Society Sickness

ARCHIV - Menschenmassen sind auf einer Straße in Tokio unterwegs, Archivbild vom 30.03.2010. Das Risiko, an Depressionen oder Angststörungen zu erkranken ist Studien zufolge bei Städtern deutlich höher als bei Menschen, die auf dem Land leben. Bei Kindern, die in Großstädten aufwachsen, ist zudem das Schizophrenie-Risiko zwei- bis dreimal so groß. Wissenschaftler haben jetzt herausgefunden, dass zwei für die Regulierung von Stress und Emotionen zuständige Hirnregionen durch das Stadtleben beeinflusst werden, wie Professor Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg vom Zentralinstitut für seelische Gesundheit (ZI) in Mannheim der Nachrichtenagentur dpa sagte. EPA/KIMIMASA MAYAMA (ACHTUNG: Sperrfrist 22. Juni 1900 Uhr, zu dpa-Text "Städter haben höheres Depressionsrisiko" vom 22.06.2011) +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++

Water, if drank too much of, is unhealthy. By extension anything we can consume is potentially deadly. This is a worrying revelation considering what we consume is not limited to the material world. Much of our consumption is cerebral. And so I believe we have created a new kind of sickness: Society Sickness.

Since I was a child people were constantly talking about how quickly change was occurring in the world. I’m sure as well that this particular topic was not native to my generation. Pretty much since change has occurred people have said it’s becoming more rapid, and relatively speaking, they’d be right. I identify this as the primary reason that people dilute their understanding of change now. A mentality wherein we think “well change has always sped up” does not fully appreciate the degree to which it has in our time. And oh my friends how truly it has.

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If you consider that the earliest manifestations of the Internet started in the 1960’s, a fact I looked up as I write this, you should realize how recently massive change has come to the world. Freedom of information is the key factor in how different our lives are today. The advent of the smartphone I think has been severely underestimated for its impact as well. There are other technologies I could mention but I feel these best express the idea I am driving at.

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We’ve had so many new technological introductions to our society that allow us to socialize and educate that I believe, as much as we have impressively adapted, we have not kept up. To draw a fun historical comparison for what happens when new thinking or technology enters the world we could examine briefly Genghis Khan. Previous to the way his military fought, warfare had remained the same for hundreds of years. Equipped as he was with more potent knowledge and tactics, he annihilated his opponents and established one of history’s greatest dynasties. Technology is Genghis Khan in our case; and we are his opponents.

We too easily think of the freedom of information as something that enriches us. When in truth, information comes in infinite forms and is capable of being equally as destructive as it is constructive. Certainly we can now spend endless time improving ourselves with every great master’s works of fiction or science available at our fingertips. But just as simply we can waste weeks binge-watching inane garbage spewed out by click-bait media. We’ve accomplished many great things as a species but our preference, ingrained through evolutionary survival, for the path of least resistance, often leads us astray.

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And we have, as I have tried to establish, come by this fairly innocently. Parents barely used to Facebook themselves would have a hard time realizing what an intense role it will play in their children’s lives. Technology even within the last 10 years has accelerated at such a pace that all but the nerds obsessed with it would not grasp its implications. We’ve all heard the expression “we need to disconnect” and that is what I will appeal to here. Take a moment and think how often each day your eyes are resting on a device that grants free flow limitless information. You may find it startling. We are consuming our society, both mentally and materially, at a rate that could not be called healthy, and we are suffering from it.

I made the point at the beginning concerning water to illustrate that regardless of the quality of something—we need water to live—in excess it’s harmful. It’s worth bearing that in mind for information as well. Yes, even good information that we consume can become harmful, if we do not allow ourselves a moment away from it. So for the love of the great flying spaghetti monster meditate, go camping, and speak personally with a friend. Disconnect and recharge. Maybe one day we’ll expand our mental capacity with whatever neurological implants to handle an endless non-stop flow of “The Kardashians” or “Cosmos: A Space Time Odyssey”. But that day has not yet come.

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How To Right Gud: An Homage To Terry Pratchett

Start Reading!

Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett is awesome. I could stop right there but that would sort of defeat the self engrandizing journey of praise I’d like to set out upon for this, not long for the world, amazing author. I came to the game so to speak probably far after many had discovered his writing. But that’s always the way for me: late to the party and the last one standing. Strangely enough that’s also only half true as I actually read a graphic novel ‘Mort’ when I was younger that is an adaptation of the novel of his which shares the name. But since I can claim ignorance at the time of not actually knowing it was Terry’s work I still hold to the aforementioned statement that I did not read his work until recently, or at the very least, knowingly.

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Why do I love his work so much? That’s what I’m waxing on about isn’t it. So I’d best get to it. When I read his books I smile, I laugh, I learn, and maybe most important of all, I laugh at myself. In the Disc-World works there are over fourty books. To say that Terry was prolific would be an impressive understatement. The man simply never stopped writing. Up until he passed away he wrote and did so even when he himself could not put a pen to the page. He had someone take dictation and continued on in that way as well. Anyways, I digress.

In these many books I don’t understand and am constantly humbled by how he never ran out of something to say. And there in a way is the lesson I took away from him. He’s the ultimate example of what a writer should do if he wants to improve, grow, evolve, or any other fancy adjective you can throw at the wall: you should write. Yes some of it may be better or worse, but that is hardly the point. The point is to write, unashamedly, unabashedly, unanotherwordedly. Our greatest glory is not in never writing pure garbage, but in writing pure garbage until it becomes someone else’s treasure. I’m now a staunch believer in the counter concept that, you can in fact, polish a turd. To make this point in another way. Terry has made me less afraid of my writing. Inaction is the mother failure, and upon further thought, the distant cousin of masturbating far too much.

