Suburbia has a glass ceiling of happiness. Psychologists have pretty well documented the aesthetic effect of your surroundings on your mental state. McDondalds is painted bright colors to make you move faster. Prisons are painted dull colors to make you apathetic. Suburbia is drab. Its architecture is mediocre and repetitive. You don’t get the sense of wonder and awe as at the top of a mountain or in a cathedral. There’s a limit to the amount of joy you’re going to receive from the aesthetics of suburbia.
Spending too long in sensory deprivation makes you withdrawn and catatonic. In suburbia, where we sit in our climate controlled houses, drive the same route over and over to our climate controlled offices, where we sit in climate controlled cubicles… we’re basically living in a sensory deprivation chamber, and it has a noticeably dulling effect on our minds.
Unless you work really hard to break up your routine, every day of the week is likely to be indistinguishable from any other day of the week any year of your life. You can actually live on autopilot and never think and still get through your life. Spend enough time in suburbia, and stop noticing your drive to work. You’ll just show up to your job and realize, “I don’t remember driving here.” Suburbia numbs you that profoundly.
Life in suburbia offers luxuries and comforts unheard of to royalty in the Middle Ages, but when life becomes so rote, with so little variation, you’re eventually left with no frame of reference to judge the highs and lows. You lose your orientation of happiness and experience happiness vertigo. Then minor inconveniences in your life can seem like the end of the world, and small pleasures can seem euphoric. But the latter statement is no justification for happiness vertigo because that lifestyle is chaotic, unreliable, and ultimately stressful.
Being happy requires fulfilling your wants, because if you don’t, your mind gets stuck in a perpetual state of fight or flight as it yearns to fulfill its perceived needs. Suburbia kills your opportunity to fulfill your wants in two ways. First, the fact that your basic survival needs are fulfilled misleads you into thinking you have everything you should want. You feel guilty if you ask for more, which dissuades you from expecting more out of life. Even if you do have ambition, suburbia will stifle it. You’ll have to drive long distances to reach businesses. You’ll have to sit through stressful traffic to reach any place you might express yourself or grow. Given that you’re a slave to your job and family, you won’t have much time to do that anyway.
If you ever reach a place where you can express yourself or grow, you’ll have to pay for it, but utilities, rent, mortgages, insurance, car payments, credit card bills, cable, internet, cell phones, etc. will keep you perpetually buried in debt. Suburbia is designed to drain your wealth, which limits your options, and cancels out the sense of security that is suburbia’s greatest advantage.
Everything about suburbia is designed to normalize life as unbroken, numbing, lukewarm blandness. Sure, you’ll be insulated from the atrocities of the ghetto or third world countries, but it’ll be nearly impossible to experience self-actualization and fulfill any meaningful purpose.
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