Why You Shouldn’t Hack Your Life


First of all, I mean no disrespect to the fine people over at Lifehacker; I think they do a great job helping people simplify their lives and accomplish everyday tasks more efficiently.

But I feel that there are some dangers associated with this subject.

First of all there’s some linguistic ambiguity. The verb to hack is an old word, and it has a lot of meanings that could cloud our discussion. So let’s hastily throw away all of the definitions that relate to chopping things haphazardly. Obviously you don’t want to hack at your life with a sharp instrument. It’s really a moot point anyway because your life is an intangible object and, therefore, immune to all hacks of that sort.


When I hear the word hack it always brings up connotative images of a cat expectorating a ball of fur onto the carpet, and this is another definition that should be tossed aside.

These first two definitions are red herrings of course, but there is a little actual ambiguity in the term lifehacking. Because to hack could have two possible meanings that relate to this situation. The first is to successfully manage something: e.g. “I just can’t hack calculus” and the second means to gain illegal access to digital information through computer programming. I’ll admit that I’ve always thought of lifehacking as using the second of these definitions.

Actually, what I mean is a variation of that second definition that has arisen in gamer culture. To hack also means to be very good at a video game through cheating. This seemed the best choice to me because lifehacking means accomplishing tasks in life in the easiest way possible.

“But Derrick” you say, “isn’t that other definition you quoted above the obvious choice for this?” shaking your head at my intellectual slip-up. “Lifehacking means successfully managing your life: it’s clear as day.”

But it’s not. Because in English we hardly ever use the word hack, with that definition, in the positive sense. (Or at least that’s the claim I’m going to make from my personal experience with absolutely no outside research. Who do you think I am? Mark Liberman?). We say “Joe couldn’t hack his sales job” but we would hardly ever say “Joe hacks his sales job” right?

Well it seems right to me, so it must be right.

Anyway. The point of all this (pffft—as if linguistic discussion needed any justification) is that a few months ago I remember reading a lifehack that said, and I paraphrase: “When you move for a new job, live east of your work so that the sun is always at your back when you drive.” I remembered it because had noticed that I did the exact opposite. I drove to work every morning heading directly east, straight into the blinding sun. “Nice job internet” I thought to myself, “where were you when I moved here six months ago? Some friend you are.”

But I discovered recently that the lifehack was wrong. It was terrible advice. Because now, as the earth enters that portion of its orbit that begins to move the sun further south (due to the tilt of our planet’s axis, don’tcha know?) and the seasons begin to change, and the days are getting a little shorter; the conditions have been just right, the timing has been fantastic, and the stars (ok, star and planet) have literally lined up so that every morning I drive not into work—but into the most fantastic sunrise. (And everybody who’s anybody knows that sunsets have nothing on sunrises).

The sky jumps golden and the sun breaks through the dark clouds and the trees hide just enough to make the sun illuminating but not blinding. The morning dew catches the light and throws it all about (the proper term is refraction, I think) and the whole world become fairyland. The sky quite literally declares the glory of God.

That right there is worth the other 320 days of the year being just a little bit too bright during the daily commute. I think I would be all sorts of depressed if I found myself driving away from it.



About Derrick

Derrick lives and works in South Carolina where he teaches English at a technical college and raises his two small children with his wife, Danielle.
This entry was posted in Christianity, Language and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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