I have given some serious consideration to unplugging. You know, from social media, from the news, from attempting to have external signs of this or that for this group or that to see. I must say, I just watched a Black Mirror (Netflix, 5th season) called “Smithereens” and it is the latest brick in the wall.
Indeed, even back in 1979 Pink Floyd had this to say about the state of education and the social world in which children exist:
I don’t need no arms around me
And I dont need no drugs to calm me.
I have seen the writing on the wall.
Don’t think I need anything at all.
No! Don’t think I’ll need anything at all.
All in all it was all just bricks in the wall.
All in all you were all just bricks in the wall.
Roger Waters/Pink Floyd, “Another Brick in the Wall” (video HERE)
Writer Roger Waters said “The song is meant to be a rebellion against errant government, against people who have power over you, who are wrong. Then it absolutely demanded that you rebel against that.” The website SongFacts indicates that “Roger Waters wrote this song about his views on formal education, which were framed during his time at the Cambridgeshire School for Boys. He hated his grammar school teachers and felt they were more interested in keeping the kids quiet than teaching them. The wall refers to the emotional barrier Waters built around himself because he wasn’t in touch with reality. The bricks in the wall were the events in his life which propelled him to build this proverbial wall around him, and his school teacher was another brick in the wall.”
I love Rush’s 1976 barn-burner “2112” as well; that is a veritable anthem, Ayn Rand-style, about the great burden that the external world can place on the individual to conform, comply, and comport.
Here is uber-investor Grant Cardone trying his best to be authentic and not be self-centered: (VIDEO)
I referenced Black Mirror and the episode “Smithereens”. I would suggest you call the whole thing up on Netflix (though this whole post is somewhat anti-technology!). HERE is a great snyopsis/analysis. I must say, it impacted me deeply. It really caused a sense of discombobulation around the idea of how weird the world is. It’s just fucking weird now.
By weird, I mean the following, and more. See if this list resonates with you. Read the words one by one and see if it makes you more and more uncomfortable:
Money. Greed. Selfishness.
Social interactions via the Web.
Clicks. Notifications. Likes. Swipes.
Alcantra leather. Bluetooth. Self-driving cars.
Capitalism. Debt. Poverty.
Donald Trump. Trump voters. Birtherism.
Mainstream media. Advertisers. Sitcoms.
Manufactured consent. The illusion of democracy. (Chomsky book)
Voter irregularities. Gerrymandering.
Dark money. The Supreme Court. Brett Kavanaugh. Mitch McConnell
Climate change. Clean coal. Fracking. Fires.
Disconnectedness. Distractedness. Dystopia.
Infotainment. Vegas. Sex slavery.
Vaccine avoidance. The power of industry to control our lives.
Nuclear threats. Russian interference in elections.
Genocide. Domestic violence. Famine. Child abuse.
Faberge eggs. Hermes scarves. Chanel bags. Rolex watches.
Keeping up with the Joneses. Hyper-competiveness. Perfectionism.
I have problems. Glaucoma was part of my genes and it is greatly affecting me nowadays. Blindness is the impending threat. My wife has a jaw malfunction that is probably exacerbated by stress and it might take maxillofacial or oral surgery to correct. How does that sound!? I worry too much about making money, getting ahead, and becoming perfect. I want more security, more success, more power. I get angry sometimes and have been known to throw things.
The Doomsday Clock now believes we are two minutes to midnight. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists call this state of dysfunction and dystopia “the new normal.”
Think about that. Human beings have been forming societies for like one minute of the history of the cosmos if that timespan were analogous to a 12-month calendar. Carl Sagan explains our inchoate and fragile existence HERE.
One minute of human existence if the duration of the cosmos were a 12-month calendar. That is five-hundred and twenty-five thousand minutes in one year, and we have only existed for less than one minute. And, on a similar but different scale, the atomic scientists tell us that we have two minutes to go before the clock of humanity’s existence strikes midnight and it’s game-over!
I worry that American society, like that of ancient Rome, just doesn’t have the ability to change course. We are too far gone, I fear. I tend to view the issue from my parallax view: political liberalism, religious agnosticism, humanism, existentialism. But clearly those who are my polar opposite worry about America, too. It seems inarguable that there have been far too many unwise decisions made in the past, bringing myriad unintended and dark consequences into our present, making our future alarming, inexorable. How much more Trump, global warming, Amazon rain forest deforestations/fires, social media crazes, sexual harrassment debacles, football concussions, Democratic debates, measles outbreaks, mass murders, and Citizens United decisions can we have before we are positively on our knees as a society?
Here, The Moderate Voice asks if Citizens United was the death knell for our democracy.
Black Mirror, the show on Netflix, is a gross but amazingly prescient look at ourselves in this Information Age. You really owe it to yourself to watch all five seasons. It will haunt and enlighten and awaken you. Many movies have been made, the most haunting probably being Orwell’s 1984.
An American Indian proverb warns, “If we don’t turn around now, we just may get where we’re going.” I fear we are now on a narrow street, headlights out, heading toward a stone wall, and there is no turning around.
