I have discovered that I have a new genus. I am, as it turns out, a bisy backson, as defined by the 'Tao of Pooh' which I have been reading on my shifts on the till at the Oxfam bookshop (weekday customers, about 3 per hour).
Unfortunately, this turns out to be a malignant pedigree of person whose alumni includes the Pilgrim Fathers, city bankers and extreme sports enthusiasts - people who flog themselves to death with vauntless ambition, challenges and guilt without getting much for their efforts in return.
What unites this motley crew, according to the author, is an inability or incapacity (the two are quite different) to enjoy the world around them as it simply is. Instead of appreciating day to day life, we are 'desperately active', questing after some sort of Great Reward which is always around the next corner and requires us to work like lunatics to keep it in sight.
As a person whose code words must surely be 'I ought to', 'I must' and 'Shit, I've singularly failed to do what I should have' (that applies to my attempt at lenten alcohol abstinence, incidentally, which has taken a sorry turn for the worse) this made me sit up and listen. But the worrying thing about this analysis is that it reveals the extent to which modern society in general has taken on the characteristics of the Backson.
We live in a world where we are tricked into valuing productivity, efficiency, added value, or whatever, as ends in themselves. We rarely question whether working ever harder and ever longer in order to get the promotion to buy the objects that will help us recover from the trauma of living to work is a reasonable thing to do (as if a week long holiday in the Seychelles, or a new iPod could make up for a 16 hour working day as an office drone).
As the author perceptively points out, this can be extremely self-defeating as a philosophy of life, since it "makes it so difficult to be happy and good that only a few get to where they would naturally have been in the first place - Happy and Good - and the rest give up and fall by the side of the road, cursing the world, which is not to blame but which is there to help show the way".
Perhaps if we accept that our Backson society is just too hard on itself, too hard on others, and too hard on the world that heroically attempts to carry on in spite of what we are doing to it (to paraphrase) we might start to enjoy life and realise we don't need to live like that. Because the bottom line is, it's just not much fun to over-complicate things.
Which is why, instead of reading about the costs involved in freedom of expression as defined by the first amendment of the US constitution, I am dawdling over this (overlong) post and about to make a cup of fresh coffee. I'm not that busy, but I won't be back soon. I'm hanging up my Backson coat for once. I'm going to enjoy the day.