Depressed? Anxious? Is it time to grow up..? The world goes out of its way to keep us emotionally stunted. But loving the world – warts and all – is one of the first steps towards self-empowerment.
Question of the day: is the world getting worse, or does it just seem that way?
Life seems pretty gruesome at the moment. And I see a lot of my friends struggling to keep their heads above water. Turn on the news, and it’s corrupt politicians, environmental chaos, and celebrity sap.
Drop into social media, and it’s natural disasters, kids being slaughtered by one regime or another, our global destiny being driven by petty self (or corporate!) interest.
And cats. Lots of cats.
It’s over-whelming isn’t it?
Of course it is. If you’re not feeling the collective sorrow of the world to some degree or another you’ve either died inside or you’ve got your head under a rock.
But what do we do about it?
I think we all know that “numbing out” – either through drugs or any number of other escape tactics – isn’t the way to go. We feel like we’re better than that.
And so some of us rally to the world’s aide – determined to fix these wrongs and make the world a better place. But that road only throws us face first into the stop sign of our own impotence.
The problems of the world are so immense, so deeply rooted in culture and history, that no amount of stern letters to the editor, or self-righteous facebook ‘likes’ can change it.
We think there might be a single possum in the roof. We find an entire army of orcs.
A friend of mine forwarded this blog post to me the other day: Everyone I know is broken-hearted. Have a read if you’ve got a lazy 10 minutes. I think it nicely sums up the angst of a generation…
Anyway, he starts out by sharing his own growing sense of hopelessness and despair:
I don’t remember ever feeling this miserable and depressed in my life, this sense of futility that makes you wish you’d simply go numb and not care anymore… Everyday I wake up and think: fuck, more of this? Really? How much more? And is it really worth it?
I think this kind of ‘what’s the point’ despair is a lot more common than we admit. Even among highly successful and driven people. There comes a point…
Anyway, I think he’s about to nail it when he remembers how and why he was so much happier as a kid:
It didn’t used to be like this when I was a kid. I’m not getting nostalgic here… Life sucked when I was young. I was unhappy then too. But there was always the sense that it was just a temporary thing, that if I stuck it out eventually the world was going to get better — become awesome, in fact.
Right on. But from there he goes right off beam:
“But the reality is that the three generations who ended the 20th century, the Boomers, their Generation X children, and Generation Y, have architected a Western civilization that’s kind of a shit show.”
I think it’s very easy to romanticise the past. Would anyone really prefer to be alive at any other previous point in history? Before all the recent advancements in health, sanitation, technology, human rights and democracy?
Before blogs like this?
Sure things aren’t perfect. Far from it. But I’m not sure I buy the line that things are getting worse. The chances that you’ll die a violent death are very, very small. Once, dying of natural causes was considered a great fortune.
And if your sense of hopelessness and despair is tied to how the world is going, what have you really got to complain about? By that logic, the oppressed peasants of black-plague Europe must have been burdened by immense existential angst.
But I doubt it.
I reckon the ‘suffering’ comes out of a mismatch between our expectations and reality. As he says, he always thought life would “become awesome.” Angst is the pain that comes with seeing the world (and our futures) aren’t as awesome as we thought they were.
It’s like Tyler Durden says in Fight Club:
… We've been all raised by television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires and movie gods and rock stars, but we won't and we're slowly learning that fact. And we're very, very pissed off.
We bought the line that the world was essentially fair and just and good (from Hollywood?), and we were destined to play some sort of pivotal role in human history. Set-backs are fine because every hero’s quest needs a few challenges.
But then we get older, and we realise that the world is, and has always been ‘a shit show’… and it’s not getting better any time soon. And we realise that history isn’t likely to give a toss about how we lived our largely irrelevant lives.
If we’re not careful, this leads to a special kind of sulking. If the world isn’t awesome and I’m not special, then I don’t want to be part of it. I’m going to take my sense of entitlement and join the ‘pissed-off’ brats hanging with Tyler Durden…
The only anti-dote is to grow up. And by that I mean let go of the unrealistic world-views we picked up somewhere along the way. Accept the world is how it is – two parts beauty, two parts horror, 1 part videos of cats. Accept that you are how you are. From there, live the life that is actually offered to you.
And accept that life will only be awesome if you make it awesome. Take this responsibility.
The world is a shit show. Sure. But are you going to waste the precious few years you have here feeling bad about it?
Be generous and courageous because you want to take the human story forward. Crying over a past that never was doesn’t help anyone.
Time to grow up.