Life is better in Albany…REALLY???


by Kenneth Justice

~ Last week I was sitting in a coffee shop alongside the ocean. It was 80 degrees outside and the palm trees were glistening in the morning sun, I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful setting to enjoy my morning coffee. The coffee shop was quiet and the barista struck up a conversation with me. Married, with two children, she told me that she was moving to Albany, New York next month. After 21 years of palm trees, warm weather, the ocean, and white sand beaches she was sick of it, “I can’t stand it here!” she said

It was such an odd conversation. When I’m in cold weather climate areas, all that most of the people tell me is that they wish they could live on some beach in the tropics. Yet here was a late twenty-something young woman who didn’t like living alongside the beach.

We all talk about the grass-is-greener concept, and this young woman definitely believed the grass is greener in Albany,

You do realize that Albany, New York is going to be freezing in the winter?” I asked

So I’ll wear a hat and mittens” she said

The more we talked the more I realized what the real issue in her life was; community.

I simply don’t have a lot of friends and family here” she said, “I feel lonely a lot of the time. I have kids and I’m married, but they don’t provide enough community for me; I need more mental stimulation” she said

The United States has become a lonely place. Perhaps I sound like a broken record writing about loneliness and depression so much, yet no matter how hard I try, I can’t get away from the subject; everywhere I go people talk to me about feeling lonely.

I have a suspicion that the television is a major culprit in people feeling lonely. A hundred years ago before the radio and television, people were forced to talk to each other when they wanted mental stimulation. Now all you have to do is turn on your TV or radio and you can entirely bypass the art of conversing with your fellow humans.

Perhaps I’m a nut. But I’m trying to make philosophy cool again. Phil-os-o-cool I guess you could say is my life mission in many ways. Philosophy is a way of engaging ourselves in critical thinking. In looking at issues and concepts from multiple angles. Most of us were taught to accept things as they are; and to never question anything. The art of philosophy teaches us to question EVERYTHING. Nothing is so sacred that it can’t be questioned.

After multiple years of working in human service, and now after two years of talking to thousands of people in coffee shops, it’s become abundantly clear to me that the way we do life here in the Western World isn’t the best philosophy for creating happy, joyful, and connected humans. Perhaps it’s time we change things…..

Just a few thoughts as I sipped my coffee this morning,


Categories: Culture & Society

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37 replies

  1. Any change that increases community would be a good thing.

  2. We all thrive in a village 🙂

  3. I am all for the changing and the phil-o-so-cool!!! I love philosophy! 🙂 I think we need to make the world a little softer. Take little better care of each other, be little less comepetitive so that people dont have to be so aggressvie and ego-centric all the time. Maybe if people didnt have to go around proving their worth all the time, we could make the world little happier. 🙂

  4. As someone who spends a lot of time working with, and surrounded by technology, I would wholeheartedly agree with your post, and mention such things as constant web access. There have been reports written about how ‘social media’ removes the social aspect of our lives rather quickly. We are able to sparsely communicate with everyone on the planet of we so choose, but having an actual conversation or human interaction has fallen by the wayside. And it is a double edge sword too- if you AREN’T a part of the social media culture, and trying to live a life enriched by human interaction, you’ll often find that the well is dry. People have withdrawn into an electronic world such that human contact is either avoided, or when it does happen incidentally, it is awkward because nobody knows what to do anymore.
    I realize I’m making sweeping generalities, but by and large, the sense of community that your barrista is missing isn’t going to be found in Albany either. (I used to live there, tell her to check out Professor Java’s Coffee Shop on Wolf Rd)
    And you’re right, its cold as hell there.

  5. It doesn’t matter where you live and what you do, you can still feel lonely……. (even in a crowded room full of family and/or friends).

    I’m often alone, but rarely lonely. I’m content with my own company.

    If you want your life to be different, then maybe it’s You who has to change. Not your family. Not your location. Not the way you Live.

    Change your way of Thinking. In fact, do more thinking (or less mindless ‘chatter’). Think about why you do (what you do). Start being more Mindful about your everyday activity.

    Of course, the more you think or philosophise, the more confused and dissatisfied you might become.

    All I know is that Mind is a powerful thing. And doing everything Mindfully actually does lead to to deeper inner peace and calm in your day. It’s a bit like Meditation.

  6. I think it partly might be this idea that life could be better somewhere else that creates dissatisfaction and loneliness. It’s like watching a constant ad campaign. Perhaps one of the ways to fight loneliness is to be where you are.

  7. The older Victorian architecture and city planing of Albany, and its neighboring towns (Troy, Schenectady, and Saratoga) have a way of creating community at times. Cities designed around people foster community better than cities designed around cars. Many places in the US are just full of suburbs and strip-malls; nothing worth calling home, nothing worth being a part of – like bland food without spices.

    James Howard Kunstler knows better than I :

    Oh and you have a similar definition to philosophy as I do, I call it “The art of asking questions.”

  8. I’ve had community on my mind a lot bc of the popularity of the show, The Walking Dead. (One of my favs.) But community is (IMO) the central theme of the show and I think that’s why it resonates with such a HUGE part of the population (around the world). Sadly, it took a zombie apocalypse to make that happen…

  9. I have a philosocool question. Why is it that people will travel hundreds and sometimes thousands of miles to visit family but keep their noses on their phones and tablets the entire time they are there?

  10. Isn’t the absence of “community” too often just someone not doing it to us as we want? We have expectations: I am enough – I should have “community”. But doing the legwork (like wot you do) is for others.

