We want to live with a feeling of being at home, knowing our places and ways.
A big part of cultural and national mythologies revolves around this theme; it tells stories of who “we” are, what we are to live like, what makes “us” different from “them.”
Cultures and societies, indeed, must shape and be shaped by their members’ ways of (making a) living in such a way as to provide for their needs and be able to continue – or collapse if/when that link between people, story and world becomes dysfunctional… and you can probably imagine where this is going:
The one culture we have increasingly seen spreading around the world is that of consumerism and industrial development, and while – or because? – it spreads some comforts and convenience, it is not, in many a regard, working satisfactorily.
The way we want a world made to our liking, responding to our every whim, giving us whatever we want (and when we want it), may be the major cause behind many of our problems. It actively makes us forget to work on our own true development, on our skills and ourselves.
It leads to…
- … education that doesn’t work because kids (if not even their parents) don’t see the value of it, and thus prefer computer games’ quick feeling of accomplishment to the hard work of learning. Or, it works in creating great test scores, but hardly any of the understanding and practical knowledge required to actually use any of the information rehearsed and regurgitated.
- … economics based on cheap oil, making imported food cheaper than locally grown, causing global changes, and apparently reaching its zenith – and all the reaction the majority shows is to not care, go into denial, wishfully think everything will somehow magically just go on “as it always has,” even when that “always” is barely over a hundred years (if you count industrialization) or maybe only just some thirty years (taking the “globalized” economy as yardstick).
- … personal development that is nothing much but quick hacks to better fit into the supposed reality of what this world is like, and in the process supports the psychopathy of looking for personal successes in ways that hardly care about the rest of the world, as if money and fame were (the only) virtue, and as if individual life were independent of all else.
In creating comforts and conveniences, this craziness has become a (if not the) dominant narrative, but it is alienating us from life and the world.
It has brought us to the point of thinking we’re uber-realistic when we try to forget about our humanity, in all its good sides and bad, and try to be economic virtualism’s “rational actor” who just calculates the greatest benefit in terms of money, without any consideration of all that this proxy of good living cannot provide.
It is trying to find perfection in technology, and being destitute when a few minutes go by without an internet connection, seeking the perfect life thanks to apps and strict schedules, never acquiring and strengthening the skills to “perform” the better life, independent of battery-powered crutches.
It is busy-ness filling days with ever more things that must be done, put in order, accomplished, when a better grasp of life (and life-work) would really get things done by recognizing how few things need doing and having a structure of habits by which those will be done best, leaving room and energy for more rather than draining energy and attention until even the most important things – like health, learning, friends and family – are avoided because “there’s never the time.”
This, too, is a main point in facing reality: One essential part of it is remembering our humanity in all its complexity – including its potential for doing better if, and only if, we work towards that; another side of it is the understanding that life, and the world, also have parts we find good, and parts we find not-so-good, and not trying to just look on the bright side and avoid the troubling and inconvenient, but taking it on. Accepting it, if it is an essential of life, and working to change it, if it is something that is in our powers to change, individually or with others.
The essential point is this: As long as we try to avoid all the pain and discomfort of life, try to get technology to simply eliminate what we dislike of it, we won’t just fail to get to better, we will actively hinder our progress.
Real progress comes with learning, understanding better what reality is like, what life entails – and developing technique, skill and understanding, with which to live life better and make lives better.