Man’s search for meaning Part 2: Plant your garden

The Penny-Arcade guys are awesome.  They started out as a couple of dudes with a web-comic.  They’ve taken that web-comic and their fame and channeled it for something much bigger.  Yes, they run conventions, but more impressively, they started an awesome charity called Childs Play.

This charity, aimed at showing that video games are not evil incarnate, and that gamers can do good, connects children’s hospitals with games, books, toys, and other resources to help sick children keep their minds off their illnesses.  Donations started small– one hospital and the PA guys’ garages as storage facilities, and they made deliveries themselves.  Now they’ve ratcheted up into a large non-profit that connects with and ships directly to hospitals.

You can donate here.

And now for some negative griping.

Compare the PA guys to the onanistic navel-gazing you see from other movements.  The minimalists.  The travel the world folks.  The motivationalists.  [Note:  we are not saying that all minimalists, world-travelers, self-helpers etc. are onanistic con-artists, but you know they exist.]

The Penny Arcade dudes are real.  They have authenticity.

So much of that motivational crap seems so hollow and insincere, aimed just at making money off other people.

For the most part, they’re not actually doing anything.

The P-A guys, OTOH, are teh awesome.

And that, perhaps, is why I don’t expect them to get mid-life crises.  When you’re busy doing things that are real, you don’t have time to feel like life is meaningless.

also:  I like the word onanistic

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26 Responses to “Man’s search for meaning Part 2: Plant your garden”

  1. First Gen American Says:

    People like that are awesome. I think the differentiation between the two groups is one is inwardly focused on self centered growth and the other is outwardly focused on community growth. Obviously touching more people than yourself with your actions is a lot more powerful. Glad you did a shout out to them. Helping kids is awesome.

  2. Mutant Supermodel Says:

    :) My favorite type of people are change the world type of people. BTW speaking of changing the world, I saw this and thought of you two immediately: http://thehawkeyeinitiative.com/

  3. insectprof Says:

    I always enjoy reading this blog for information and amusement, so I was suprised to see this outrageous statement: “When you’re busy doing things that are real, you don’t have time to feel like life is meaningless.” I’m not much of a meaning seeker myself, but I know many people who are, and none of them have too much time on their hands. Some are writers, some are social workers, others are activists, a couple are ministers. They are all busy trying to make the world a better place, and some of them really struggle with the question of whether they are living a meaningful life. There’s a big difference between self-centered, self-indulgent navel gazing and thoughtful pondering about the possible meaning of life.

  4. frugalscholar Says:

    I must say that I am happiest when I don’t have time to think about it–i.e. when I had two little kids and was busting my butt for tenure (in a hostile environment). My husband says that one needs some friction in life. I guess people who have too much time on their hands should create some friction–in a good way, not by getting divorced or tormenting their neighbors.

  5. Jacq Says:

    These people and this phenomenon are a product of the facebook times. In bygone years, they had Thoreau, William James and Alan Watts. Today we have zenhabits and people counting their things. There was Edmund Hillary or Amelia Earhardt and now there is the world domination people. There was Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius and now there is Mustache people.
    I was reading something recently, wish I could recall where, that spoke about the change that’s occurred in the self-help genre from the beginnings up until about the 1960’s or so and how the emphasis long ago was primarily on character development (and hard work). I own many of those old books and they’re very good. Then it turned to finding yourself and now it’s gone totally weird and self centered by emphasizing “building your brand” or “tribe of remarkable/awesome people” etc. etc. It’s pablum / prozac for the hipster / epiphany junkie masses. It’s a pretty small subset of the world though. They’re just very vocal and thanks to the internet, can now have a platform to eek out a subsistence living selling $49 ebooks of their brain vomit.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I think we had that on a link love at some point, or maybe you or someone else did, because I remember reading that too about the self-help genre.

      We are still awesome, though. :) But we’re awesome because we do awesome stuff.

