There was a philosopher, Alan Watts, who asked, “What do you desire?” He pointed out how our repeated meaningless activities turned us into a society living lives without real purpose (my paraphrase). Over and over, generation after generation, going to school, working for several decades, retiring and passing on that cycle to our offspring. Watts seemed to want each person to examine themselves and figure out what they could do that would make their life so much more, even if those things could lead to one that was shortened. He said, “Better to have a short life that is full of what you like doing than a long life spent in a miserable way.”
The masses of our society spend all year working to take a week-long tourist cruise or a European vacation. The idea of interacting with nature has become spending a week lying on a beach, reading a book, at the five star resort. People spend their money on season tickets to their favorite basketball or football team’s home games, or watch them play for hours on end with emotional attachment that clearly demonstrates lunacy. Their home entertainment packages include the endless sports, Netflix, Disney Channel, and almost infinite meaningless “programing” for twenty-four-hour continuous viewing.
Watts has been far from the only person who has examined the human situation with disappointment. Every now and then someone in Hollywood gives it some thought and gets it correct. In the ending monologue for the movie Blade Runner, the replicant Roy Batty, who was dying, stated, “I have seen things you people wouldn’t believe…” “Replicants” were manufactured almost-humans who were produced to do dangerous and other undesirable activities that real people no longer wished to perform. Batty went on to explain that all his experiences would be “lost in time, like tears in the rain…” He had become more human than the humans he was built to replace, for he had experienced so many wonders of the universe while confronting the emotional and physical challenges such things bring forth.
Our youth are provided with an almost unlimited supply and variety of mind-numbing video entertainment that replaces reality. They can pretend to steal cars, shoot and kill anything from wild animals, people, aliens and mythical creatures. There are even computer attempts at renditions of athletic events and outdoor activities such as fishing. An on-line description of a computer “fantasy game” claims to describe it: “…absolutely nails the sensation of embarking on a long, challenging, and potentially life-threatening adventure.” Those who participated in the Imperial Trans-Antarctic or Franklin’s lost expedition might find the claims of modern day “gamers” humorous.
There was a time when we had to convince a physician that we had some sort of actual ailment in order to be prescribed a mind altering pharmaceutical. Now, a person can obtain a prescription for alprazolam “to help them through” any minor inconvenience they believe they have encountered. All a person has to say is they have pain and the standard go-to diagnosis will be given, “fibromyalgia”, or some some type of “post-traumatic stress disorder”, or for those in the north, “seasonal affective disorder.” Even easier, skip the input of medical professionals, to eliminate every possible ache, pain and/or stress, whether real or imaginary. We have widely socially accepted the use of cannabis in order to “tune out” of life. The good old-fashioned shot and a beer or glass of wine is no longer sufficient.
This may all seem to be a hodgepodge of random thoughts and ideas, it is not. All these things relate to what could be described as chronic stiflers that people partake and allow themselves to be lulled into, creating lives of self-determined incredible nothingness. In a sense, we are devolving into just another species achieving little more than reproduction, however we are doing it through societal and technological “advancements.”
We are packing more and more people into our cities. Providing those billions of people with high-speed micro-processors so they can “communicate.” They share their trillions of Instagram photographs,1 texting their every meaningless movement, purchasing materialistic “designer” vanity disposal items. They have come to believe all this brings some sort of meaning to their lives. In truth, what we have done is condition the majority of our society to not actually live life.2 In a sense, with all our advancements, all we have done is deprive people of the ability to realize the most important aspects and characteristics that made the human species what it is. We have provided the means for most people to avoid experiencing what should be wonderful, fantastic, exciting lives.
- I say photographs not pictures because:
A photograph is an image created by light falling on a photosensitive surface, usually photographic film or an electronic image sensor.
A picture is a painting/drawing or an impression of something formed from a description.
- “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” Oscar Wilde.