It’s getting to be peak autumn color in Minnesota this week, and everywhere you look, it’s gorgeous. The leaves in the back of my house are blazing yellow and orange, and they create an impressive reflection on the lake when the light is just so and the air is still. It’s kind of like the water is on fire with the vibrancy of the season. Of course, this time of intense beauty is fleeting, only lasting a few weeks each year, but then again, it does come back around every year. We just have to make a point to pay attention to it when it does show up. It’s always interesting to me that such intense beauty can co-exist so easily alongside the things that shake us to the core.
Courtney E. Martin, in her new book called The New Better Off argues that our society is moving away from what was once considered “the good life.” For years, people said things like “well, I want my kids to be better off than I was,” and often times that meant hoping those kids got a steadier job, or a nicer/bigger house, or into a better financial situation. But perhaps there’s a cost to putting all of life’s meaning under the old definition of “better off.” In her introduction Martin says,
…what’s more, some of the things we have associated with success actually endanger our health [and leave us unhappy.] Underneath the appearance of uplift, a complex [success] story weighs us down. This could play out in a number of ways…like when people set aside authentic career ambitions in favor of more lucrative paths; or when a father knows his colleagues better than he does his own kids; or a mother leans in so hard she falls flat on her face. Pressure and debt, missed get togethers, living for the weekend, living someone else’s dream. “Better off” left uninterrogated, can be fucking dangerous.