      MMM’s post today really irritated me. I’m gonna deliberately controversial it sometime in the future. To summarize: his friend said gee, he wished he could add another bedroom to his house. MMM noted that he HAS a big beautiful house. And he has that big beautiful house because he doesn’t commute, has small old cars, doesn’t eat fast food, and so on. His friend countered that he likes his job and coworkers and doesn’t want to move closer to home for a new job. MMM then basically says his friend is making bad choices. But his friend never said that he wants a big house MORE than he wants his daily luxuries or the cars, and he made it clear that he values the job over a bigger house. The big house is only ok with the mustashian philosophy because MMM has one. It doesn’t make sense from an environmental standpoint or a saving money standpoint or a getting out and enjoying the great outdoors standpoint. (The deliberately controversial post though is going to be about “enough” and if we have to get our enough down so that we can easily have it, or if we can still say there’s things we want without getting bashed for not yet having them.)

  6. Jacq Says:

    Oops, I misspelled eke. Well, I’m in the camp now of increasing my spending to correlate with dividend increases. Because I want to. :-)
    I wonder if ERE and MMM are “hoist by their own petard” so to speak. They’re both stuck now by having to stick to their minimalist budgets or lose their claim to authenticity.
    I read something recently on optimization and how one shouldn’t confuse the end with the means. The means are not meant to become the end but I think that’s what both of them did / are doing. I’m an optimizer too to a great extent, but not a joyous ascetic. You read some of their stuff and you feel like you should flog yourself for going out for a beer with your friends – puhhhlease. It just gets creepy and judgmental. Like much of my family…
    Did you ever read the Bogleheads thread on MMM after the WaPo post?

    http://www.bogleheads.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=115414

    Holy shit, those calculators really came out on the CO2 consumption.
    I drove to work this week instead of taking the bus like usual. It was freaking awesome. And I think my 85% savings rate so far this year can handle the inefficiency. I saved an hour a day – woot!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Well, ERE eventually unretired, right?

      MMM I don’t think has a problem because whatever he does is right because it’s what he chooses to do. So having a huge house (and taking long-distance vacations) is consistent with being environmentalist even if having a small house and commuting 20 min to work isn’t. The economist in me hates that. I’d be less irritated with his slamming other people’s choices if he lived by a consistent message that matched with consistent values. Like if you’re going to be environmental, set yourself a carbon footprint allotment (and whatever choices a person makes within that allotment is fine, even if they’re not your choice), or try to minimize on everything within those sets of values.

      heehee, love this quote from the bogleheads link: “You can’t latte yourself to bankruptcy. The bladder won’t allow it.” -Katherine Porter

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        (p.s. we’re younger, we have a higher net worth, and if you subtract childcare and private school expenses, and the non-tax portion of our mortgage, we spend about what he spends, also we have a large house, DH just quit his job… so I can totally be a hater without being a whiny-pants because we’re actually excelling on all the things he cares about -except biking and rental income-… it just irritates me that he doesn’t allow other people to have other preferences without calling them nasty names)

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Reading more of that forum… nobody’s getting at my real problem with MMM… the DARVO problem. Where he says his way is the only way (even if it isn’t consistent with his stated values on all measures, but that’s ok because he attacks you voicing the same reason that he’d call you a whinypants for if you voiced that reason for something he disagreed with). I’m not bothered that his definition of retirement is wrong, but that he says anybody who disagrees with his definition is the internet retirement police. It’s attack attack attack. No sense of proportion, no sense of compensating differentials or tradeoffs unless you make the specific trade-offs that he’s made.

      • Jacq Says:

        I was somewhat horrified to see that my spending was less than his if I take out the mortgage payment, home renovations (it’s a fixer upper, what can I say) and travel. I am determined to upsize! Go out more! More clothes, more books (I like highlighting my nonfiction), a bit more travel !
        Nope, I’m pretty sure Jacob is married to his $7k/year of optimal spending no matter how much he makes. Thoreau also thought a box was sufficient to live in. Can’t recall the dimensions, but it was pretty small.
        I love these guys, they make me want to rebellion-spend.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        oh, but Thoreau walked into town and got free food from the ladies and on and on and on… there’s even a literature about whether or not he really believed his Walden Pond hype or if that was just for the readers, given how much he mooched (IIRC). [Disclaimer: I could be getting that mixed up with another guy though... any literary readers wanna chime in? Update: the internet tells me "The famous proof for his hypocrisy is that while philosophizing about self-sufficiency in his solitary shack, he would drop off his laundry at his mother’s place back in town." Internet has more details (scroll down). His house was 10x15, which is actually quite a bit larger than our first apartment.]

