Sunday, May 26, 2024

Adopting Hedonically 


Hirayama (Koji Yakusho) in the film, Perfect Days by Wim Wenders.

Hedonic Adaptation
As I understand it, "hedonic adaptation" is how we return to our normal level of happiness (or lack of it). If you don’t struggle with mania or depression I suppose you’re considered pretty “level” - I think most of us are. What’s interesting is whether you win the lottery or have to pay a huge tax bill, the happiness or sadness caused by the event doesn’t last and you eventually return to whatever is normal for you.

Something that apparently has a positive impact is simply saying to yourself, ”These are the good days.”, which really reminds me of Wim Wenders' recent film, Perfect Days. In that film, Hirayama, the story's protagonist, is content with a simple life and a simple job and seems to greet every morning with an expression that beams from his face that says, "These are the good days."

a few weekends ago really did feel like the good days. Let me begin by saying that my job lately has been challenging. A re-org meant a project that I’ve been a part of for about four years fell apart and was cancelled, impacting hundreds of people. Fortunately, it appears that my team was saved from the indignity of layoffs. Unfortunately whatever will replace that project is ill-defined leaving us with a lot of spare time to worry. I’ve been in this spot before and have been filling my suddenly empty schedule with training courses and, if I’m being honest, daydreaming. Daydreaming leads to stepping out in some unexpectedly warm weather for wandering.

That wandering - basically taking the long way to get somewhere - led to the discovery of a fantastic restaurant that also has a store, Terroni Sud Forno Produzioni e Spaccio (roughly translated as "Terroni's Southern Oven Production and Shop", or something like that), where they sell almost everything they serve in the restaurant as a take-home version. This includes fresh pasta, jarred sauces, pickled vegetables and even frozen pastries. Another perambulation led me to discover a nearby tapas restaurant, Madrina. I'm unsure of the designation but it is listed in the Michelin guide (the city has only a handful of mostly unaffordable sushi places received Michelin stars but about 80 are listed in the guide). on a whim, I made a reservation at Madrina (how a table was available is unknown to me?) and J. and I took advantage to have a dreamy little date night.

On another day, I abandoned a swim when the pool after finding it overcrowded and instead I turned around and bought supper from Terroni’s (along with their frozen croissants). It made a fantastic meal that was ready in minutes.

The following Saturday morning we made plans to watch a stage of the Giro d’Italia with friends (the original plan was to cheer on Mike Woods as he vied for a stage win but sadly he had to withdraw due to injury). We enjoyed those previously frozen, now freshly baked croissants and excellent coffee as we saw generational talent Tadej PogaČar whip himself up unbelievably steep gradients to take the win. Then I left and rode off to the Toronto Reference Library to start a weekend of enjoying the Toronto Comic Arts Festival. To see your comic book favourites talking candidly about their work is a joy to me that may not be easily appreciated. Also being surrounded by stacks and stacks of books and art was overwhelming and inspiring, which almost brought me to tears of incomparable happiness. The evening ended with an awards show at The Arts & Letters Club - probably the only club I’ve ever wanted to be a member of. Sunday was another day of comic book delights. On Sunday night it was hard to sleep as my head filled with more possibilities and ideas than I’ve had in a long time.

Monday was a return to work. It has never been more clear to me just how disinterested I am in the appearance of busyness or, as one friend put it, making more money for rich white guys. Last year’s catchphrase, “quiet quitting” was thought of by my generation as a sign of laziness and entitlement, but I think it exposed the American attitude of living for work where your occupation and career are given much more time than you are paid for or than it deserves. Maybe that culture of over-working is just a phase of a career that is in my rearview mirror and looking back, I see all the extra effort I put in was wasted time. I once put so many hours in on a project that I would say goodnight to the night shift security guard on my way out of the office and then see him, still on his shift when I went back in the morning.

This slowdown has given me time to genuinely cogitate and let ideas brew. That’s something creativity needs. It requires time and space and not simply ramming ideas into a blender at high speed to produce output. I do think too much of what we measure as productivity is a result of ticking more boxes to meet a “burndown rate” rather than making anything of quality and value. “Burndown rate” is a funny way of saying you’re delivering on time when it can feel like it’s really marking off how much closer you are to a burnout rate. While my colleagues may fret about layoffs (a real concern) I’ll focus on life out of the blender for a while and instead of a burn-down rate I’ll enjoy the cool down and let the ideas flow freely as a leaky faucet. These are the good days.

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