The conclusion that I am drawing at the moment I am typing this blog is: I must disconnect. I have to be less worried and stressed. I have to make the most of the candle I have before it burns out and I am alone in the dark, with only the sound of my breathing to unnerve me.
Most of us are obese, smoke, drink to excess, don’t have $10,000 in our bank accounts. Cancer and autism are grave threats. Heart attacks, car accidents, and opioid addiction/overdoses plague us. Stress-related illness plagues us. Like our arteries, we don’t have the flexibility and resilience to absorb many more problems. Re: the Doomsday Clock, which usually moves, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists call this state of dysfunction and dystopia we experience as “the new normal.”
I reject this – and the materialism, speed, unfulfillment, perfectionism, quest for control and predictibility, and restlessness that plagues me. I don’t want to be Type A; I don’t want to die of a stress-related illness. I want to make the most of the time I have left. I wish for peace and prosperity, health and well-being, joy and security, to be my goals, and it probably involves realigning my life to be less tuned in to social media, news, and money. I must cease being so “Type-A.”
I should really stop sweating the small stuff, because it’s all small stuff, as it were. How much money do I really need before I finally “arrive”? The human mind is ceaselessly changing its focus to adapt to new-found success. It’s never enough. It’s part of the human condition. It is wisdom to upturn the Monopoly! game and exclaim that I have won. I don’t need ten more green houses and ten more red hotels to be happy. I’m down to one competitor and it’s stressful to try endlessly to beat him. It’s Sisyphean absurdity. Game over!
This is what strikes people who recover from a long bout with illness, or have a near-death experience, or, surprisingly, try psilocybin once. They sooo long to just live a simple life; to exist. Anne Frank: I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains. My advice is: Go outside, to the fields, enjoy nature and the sunshine, go out and try to recapture happiness in yourself and in God.
“Seize the day, boys! Make your lives extraordinary,” Robin Williams advised his students in the fantastic movie about this very topic, Dead Poet’s Society. And in another triumph, he helps Matt Damon’s character grow and change in Good Will Hunting. Oh, do we miss him. Taken too early from us by a horrible disease, and by a depressed mind that couldn’t find solace in humor anymore.
People commit suicide. They think life is that horrible. They never turned around before they got where they were going. Their minds were so totally habitually depressed that there was apparently, evidently, no turning back. The final solution. They could see no way out, with death their escape from suffering.
However, those who meditate find great comfort in it. Checking out; taking a break; clearing the mind; refreshing. Not being attached to the outcome on this sphere spinning through space since time immemorial, and for many more millennia.
You only get one chance. What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?, Mary Oliver asks.
Coleridge’s poem “Kubla Khan” inspired Neil Peart to weave together a haunting tale of a man seeking immortality in the mysterious land of Kubla Khan, Xanadu. The man’s striving for glory didn’t turn out so well. So one needn’t aim that high, to the point of folly. There is no perfection, no immortality, no once-and-final overcoming. The gods punish hubris.
Jan Phillips notes that most of us are deeply driven by the quest for money: “Here we are on planet Earth with one precious life to live and what are most of us caught up in? The quest for money. Living takes money. Business takes money. Growth takes money. So the question is how can we tend to the business at hand without living divided lives?” Robert L. Lloyd believes it is love of money, not money, that is the root of all evil. There is something inside us that wants to outdo others, to be superior to them, to excel. It grips some individuals more than it does others.
My wife was really in the zone when she wrote this; it’s so wonderful: “Let’s just be and enjoy one another’s company and be happy we have more than enough money to live a more than comfortable lifestyle and we are lucky enough to love each other and not have a terminal illness, as of yet or hopefully ever, and have pets and delicious food when we want it and have the luxury to be lazy sometimes and just breathe and rejoice that while we don’t deserve it, we’ve been blessed with a fantastic spot on this planet for the small time we get to be on it, and that that may change in the coming years, so now is the time for rejoicing and joy before any of the sorrow.”
I want to live authentically, to, as Thoreau put it: “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” He went to a pond and it worked well for him. Robert Frost came upon a fork in the road, and chose the road less-traveled-by, and it made all the difference. George Eliot, who had to pretend to be a man to be taken more seriously as a writer, warned us that “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.”
Life is not all about money, speed, competition. Einstein said: “I have lived to prove Thoreau’s contention that a man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.” And philosopher Peter Singer cautioned that “The hedonist is dedicated to seeking pleasure; yet those who deliberately set out in search of pleasure rarely find it, except perhaps fleetingly.” So I would do well to aim for fulfillment, happiness (in the Aristotelian sense), modesty, joy, meaning, and authenticity more than pleasure per se. The legendary Joseph Campbell advises us:
“If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track, which has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living.”
In his book about slowing down, Carl Honore notes that for mos, “Work devours the bulk of our waking hours. Everything else in life—family and friends, sex and sleep, hobbies and holidays—is forced to bend around the almighty work schedule.”
