If you cast your eye across the horizon of our current lives in the final quarter of 2022, the view is dirty-gray, murky and largely unclear. The murkiness could be more storm clouds, another wave of turmoil and noise. It could herald a drizzle or a hurricane. How can one know? We stand perpetually on a precipice of calamity. Fear-building concerns about our livelihoods, our health, future opportunities for productive employment, climate upheaval, food availability and water security continue to rattle us.
We live predictively. We make decisions and choices based on our individual and collective experience. That is how we are built. It is more difficult to do that now. The pandemic ran rampant over all planning and preparing. It laughed at our pathetic attempts to contain it and not destroy our economies, our livelihoods, our social support and our trust in medical science. As the virus ran out of steam, so did we. We limped back to work, those that still had work to go to, even more exhausted and burnt out than before.
Far from having learnt anything from our collective imprisonment, we seem to have emerged as many released inmates do: dazed, confused, out of touch, alone, contracted and fearful. Resentful and angry, some of us have also fallen back on our old ways, hooked up with the same gangs, and succumbed to the same old crimes. A desperate cry for help that will never come if we keep on doing the same things we always have done.
The monumental challenge we all face is how to fulfill the needs of those who are here on earth now without further compromising those of future generations. We have not done this very well to date. We have pretended to, made promises about it but in reality only stirred up desires and aches for things we want. What we want is very different from what we need.
Big Corp has conceived ingenious ways to hook us to a variety of addictive offerings most of which we do not need at all but really, really want. Like status and fame and the show of wealth, none of these things we so desperately want may last or do us much good. They just keep us in competition with each other, separated from our essence and wasteful on an earth shattering level.
In his latest book: The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness & Healing in a Toxic Culture, Gabor Mate says: “Among the great achievements of mass-consumption culture has been to convince us that what we have been conditioned to fervently want is also what we need.” p203.
So what do we need? We need food, water, air, shelter and clothing for our survival. What we are sold is fast food with no sustenance, sugar-laden drinks instead of clean water, pollution-clogged air, over-priced housing filled with unnecessary stuff, one-season clothing that we buy too much of and barely wear. All of which produces mountains of waste that piles up in landfills and clogs rivers and seas.
What we also need is connectedness – with real people in real relationships engaging face to face. Our deep need for others is fed through screens. A weak alternative but easily addictive false connection that just leaves us empty, depressed and dissatisfied. And more disconnected as a result.
Society, certainly Western society, has been captured by greed, and bows down to the demands of quarter on quarter profits stoked by desires perpetually unfulfilled. We are devouring ourselves, leaving nothing for now let alone for a future we cannot see.
To get off the dreadmill means taking the earphones out of our ears, turning our screens off, and tuning out of the airwaves and into ourselves, our loved ones and our relationships. Protecting what we allow to assail our senses with the determination of a bull terrier.
We need to come back to who we are, not who some clever marketing campaign wants us to think we should be. We need to reconnect with our environment, notice what is there, what we can be grateful for and what could be different. We need to choose to do things differently, consciously and carefully. We need to take back control, trust in our resourcefulness and decide to make a difference. While we are at it, we may also find the sense of purpose so evasive in our lives at the moment.