Last week I put up a post regarding suicide which is a topic with which I thankfully have no experience. I have never had suicidal thoughts, in even my darkest days nor have I ever known anyone who committed suicide or needed professional help to keep from doing so.
Living in the modern age in America hasn’t been too bad for this old man. I was able to make a living, travel the world in jet planes, pick up a phone and talk to my wife in New Jersey from Egypt, India or China. I would have made a lousy farmer in the nineteenth century and can’t image walking west on the Oregon Trail.
On the other hand however, those of us living in modern times live in a culture which creates constant low grade anxiety in all of us; a low level depression which never seems to go away. We never seem to be able to measure up; our dreams never seem to come to fruition. We are never truly happy. There is always more we can accomplish.
And so we suffer. Most of us can handle it; put it in perspective. Others are not so lucky.
What are the cultural concepts which create and shape our anxieties? Concepts which we accept without even thinking? I can think of maybe half a dozen though there are undoubtedly more.
Meritocracy – we believe everyone is free to “make it” to the “top.” Those at the top got there through hard work and effort and therefore deserve to be there. Those who don’t therefore deserve to be where they are; at the bottom. They didn’t work hard enough; they are “lazy,” the result of which is that they are poor – but deserve to be. They are unfortunate “losers.”
No one ever mentions that in most instances, making it involves a great deal of luck and avoidance of tragedy. Shit happens – even to the best of us. Tragedy and bad luck are a product of living. On the other hand being born with the proverbial golden spoon does give one certain advantages over others. Just as the Donald. On the other hand don’t. He will tell you it was his talent and hard work. His $400 million inheritance had nothing to do with it.
Meritocracy itself is an offshoot of individualism; the concept that the individual is all, We can each be anything we want and therefore each of us must strive to be something special and make it to the top of the meritocracy.
To be ordinary is to be a failure. Ordinary is a curse word. Losers are ordinary; winners are special. Everyone wants to be special.
Unfortunately statistics bear out that the vast majority of us will be ordinary, special only to the ones who love us. Relief from this anxiety will only come with the celebration of the heroism of the everyday; from the elevation of the common man and his accomplishments in the face of life’s adversities. Don’t hold your breath.
We are also inculcated with romanticism – the idea that for each of us there is one perfect partner. Finding that perfect one becomes a life’s goal for he or she will make everything perfect and ensure a lifetime of happiness.
Now of course, on the face of it this is highly improbable. The vast majority of us will meet someone who is a composite of things we love but also a few traits we will find most annoying or disconcerting.
And so we confront our hopes and dreams of perfect love vs. the reality that there is no one perfect person and even if there is you are unlikely to find them. A life partnership is built on friendship first and foremost. So rather than only trying to date models open your eyes and look around. See the other ordinary man or women; pay attention. Your life’s partner may be standing in the next aisle in the super market buying a dozen eggs.
Too many young guys today are sitting in their basements watching porn thinking they are entitled to a “hot blond bitch” and raging on incel web sites. Get over yourself. When you do and look around with a smile you may actually meet someone. She won’t be perfect; (you should give up that notion – neither are you) but maybe, just maybe she’ll turn out to be yours.
Secularism has in many ways been a great boon to the modern world advancing the belief that it is man who can shape his own destiny, not the Gods. Yet religion used to keep the petty discords in a community under control preaching a gospel of faith, hope and charity toward our fellow man. It’s absence in the lives of many of us. including me, impels us to embrace a new perspective on our place in the universe and to search for the meaning of our lives. We are here maybe 80 years give or take and if one does not believe in an afterlife then this is all there is.
The new spirituality must be “making the best of it.” We are stardust. Billion year ol carbon. In the eyes of the universe, we don’t matter any more than our cat. And yet we are one with the universe.
The media can drive us to distraction. It is constantly scaring us, worrying us, enraging us. It always gets it’s audience by highlighting man’s least admirable qualities. In extreme instances it can practically incite mob violence. It is steeped in the use of quiet invective – “liberal elites” and “deplorables” while distracting us with celebrity tripe. Who cares if Dennis Rodman was in Singapore beside his agent?
Now being a well adjusted ordinary man who never strived to reach the “top,” never thought he was anything special (well maybe a little) who found love in his life and has a sense of his place in the universe I do not worry or get agita over the things I cannot change. Whatever is happening right now, good or bad, shall pass. I have learned to disagree without being disagreeable. I am interested in the “news” but not what ever else the media is selling.
And other than this blog, I am nowhere on “social media.” Too much of social media is as they used to say “Nasty, Brutish and Short.” It allows one to anonymously say what one would never say face to face. It enables the bullying and cruelty driving too many of our young people to suicide or despair believing they will never be “special” and they are doomed to be ordinary and therefore losers who will never find the “one” that will make everything perfect.
I have come to the conclusion that our current social media is the greatest threat to our democratic values.
Finally on this list is the concept of perfectibility. Our culture tells us that everything is perfectible over time; that slow incremental improvements will eventually make everything in our lives perfect.
Not everything is within our grasp and the sooner we realize that perfection is an impossible to obtain goal the less anxiety we will suffer. One is not a failure if one is ordinary and life is not perfect; such concepts will only result in unhappiness, anxiety and envy.
Yet these are the values of the society in which we live. We need to understand the sources of our anxiety and depression if we are to survive and live happy contented lives.
I have lived this way with no regrets – other than cursing those fascist bastards now and then.