Whatever happened to the Age of Leisure? Why are so many of us still working so hard? One reason is money. Everyone needs to earn a living, but the endless hunger for consumer goods means that we need more and more cash, Honore asks. Political theorist Gar Alperovits asserts: “Individual liberty obviously can never be fully realized if men and women must work devastatingly long hours simply to feed and shelter their families. Only if individuals have time that they can dispose of freely as they see fit can liberty be truly meaningful.”
“The Isle of the Blessed”, according to Aristotle, is living with wisdom, excellence, friendship, contentment, and virtue. It’s contemplation, learning, and growth. Abraham Maslow would to some degree agree. Scholar Daniel N. Robinson here: “The right kind of life finds us committing ourselves and our rational powers to what is worth thinking about. Given a choice between contemplating issues of philosophical consequence and contemplating changes in the stock market, a more flourishing life is lived by those who contemplate the former rather than the latter.”
As well, Robinson points out that: “For Aristotle, the ultimate answer, after the question has been reduced further and further, is that we perform actions for the sake of eudaimonia. This central term is a challenge to translate. In many translations, eudaimonia is ‘happiness.’ Everything that we do, we do for the sake of happiness, but this is not merely sensuous pleasure and the avoidance of pain. The best understanding of eudaimonia is not that it’s some point reached; it’s not some transient state but a veritable form or mode of life. It’s life of a certain character and stripe, properly described as a flourishing life — eudaimonia is flourishing.”
The psychologist and philosopher, Robinson, notes that “Aristotle is recovering the Homeric idea that a flourishing life presupposes a political form of affiliation, a rich and familial form of life entered into by those who are prepared to live together at the level of principle and in friendly relationships, which themselves presuppose a commitment to virtue.”
Frankly, my vision has more to do with dropping out of the rat race and preserving the time, the money, the relationships, and the peace and prosperity I have before my sand has drained through the hourglass. I have spent too much time worried about (and spending money) trying to improve America through politics. I just don’t think we have the potential for change that I wish we did. I think we are too far gone, and that those slave-owning, wig-wearing aristocrats who founded the country would probably be rolling over in their graves to see what we have wrought. It would seem foolish to beat my head against that wall any longer. I suppose that makes me a kind of quitter. Or at least a refugee.
Neil Peart again:
When they turn the pages of history,
When these days have passed long ago,
Will they think of us with sadness
For the seeds that we let grow?
I do not want to see another brick placed in the wall keeping me from peace and prosperity, from health and happiness. I do not want to unwittingly contribute to walling myself in, emotionally, spiritually, or socially. I want to change, and live with fulfillment, meaning, and security. If my life were The Lord of the Rings trilogy, specifically the final book, “The Return of the King”, it would be wonderful to, like Bilbo Baggins, sail away toward the setting sun with my friends to the place where the elves will dwell for eternity, leaving the humans to finally live in peace and love under the guidance of wise and powerful King Aragorn. America does not have a King Aragorn, and evil has not been defeated here on Earth. But I’m taking that ship anyway, and I’m bringing my wife, my dogs, my books, my dad’s ring, and some silver and gold with me. I’m talking about really slowing down, savoring the solace, soaking up the freedom. There will be some sadness, as death and accidents are part of life. But there won’t be so much goddamned Donald Trump, so much Facebook and Instagram selfies, so much Apple music not permitting me to play my songs, and so much concern for getting ahead. “The problem with the rat race is, even If you win, you’re still a rat” (Lily Tomlin).
Below are some additional quotes about life, living well, and not dying before our time (from famous and not-so-famous females):
What a wonderful thought it is that some of the best days of our lives haven’t even happened yet.
“I always say that death can be one of the greatest experiences ever. If you live each day of your life right, then you have nothing to fear.”
It is in his pleasure that a man really lives. It is from his leisure that he constructs the true fabric of self.
“Your problem is how you are going to spend this one odd and precious life you have been issued. Whether you’re going to spend it trying to look good and creating the illusion that you have power over people and circumstances, or whether you are going to taste it, enjoy it, and find out the truth about who you are.”
The best thing you can do, Sartre declared, is to live authentically. Sartre used this term to mean that you have to accept the full weight of your freedom in light of the absurd. You have to recognize that any meaning your life has, is given to it by you.
We don’t need a self-help guru to remind us we all have the power to change our lives. Would you like to lose weight or tone your body? Want to be kinder, gentler? How about becoming more intellectual, or more creative? No one can stop us from reaching these goals but ourselves. We set our own limits.
"I don't want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well."
Our lives are valuable if they are based on values.
“The [ancient] Cynics felt that the way people lived in civilized society was full of falsehood, emotional discomfort, and pointless striving. Yet honesty, ease, and repose were available to anyone who merely stopped lying, role-playing, and striving.”
You don’t have to achieve grandeur to live a life of value.
I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever-approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the suffering of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again. In the meantime, I must uphold my ideals, for perhaps, the time will come when I shall be able to carry them out! ~ Anne Frank