    So I am beginning to wonder whether this word “community” should be spelled “con-unity” – the unity of self-deception. Does that qualify as philo-so-cool?

  11. Alone or lonely are not the same, it is however that we are being dishonest with ourselves and always use a piece of glass between those we want to be with.

    Ideas about turning phones of during a dinner are seen as innovative to bring back conversation. How crooked is that.
    It is for that same reason, to initiate more conversation, we need more explicit media images or TV-shows. Talk of the town is now talk of the extremes.
    The more extreme the image, the more conversation it will have.

    Change is good but in what direction is it worth the most.

  12. I’ll say this; When I was bit younger all I wanted to do was get away from home, I lived in a colder climate, my best friend in high school was from Southern California and he use to tell me how great it was there compared to where we lived at the time. Well I’ve moved a few times since then and well came back home to the colder climate and got married, and yeah… life is better here in the cold. It has nothing to do with the weather of course, what makes life better here is simple, it’s my home. At home you’re more likely to know the people you grew up around.

    Just my thoughts when I sip my coffee.

  13. Maybe only unhappy and depressed people visit coffee shops and talk to strangers. Everyone else may be having too much fun to go there:) Who knows?

  14. I love this philo-so-cool attitude…I am so much into culture monk where the hell have you been! Kenneth thumb ups

  15. We blame society but we are society and community.

  16. “Perhaps I’m a nut.”

    LOL, yes you are, but you are the best kind of nut and the world is better with you in it.

    Loneliness is a huge problem, also the number one complaint I hear from people. TV, tech, migration away from family and community for economic reasons, all these things have served to make us more distrustful of each other, but even more desperate to seek what is missing, often with no awareness at all of what we seek.

  17. I think people should learn to appreciate the difference between lonely and being solitary. You don’t have to feel lonely just because you are by yourself. Thinking so, makes you so, even to the extent there is a hint of desperation. Learn to love your own company. If you don’t, how can you expect anybody else to?

  18. Once more you bring up the valid point of our need for face to face community. I am with you. I just spent a whole four days in face to face community it was great. I think we should start to speak about the solutions. At least the little steps that will lead us down the road to a real solution.

  19. I also wonder about the lost art of conversation and the apparent increase in loneliness. I’ve noticed that often it seems to have been replaced with point/counterpoint/ argument that rapidly descends into personal attack. The tendency is not so much appreciate what others bring to the table (by savouring the meat and quietly ignoring the bones) as to invalidate people’s ideas by focusing on the flaws. It works in an academic setting, but not so much with Aunt Matilda -or potential friends. Anonymous comments sections on news reports and YouTube are notorious for exploiting this weakness, and even instigating it. I wonder if we need to re-learn how to engage with respect. Sometimes philosophical conversation with real people can feel more like intellectual King of the Hill than caring interaction. It can be exhausting. Perhaps that’s why many people prefer a step-removed style of contact on the internet.

  20. I think it’s simply the fact that we have been mentally conditioned to believe we no longer need each other . . . big brother will meet all our needs.
    but it’s just a phase . . .
    let some catastrophe arise and we will run back to the tribal herd for comfort and protection . . .
    a wise man ignores the PR guy . . .

  21. I grew up in Buffalo and visited Albany a few times. I would actually recommend Buffalo or Rochester to this person. Not a knock against Albany, but Rochester and Buffalo actually have pretty rich culture and if you’re not gonna mind the frigid temps, at least you also get the wonderful dreamy quality of the snow. Also, the experience of 4 defined seasons is a nice alternative to the sameness of perpetual summer which I know can become depressing, I’ve been in California for 20 years!

  22. I notice it sitting in the same room with my family. We’re all on our devices with nothing to say to each other. Sad.

  23. I have recently started getting into other things at night after my kids go to bed. The TV bugs me now. Yes, there are things that I like to watch, but I find it sad that so many people just turn into vegetables at the end of the day and zone out to the tv until they go to sleep. Yesterday afternoon I told my hubby, “why don’t you turn of the tv for a bit and just let it be quiet.” He did and we had a great conversation. Now if that could just happen every night, I’d be a happy camper.
    Apart from tv though, let’s also live simpler lives. I know that when I’m back in Canada there’s such a struggle with the whole consumerism mentality and ‘being happy’. When I get back to Brazil, and our very simple lifestyle, our entire family is so content and happy, valuing each other and moments. Not how much money we have (actually, don’t have), or what things we have.
    Sounds like you had a nice vacay Kenneth. As for us here, please send us rain and some cooler temps. It’s bloody hot here and the water is drying up.

  24. Don’t you think that, despite modern communication tools, the world is becoming a lonelier place? Strange, now that we are 7 billion strong on the planet

  25. I also prefer upstate NY to beaches and not only because of community. Still, community is a big deal. We really landed on our feet in this little town and this congregation. It is almost old fashioned in that there is a strong sense of community. I love it. I would ask the lady who is moving to Albany what makes her think she will be less lonely there? Does she have friends there already? Otherwise, Albany is not unusually welcoming as far as I can tell. She may discover she has moved for nothing.
    Good to see you still up to your usual tricks.

  26. “Perhaps I’m a nut. But I’m trying to make philosophy cool again. Phil-os-o-cool I guess you could say is my life mission in many ways. Philosophy is a way of engaging ourselves in critical thinking. In looking at issues and concepts from multiple angles. Most of us were taught to accept things as they are; and to never question anything. The art of philosophy teaches us to question EVERYTHING. Nothing is so sacred that it can’t be questioned.”

    I could not agree more. Critical thinking will cause positive change.

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