The roommate paradox

When I graduated from college I decided that what I really wanted to do with my life was design trains. So I started taking calculus at Santa Monica Community College and worked part-time for a nonprofit. I lived with a family down the street and paid only $375/month, an incredible deal at the time. I was broke. I survived off of $20/month for groceries (rice, beans, carrots, frozen spinach, multivitamins). My roommate was a vegan aspiring filmmaker at SMCC who worked part-time at the bagel shop. Because we shared a room, I watched her closely. I noticed that she was very easily irritated by people at all times. Eventually, we got to know each other better and I asked her if she was a misanthrope. She was really taken aback. She said yes, but then she backtracked. She said that it wasn't that she hated people per se, she thought that humans are the most incredible creatures that have ever lived. We've invented cars, planes, nuclear physics, movies, and dance. We are capable of doing so many great things, but rather than choosing to do those things, or even somewhat reasonable things, we choose to do nothing. We choose to do the wrong thing. We become lazy, indolent, sad, and angry. We make life harder for other people. We make life harder for ourselves.

She was right. I told her about Paul Lafargue's The Right to be Lazy, she thought it was horrible. All of the world's problems could be solved, she thought, if we all decided to do something about it; but rather than doing anything, we become self-absorbed, emotional, and caught up in our realities.

This is a conversation that I think about every day. I am bemused by the chasm between a person’s capability and their reality. There is something about our inability to accomplish even the most basic tasks sometimes that I find truly compelling.