Monday, May 29, 2017

Monday Mantra: An Appetite for Distraction

mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation".

Every Monday I will post a new thought, idea, or focus for the week. When you need a breather from life, when you need a little inspiration, or when you're about to jump over the conference table and strangle your co-worker, remember the mantra.

Monday Mantra: What I desire must not destroy me. What I desire, I must earn.
Marco Melgrati
The first job I ever had taught me the value of my time and effort, which resulted in the benefit of a paycheck. As tired as I was after each long day, the feeling of earning something was undeniably awesome.

Working out, for me, yields those same kind of feelings. I might not love every moment, but knowing I've worked hard (whether it be for a treat or my abs) always leaves me feeling good mentally and physically.

I started pondering this concept last week - the idea of effort, of value, of earning something - when it comes to other areas in life, like playing on a cell phone or watching TV. How this, too, can be seen as something that's more fulfilling when earned instead of when overused. However, we rarely treat technology as something to earn. Because it's limitless, we spend unlimited time using it.

The internet was a completely new concept when I was a teenager. Because of that, I had time on my hands to kill. While I spent plenty of time on normal things like watching what was the WWF and kicking some serious Bowser ass, I also spent a lot of my time reading, writing, taking long walks or drives, and thinking. I spent countless hours thinking. It was my favorite thing to do.

That's the piece I feel like we're missing the most these days. Of course, we think at work and school and most of the time naturally. But we've lost the time when we thought just for fun. When we would sit on a stair step and ponder life. When we could get lost for hours inside our own heads on adventures we would create, instead of getting lost for hours on our phones.

I don't want to villainize technology. It's useful, it's fun- I get it. I use it. I'm using it right now. But many of us have forgotten what it felt like before. Many of us don't even know what it was like BT (before technology). Before we had something that could keep us entertained literally any minute, of any hour, of any day without any effort. Back when we had to entertain ourselves on our own. Back when we had to work a little harder to earn that entertainment.

For example, I'm a huge fan of The Walking Dead so I get really excited for that one hour every week when it's on. I look forward to it and, in certain ways, I earn that hour. I get all my activities done during the day, make dinner, clean up, and then sit down to indulge in my hour of apocalyptic entertainment.

I've also done the opposite. I've overindulged in Netflix marathons and found myself wondering what day it was. While it starts out fun, I never feel great after the fact. Because I, like all of us, have these things called responsibilities, when I spend endless hours being lazy watching TV I don't feel fulfilled.

Once that fun and/or entertainment threshold has been met, it's done. No matter how much more TV time you consume, you can't reclaim that feeling you had at first. This is why you end up feeling lethargic, drained, and, for some people, even out of touch with reality. It's similar to the science around sugar; the first few bites are amazing, but then you're just trying to recapture that feeling as you continue to mindlessly consume.

It makes me wonder about today. About all of us that overindulge in technology. About the difference in what it feels like to earn something instead of just taking it because we can, because it's there. What that does to us, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally. How that affects our outlook on life. How that affects what we expect from life, other people, experiences. How altered things can be because of something so small and seemingly simple.

It makes me wonder about what the world will look like five years from now, ten. Will we be better? Or worse? Will we become so enthralled with entertaining ourselves in every spare moment that we, instead, end up losing ourselves? Have we already done that? And, if so, are we capable of overcoming what we've done to ourselves? The more telling question of the times: Do we even want to?

As always, the universe must have been listening in on my thoughts because I ran across the excerpt, below, which I stole for your reading pleasure from Jedidiah Jenkins' Instagram page (follow him- he's amazing and brilliant and compassionate. Also, yes- I see the irony in where I found this information based on what this post is about). It's incredibly eye-opening, friends- and true at this very critical moment in life of what's happening in our world, on our phones, on our TV sets and, ultimately, in our brains.

"We were keeping our eye on 1984. When the year came and [George Orwell's] prophecy didn't, thoughtful Americans sang softly in praise of themselves. The roots of liberal democracy had held. Wherever else the terror had happened, we, at least, had not been visited by Orwellian nightmares.But we had forgotten that alongside Orwell's dark vision, there was another - slightly older, slightly less well known, equally chilling: Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley's vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny "failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractions". In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us."

From Neil Postman's 1985 book Amusing Ourselves to Death. Written before cable news. Before the internet.

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