again. It was the normal. And I craved being back to the novelty of spending a few weeks with family. Now that I have finished university and work from home, there are many days where I wish I was back there living up the student life with some of my lifelong friends.
Coming back for a couple of days at a time made me truly absorb all of the novelties of home; clean floors, no piles of dishes and even being in a car (I walked everywhere at university). Now, it’s a bit more difficult to conjure up this sense of gratitude day in, day out.
It’s a curious thing, life. It seems that we get into cycles of wanting what we don’t have and not being pleased with what we do, even when what we do have is previously exactly what we wanted. We value things that are scarce to us and quite paradoxically, start to value things less when we’re used to them, even when the things themselves haven’t changed (or have even gotten better!).
It is a basic economic principle that things that are scarce are more valuable. Diamonds don’t grow on trees, you can’t buy luxury yachts at the supermarket and those first moments with someone that you haven’t seen for a while are immensely joyous.
Life is scarce
Of course, all of this is just a microcosm of something much bigger and much more valuable – life. Because we don’t live forever, because we are only around for a microscopic amount of time compared to the universe, because we don’t know when it is our time or the time of anybody else, this gives life value.
Although life is everywhere on earth, as far as we know, it is the rarest thing in the universe. Add to the fact that most of the people and things that have ever lived are no longer alive, and you are experiencing something truly scarce and valuable indeed.
Technology is advancing at a rapid rate and who knows what the life expectancy will be 10, 20 or 50 years from now. I am all for extending lifespan up to a certain point, but not indefinitely.
Imagine you could live forever. Initially, that might sound incredible. All of the places that you could see, all of the things that you could do, and all in your own time. That all sounds great, but what would you do today? You might relax since you’re here forever. But then what about tomorrow? More relaxing, maybe. But then after that? Living forever is a psychological disaster in the making. Without death (and subconsciously knowing it’s going to happen), life is no longer scarce. And as we already know, things that aren’t scarce aren’t valuable. How would you make any value-based decisions – visiting family, spending time with friends, creating something good in the world – if you were going to be here forever anyway? I’ll get round to it next year…
As Mark Manson puts it:
Death is psychologically necessary because it creates stakes in life. There is something to lose. You don’t know what something is worth until you experience the [tangible] potential to lose it. You don’t know what you’re willing to struggle for, what you’re willing to give up or sacrifice.
Death is important. Life is scarce because of it and there are many things in your life that have an expiry date on them too. That means life is valuable, and with that, all of the things that life contains.
Value comes from scarcity. This is an important thing to remember in a time of complete abundance.