This isn’t an existential philosophical approach to the personal meaningless of one’s life; it’s an observation of the ongoing catastrophes of personal non-adaptation to our local reality. To casual observation Bend, Oregon, is a perfect place to live and flourish. It has a fine temperate climate, negligible earthquakes, zero serious weather, a low crime rate, and good housing at reasonable rates.
Being near mountain skiing resorts, vast areas of winter cross-country skiing and various other winter sports, it’s a winter destination for many people’s holidays, and chosen home to local outdoor enthusiasts. Those same wilderness places make for spectacular summer recreation too. When walking in our averagely priced neighborhood it is easy to observe that more than half the homes have at least one major piece of recreational equipment parked out front. Snowmobiles in the winter, and off-road vehicles of many types in the summer. Most vehicles have provisions for recreation, such as towing balls and roof racks. The local joke here is that Bend is “Poverty with a view,” but the view includes the always snow-covered peaks, a superabundance of neighborhood parks, and twenty-three golf courses. That for a community of eighty thousand people doesn’t appear like poverty, but some of the golf courses complain of not having enough customers.
Along with the massive amounts of recreation activities, there is an even greater abundance of commercial self-help activities. Yoga, Pilates, exercise gyms, and religious and meditation groups abound.
What is lacking is employment. At least that’s what people say. I don’t really know since I retired long ago, and live modestly on a small income, but my life feels productive to me because I do all sorts of things that are meaningful to other people … and dogs too. But, when I look at other people, what they are doing seems like sybaritic fantasy. I take a two-hour walk in the local woods every week and go to the dog park, also in the wooded area, a couple of times per week, but some people go for the summer, or at least several single weeks per summer. It seems to be the very thing that gives their life meaning. The strange thing to me is how little they seem to see, or feel, or smell when doing these things, and they usually end up talking about the names of the places they have been. It’s like reading off a bucket list of words gives one’s life meaning. In fact it appears that a lifestyle based on bucket lists is popular these days. What bothers me is that so often the lists are things and activities that can be purchased, and the higher the price the more valuable the experience. Having rafted the Grand Canyon will bring a wow of appreciation from some crowds, having killed a prized lion in Africa will bring a wow of appreciation from some other crowds. But these are just purchased experiences, like setting up a target at Disney World and getting a prize for hitting it.
It appears that modern life experiences have become commoditized.