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We worry and worry and worry and melt away in a boiling non existence of existential crisis far to often wishing that we made the next great work, the world changer that all will bow before. The Disc-World books made me realize finally how unoriginal that is. A sharp adherence to practiced set standards leads to the constant problem: same shit different manuscript. Writing is meant to be play, to entertain! I feel like you see this a lot in Terry’s irreverent non-stop word play. The man is constantly creating words, messing with the ones we know and liberating us from the misunderstanding that language is law. Language is a symbol of our better selves and our better selves are not ruled by laws. They are freed by creation. Granted to write a sentence with zero punctuation that carries on for ages when it should have stopped an eternity ago can get you in serious trouble if you’re not careful and a lot of people will have your head for it but if you stick to your convictions and run with it you may be surprised at the end result… it might be funny?

So that’s what Terry Pratchett means to me. Don’t be so insufferably strict with how you right. Play with language. If you are doing it for any other reason than the clacking you feel under your fingers as you go along, you may want to examine your goals.

Stop Reading!

Til Death Do Us Part: How Modern Marriage Has Failed

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Marriage, the word is a demonstration of our language’s ability to evoke and provoke some of the strongest emotions possible. These range from the worshipful to cynical. It is simultaneously sought after and hated, not uncommonly by the same person. Is it broken? Was it ever right? I’ve been thinking about these questions a lot lately. I find myself at that time in my life (early thirties) where those inevitable questions start to arise, as though I perceive a door slowly closing. It’s my conclusion, after a good deal of thought, that I’ve been fooled, we’ve all been bamboozled, tricked, whatever you want to call it, into thinking that the oft referred to (holy) institution of marriage is something we should care and obsess over.

Let’s dig into this where I enjoy it most: its history. Marriage has not always been interpreted through its current incarnation. Now what do I mean by that exactly? Well most obviously would be this idea of marriage for eternal love. This modern consideration is an incredibly recent advent. Marriage in the not so distant past was carried out pragmatically: for family interests. The mewling protests of those involved, should there be any, were silenced quickly as selfish prattle that had better shut the hell up, or risk the wrath of their elders, and when I think about it, rightly so. Life and survival are difficult enough in an old world without youth bemoaning that they don’t get to love the person they are with. We’d have been far better off if marriage were actually referred to for what it was at its inception: duty.

But we are a forward thinking species. How dare the wisdom of the old be inflicted on the young. Better we let them decide who they should marry, and then divorce shortly after. This has led us to marriage’s current state. The mass majority of marriages end, it’s indefensible to suggest otherwise. Growing up my parents were in the absolute minority that they remained together through my youth. Their staying together was the exception not the rule.

Which leads me to my next point: the language of modern marriage in its aftermath. Having moved away from the more ancient form of marriage, we have landed ourselves in an existential hell. We’ve exchanged the mild grumbling of a couple learning to be with each other for the impossible ideal of eternal love. We even hold this lofty standard so high above our heads that if a marriage were to fail in this context we have no shortage of cruel descriptors for it: broken home and failed marriage leap to mind. We describe something so obviously natural—the falling out of love of those together for an extended period of time—as something abhorrent, hateful, and shameful. This I believe is madness.

Life in the last hundred years has changed so rapidly when compared to the previous it has left our older social constructs outdated and staggered, barely able to bear the weight of keeping up. I think fondly on my father’s joking description of the problem, “When they said till death do us part, that’s what it used to mean!” This albeit dark humour summarizes what I am trying to say. A progressive step was needed to reinvent the dated survival-style of marriage, but caught up in our solipsist view of the world we failed to see that we’d set out for ourselves an impossible standard. Couples rejoiced at the idea of marriage for eternal love, but soon found the reality was not quite what they imagined. It never is.

Now I’m not suggesting a return to the old style. We do live in a time when choosing who we wish to partner with is a luxury we can more or less afford. What I am suggesting is that we face a more difficult reality: we live long enough to have deep meaningful relationships with multiple people, and should allow ourselves to do so.

I’ll anticipate the soft soul’s argument who will cry, “What about the children? You blind fool,” and say this: we can, and already do, leave behind marriages with children yet to grow. All I’m suggesting is if we do so, let’s do away with all the weight of this crazy guilt. Good parents exist, lots of them, who are not in “wedlock,” another great term I enjoy. As long-lived human beings whose lifespans are continually stretching we must throw off the shackles that the ideal of eternal love has bound us in. We need a new love renaissance, one that correctly acknowledges both our strengths and weaknesses: Yes we can love, yes we fall out of love, there is no one single love of your life, there are many.

I cannot help but relate this to a series of books written by one of my favourite authors ‘Peter F. Hamilton.’ In his wild sci-fi imaginings he’s created a world wherein people can potentially live forever. Not only that, he considers the profound social repercussions of this world. The obvious question that comes about from eternal life is: do I eternally marry? He would suggest no. Instead, people spend as much time as they want with each other. Some raise children, some don’t. The norm of the citizens that inhabit his world is to marry many over the hundreds of years that they are alive. This to me seems natural.

And before those dissenters start screeching at the computer screen, allow me to clarify what I mean by natural. Natural is the world we have grown up in. I’ll borrow from ‘Aubrey de Grey’ to clarify what I mean. When people object to his suggestion—that we should be able to live forever—and say it is unnatural to have such long life-spans, he immediately counters with a very sound argument. When you say natural, whose natural do you mean? If you had grown up in the colonial era a natural life-span was far less than it is now. Eighty to a hundred is the natural life-span if you were born in recent memory. To cement what I am saying vicariously through Aubrey’s point: “natural” changes depending on where you are looking at it from. In effect, it is always changing given your perspective. And that is now what we need for marriage and the way we pursue it. A new perspective.