This is Jake, the original graphic for the Life is Good company. In 1994, two guys put a stick figure body on Jake, printed him on forty-eight T-shirts, and sold them out in a half hour at a street fair in Cambridge, Massachusetts, including the two they had on. Their company had over $100 million in sales by 2007. By 2017, they were doing that number annually. Something seems to have struck a nerve.
There’s quite a resemblance to the image of me you see here and there on this site, dontcha think? This may not be an accident.
The people behind all this were genXers. Life is good for genXers. Life is better for boomers. Privilege is a big part of this. Privilege is not just the bestowment of advantage. Most visibly, it is the enjoyment of advantage.
It’s seems likely that no people have ever enjoyed life on a larger scale than Americans of the last half of the 20th century. When I was a child just beginning to learn of the horrors so many of the world’s people face, I couldn’t imagine why my existence was so charmed. Dumb luck was the only thing I could come up with.
We weren’t wealthy. We weren’t even middle class, at least as portrayed in Leave it to Beaver or The Wonder Years. I don’t have the financial means most of my friends possess. I spent much of my early adult life moving from one place to another–from one job to another. In my high school yearbook, I entered “a full life” as my goal. I know I meant breadth more than height. I remember this.
I would probably get an ADD tag nowadays. My brain just kind of sees something else happening and bippidy-bop, over the fence it goes.
I have the freedom of retirement. We have a small, efficient, and most importantly, paid-off condo in a fascinating little neighborhood variously filled with Bobos with lovely flower gardens and Hipsters who just don’t care. There is lots of entertainment and great food. I have Medicare and a very good supplemental plan, so I have tracks burned into the inside of my heart to keep the beat from wandering off and take an $80 pill every day to keep the cancer away. I can almost keep up with The Little Hun on our walks and play plenty of golf at municipal golf courses. I split my time between those activities and escaping to the friendly skies of Flight Simulator, doing a little day trading, playing a bunch of musical instruments, and sitting down to do a little writing when I’m in the mood. We have awesomely successful youngins and some very precocious grandchildren to play with when we get the chance.
All my wandering means I don’t have a lot of friends on hand, but they’re out there and I feel their love.
I’m not rich, but I have all of this, and frankly, I haven’t needed to sacrifice all that much for it, which is privilege indeed. Am I ashamed of that? Not really. Do I feel guilty about it? Not really. It’s still just dumb luck.
Do I appreciate it? Every day.
Do I feel the pain of the underprivileged? No. How could I? Do I know what is missing from their lives? Of course. I live it. Every day.
Should every privileged soul understand this? Yep. Every day.
Wouldn’t that be at least a start toward “Life is Better than Good”?
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