What Have We Become?

I have a few things on my mind tonight, so let’s get started!

First, a timely quote from a band I used to listen to in my youth:
“What have we become? A self-indulgent people. Tell me where are the righteous ones, in a world degenerating? What have we become? Have we come undone?

Speak your mind, look out for yourself. The answer to it all is a life of wealth. Grab all you can ’cause you live just once. You got the right to do whatever you want. Don’t worry about others or where you came from. It ain’t what you were, it’s what you have become.

What about love? What about God? What about holiness? What about mercy, compassion, and selflessness?”

~DC Talk, What Have We Become (Jesus Freak Album Version)

After spending the afternoon at a peaceful yoga ashram out in the “countryside” in Sonoma, CA, a new perspective was had driving back into the city of San Francisco. Living in a bustling city, you get the feeling of “look what man has done.” So much work has gone into the things you see everyday: the giant buildings, miles and miles of paved roads and traffic control, mass transit, fancy boutiques and restaurants. Hundreds of thousands of successful-looking people walk from store to store with purses and wallets full of cash and credit cards, looking happy and glamorous.

It’s easy to feel like you are stuck in a system that you have not created. That everyone knows something you don’t. That it’s someone else’s land and you are just inhabiting or renting a small corner for an unknown amount of time. Nothing is yours, really. Everything, every square inch of land is owned and controlled by someone else.

I try to imagine the way San Francisco must have looked before we paved paradise and put up a parking lot. I’ve posted before that I get a sense of impending doom and impermanence whenever I look at a city in this way. As if man has built up an empire of steel and concrete and asphalt in which to showcase his wealth, but that it is all temporary, and in a way not REAL.

I think everyone questions the systems they inhabit at some point in their life, and I don’t have any intention of going A.W.O.L. into the wilderness like the kid in “Into the Wild,” but it is damned tempting sometimes.

Maybe it’s just my selfish need to create. The fact that I see so much around me that others have done that I had no part in doing makes me feel like I’m not contributing.

But another part of me thinks we are missing the point as a species. The haves and have-nots have been around since we slowly stopped the hunting and gathering lifestyle some 15,000 years ago. Yes, I am nostalgic for those days. Take this quote from a Washington State University Agricultural Revolution course:

“Hunter gatherer societies typically enjoy a surprisingly diverse diet and abundant leisure. They live in a small, personal world defined by the band, which seldom consists of more than 250 people. Since young people usually marry outside of the band and hunter gatherers have no accumulated wealth to steal, their attitude toward outsiders tends to be cautiously friendly rather than hostile.”

Abundant Leisure. Now that sounds good to me. How many of us can say we enjoy Abundant Leisure? And why not??

One reason:
“Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need.” ~Fight Club quote

What if we just bought what we needed, rather than all the shit we don’t need? We have too much money, while others don’t have enough. I really think that mass media and corrupt advertising has something to do with it. Opportunistic fools trying to peddle luxuries to the masses that don’t really need what they are selling…We really are simple creatures.

Why is it, that as a child I believed it wasn’t enough to live with a roof over our heads, eat the same food everyday, and drive cars that weren’t pretty, and took a long time to “warm up”, but got us where we were going?

How is it that my definition of ultimate success changed from surviving and having leisure time, to being wealthy enough to support my blood line for 10 generations?

Why does it cost so much to live? What really are the bare necessities? Food, then Clean Water, then Shelter. Then Health then Clothing, then Transportation then Education. Transportation has become so much more important than it should be. And why is education even on the list? So our children can grow up to sell more commodities than your country’s children. It’s all disgusting.

People point to our advances: Oh, we are living much longer now in societies that strive for wealth. We have made engineering and medical advances that have allowed this to happen. But how did this happen? On the backs of clambering commoners working 12 hours a day for greedy businessmen producing shit we don’t need. And what did the commoners give up? Leisure. Leisure has been replaced by work work work. Work so that our company can make money, so that some of this money can make us slightly more healthy and make us live longer lives. Longer lives that we can spend work work working harder and harder.

Wilderness is looking pretty good right now.

I wonder if this was all inevitable. Man has evolved these wandering, fidgeting brains, and perhaps we NEED to work so much to keep our minds occupied. To keep from getting bored to death. You could certainly say the hustle and bustle of the city is exciting, not boring. I don’t know.

And I’m enjoying having this cold and sore throat that I’ve had the past week. I brought it on myself with unncessary stress and worry, and now it’s almost healed up. I like the fact that I can trust my body to heal itself, and that I don’t have to use decongestants (speed), throat spray (anesthesia), sleeping pills (downers), or any other symptom-relief type of drug that always carries unnecessary and unwanted side effects. You got yourself into bad health, so you can live with the symptoms and learn from them, whether it is breathing through your mouth for a day, skipping your exercise routines and just resting, letting a fever run its course and just drinking enough water to stay hydrated, and allowing yourself to stay up until 2:30am if you can’t sleep and just observe your thoughts and body. When you force your body to “feel better,” you’re not trusting that it is doing its job the best it can. When you allow yourself to be totally present in your pain, you learn a lot, and are better off for it. In this case, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. When you rely on pills to take away your problems, you have no power the next time you are confronted with the same problem. You beome dependent on pills, therefore on others.