People just want to chill, relax, have some fun and live their lives the way that they want to. Work their job to get paid, be able to entertain themselves when they want to and have all of the necessities required in order to sustain their lifestyle. When it comes to things outside of these basic requirements, it’s considered to be extra.
And we live pretty well as Americans, don’t we? As Westerners? Most of us, at least? Those of us who don’t live so well, well, we see them when we stop at a stoplight and see grizzled men and tough women holding up signs written in ballpoint or marker on a torn piece of cardboard, depicting numerous traumatic experiences that have forced them to the point of asking you and I for money in a 2 minute span of time till that light turns green and we can speed off and relegate that individual and their situation into the Dustbin of Unwanted Memories. We mostly only hear about others who don’t live so well, if we are lucky enough to live in the suburbs or relatively affluent small towns. We hear about the problems of the big city and drug abuse, murder, cycles of poverty and mental illness and we cluck and comment, shaking our heads or sighing as the violins play and the greater world intrudes upon our personal worlds for just a few moments. We listen avidly to family members and friends who experience the same in our corners of the urban hinterlands, wondering how such problems came to be – when everything is surely so perfect where we live - and the vagaries of the human condition.
Sometimes it seems as if this lifestyle will last forever, and who is to say that it will not? Anything is possible, right? The Greatest Depression that we are currently experience and that some say will bring about the consolidation of Canada, the US and Mexico into the North American Union or some facimile thereof, the fall of the Petro-dollar and rise of the Amero, Yuan or Euro, the perceived possibilities of hostilities in Iran, Russia and China may or may not materialize and we can rebuild our infrastructure and employment indices based upon green technologies and the harnessing of wind, solar and geothermal energies in order to create a stable and progressive society that will serve the needs of the American people and the world. All of this is within the realm of possibility. So what is the problem? What is it that holds us back from this glorious possible future scenario that can only be manifest through the pain of the present moment?
I suppose there are many answers to that question, all of them related in one fashion or another to the gumption of the American people and our capacity to rise above circumstance in order to create the lives that we choose, for ourselves, our families and the greater society. The fact that our society has overcome numerous hurdles in the quest to create a more perfect union speaks to this country’s capacity to reinvent itself with changing national and global circumstances. The fact that this Democratic experiment was a new thing on the face of the Earth and that it stands as an exemplar to the rest of the world is the commonly-held ideal that underlies the disparate lifestyles, cultures and economic levels that coexist uneasily and in constant struggle to gain a larger piece of the American pie.
The struggles of minority groups, ethnic and economic, the struggles between genders, as women gain prominence in all aspects of governance and economics, the inter-generational struggles of young against old and immigrant versus native all exemplify the American dream and the promise held forth as some future potentiality, enshrined in the immortal words of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. We struggle to reconcile these lofty ideals against the lived reality that most Americans share, in which all people are not created equal, and slavery still exists behind the impenetrable walls of the prison system. We struggle to reconcile these lofty ideals against the lived reality that most Americans share, in which some people seem to inhabit a different America than most others, where family connections and ethnicity allow access to greater portions of that American pie. And, we struggle to reconcile these lofty ideals against the lived reality that most Americans share, in which the pursuit of happiness is secondary to the pursuit of life-sustaining employment and access to education, both of which are necessary in the sustenance of intergenerational equity, which leaves future generations in a better position than the current ones.
It is difficult to sustain any level of hope in the future when the present is barely sustainable. While sitting at that stoplight waiting for the light to turn green we studiously avoid looking at the indigent individual holding up his or her sign and begging for money and instead, perhaps, worry about the gas tank being on empty and not having enough food for the week. We worry about whether or not our jobs are going to be outsourced or downsized due to economic conditions, or how deep the government cutbacks will be, or if we’ll be able to pay the rent or the mortgage in the foreseeable future. If we are lucky enough not to be concerned about those personal issues, we worry about our family members and friends who are experiencing them and we hope that they won’t end up on the freeway overpass like that man or woman that we still aren’t looking at as our feet fidget nervously between the gas and brake pedals, ready to zoom into the future and away from these reminders of the sheer impermanence of comfort and an unchanging, familiar world.
Cynicism threatens in situations like this. It is hard to be hopeful, to be positive about the future when we don’t know what tommorrow is going to bring. This is the human condition, which has not changed since humans have been on this planet, I’m sure. One thousand years ago, the merchant or peasant in Europe or the villager or peasant in Africa or China felt the same way about their lifestyle, looking at the signs of the time and hoping against hope that things might remain the same, that the restless winds of change would blow over their lives without affecting all that they held dear.
At the core of this existential challenge is the Quest for Self-knowledge. The often un-vocalized question as to life’s purpose and why we’re really here. Why we go through the things we experience, what good are they and if G-d or the gods are really out to get us, as it sometimes seems, when things go badly. Seeking happiness and contentment outside of ourselves is doomed to failure, because the lack of stability within manifests as instability without. Everyone is going through the same thing, everyone has the same doubts, everyone has the same desire to find peace and live a life of meaning. Everyone wants love,everyone wants stability and everyone wants to be who they are meant to be.
It seems that that which threatens us is, in the final analysis, internal. Project your situation out, into the world, realizing that people have more in common than not. Consider the reality that everyone’s doubts, fears and worries mingle and coalesce in a psychic miasma of negative polarity, infusing external events with internal meaning, strengthening bastions of fear who war against the forces of joy. Consider the possibility that life does indeed reflect a dichotomous Reality, and that negativity exists in eternal opposition to positivity, and that this battle is not only carried out within our souls, but also in the world around us. Consider the probability that each and every circumstance, thought and occurence in our lives holds meaning in this battle, and that the choices that we make individually have some relation to the choices that we make collectively.
Enjoying the perks of a consumer lifestyle allows us to meditate upon physicality, 24/7. With all of the external events, happenings and emotional imbroglios that we find ourselves entangled within on a daily basis, we hardly find time to seek personal solace and reflection, consolidating our own mental and emotional stability against the changing fortunes of time and circumstance. We are caught up in the world, and can hardly find the time to find ourselves. Realizing that this state of affairs cultivates a state of general ignorance and inertia puts quite a different light upon spending the evening watching a movie that you’ve seen 12 times before, or playing a video game while the world keeps on turning, time remorselessly passing as the moments of our lives tick away, never to return again.
But people don’t want to hear that. Or have anyone preach to them on the evils of ignorance and of lives wasted in the Pursuit of Banality. We all have a choice and we make choices in every moment of our lives and damn anyone who tells us that we’ve made the wrong choice. Right?
In a world of change and uncertainty, choice is a constant. In an eternal Creation, where lifetime after lifetime can be spent living the kinds of lives that we enjoy, choice is the vehicle of leisure. There is no rush, no rush at all, and to live our lives in constant worry and conflict is a choice that many of us make, thinking that we’re running out of time. Granted, our limited incarnational vehicles do expire, the warranty will run out; but a new vehicle is promised and the soul’s journey continues. Yet and still, in the here and now, that incessant, nagging inner voice is familiar and we need our neuroses in order to define ourselves. Without our problems, worries and distresses, who would we be? What would we be? Where would we be?
So just chill. Relax. Have some fun and live your life in the way that you want to. Work your job and get paid, entertain yourself and collect the necessities that support your chosen lifestyle. And anything that is above and beyond that? Isextra.