        Oddly, Travel fits in the MMM philosophy, even if you take a car to do it. There’s a lot of explanation why, but it’s badass explanation when he gives it, but would be whinypants if you were doing it.

        Sigh. Why can’t we all just maximize our individual utility functions subject to our budget constraints (with government there to take care of public goods provision and externalities), and let others do the same?

        Oh oh, I know, because doing that doesn’t sell to the masses.

      • Jacq Says:

        I will happily drive my overpriced, gas guzzling motorhome all summer long this year… I do love it so.
        Honestly, I think what the sycophants… err.. commenters… like is just having a place to be thoroughly judgmental (without anyone calling them dicks) over other people’s spending. It seems to be a deliciously recurring theme. I just don’t understand why people like doing that so much.
        But you never know, maybe they’ll turn on him like people did with Trent Hamm. Except the moderation will probably kill those posts. Probably already is.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        We’re judgmental too, but we’re consistently so, in a way that aligns with our core values and beliefs…

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        @Jacq– You were right about the comment deleting!

        I quote: “Mr. Money Mustache May 16, 2013 at 12:40 pm #

        Sorry that not all your comments made the cut, Bob! I have appreciated some of your tips here. Here are the guidelines I follow when curating these comments:

        – it must be evident that the writer read and understood the whole article, and most of the already-posted comments (to avoid duplication).

        – the comment should be written from the perspective of trying to help people, rather than just espouse an opinion, criticize a reader or complain about something

        – the comment should be worth having thousands of people read, not just “hey billy, are you in Seattle too? Where do you live?”,
        or
        “+1″.”

        That explains why it seemed like the comments had changed in tenor over time. MMM even remarked that it seemed like all the complainy-pants had left the other month, but that makes sense if they’re being censored. Ah well. His blog, his rules. Too bad it’s made his comments sections less interesting to read– the moderating that Scalzi does tends to make his comment sections more interesting. But very few people are as awesome as Scalzi.

        I guess I’ll stop commenting at MMM! No vale la pena.

      • Jacq Says:

        Well, there had to be heavy comment moderation. Too many people on other media are not fans (the E-R forum had about a 50/50 split for fans vs. not as did the Canadian Money Forum and Get off my internets) so to suggest that 100% – or even 99% – of readers would post and say “teehee, I think you’re awesome Mr. Man Who Saved A Lot And Then Went On To Be a House Renovator While His Wife Worked When He Was 30″ doesn’t make sense. All the posters and bloggers whose opinion I respect the most do not care for his rhetoric / fuzzy math & logic either.

        But my basic reason for why I don’t read him is that there’s nothing there for me to learn and it’s not entertaining. Some time in the next couple of weeks when I can/want to spend more than 30 minutes on a post, I’m going to try my hand at a Mr Monkey Mustache webcomic though. So I will have to read for research purposes like the Chuck Norris thing.

        In hindsight, I’m grateful that I’ve been stupid in life and with money. At least I can see the other side. When we know better, we do better (not saying my way is better though, I do get a little – maybe a lot :-) – too goal focused and forget to be balanced. Old habits are dying hard). There’s no need to shame or mock people for that.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Yeah, I came to that conclusion today– unless we decide to put a concrete base in our shower stall, there’s not much for us to take from his blog. I wouldn’t mind a few more home improvement tips. So long as I keep checking miser-mom’s blog, I’m going to see his posts in her blogroll…

        I really did like his earlier posts though, the ones where he came off as more optimistic and fun and less like a judgmental jerk. Those also had more interesting discussions in the comments.

        I also wonder whatever happened to his plan to use the blog proceeds for charity.

  7. Jacq Says:

    What about something like younghouselove.com?
    There was this extremely dogmatic minimalist / atheist / woman hater guy that I used to hate read / comment / argue with maybe 2 years ago. I eventually leech-blocked him 24/7.
    Funny enough, I read his blog again about a month or two ago (apparently the leech-block ended automagically) and he got married (apparently happily) and became born again Catholic (now he hates atheists and thinks women haters are insane). Also became a vegan. LOL
    Maybe the hate reads pull you into some kind of vortex of insanity and you need the special powers of blocking?

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Hm, don’t want to do house stuff enough to read something dedicated to it. We’ll probably just continue with our regular internet searches when we need to do something. We really ought to do some regular maintenance stuff this year (vacuuming coils, resealing wood, that sort of thing.)


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