I’m sure you’ve got your problems. Maybe you’re insecure. Maybe you’re selfish. Maybe you’re irresponsible. Maybe you have poor hygiene. There are a thousand things that could be wrong with you. There are, without a doubt, lots of ways your unhappiness is a result of choices you make, habits you’ve cultivated.
It’s not all you. That never-ending tension you feel. The lack of rest. The lack of peace. Much of it comes from living within the current cultural and economic system.
Think about it for a minute. If you’ve followed the accepted life script for a middle class American, things have gone something like this: you did moderately well in high school and went off to college. Whether you went to a big state school, or to a small liberal arts-oriented private school, you probably assumed those four years were an escape from responsibility, a special time in which actions were magically devoid of consequences. Looking back, you can see that wasn’t true. Maybe you had your heart broken. Maybe you broke hearts. Whatever happened, you have a few regrets. More than likely came out with a serious debt burden.
Now, you’re stuck dog paddling in turbulent economic waters. Your family lives paycheck to paycheck. You can’t save much. You lie awake at night knowing your boss could devastate your family with a single decision. It’s scary. You think about your kids sleeping in the other room. They’ll be getting up in a little while for school. You wonder if you’re setting them up for the same hamster-wheel life you’ve got.
If this is your situation, let me say one thing to you: you aren’t crazy. You aren’t crazy. You aren’t crazy. Of course you want a different life. I don’t know how to give that to you, but realizing a few things about the culture you live in might be a step in that direction.
Your culture encourages the worst human traits. An economy dependent on the continued purchasing of unnecessary goods encourages envy, selfishness and avarice. The reason you always feel your life is not good enough is that you are told a thousand times a day that your floors are not sufficiently clean, your television not sufficiently large, your hips not sufficiently slim. Your anxiety becomes a machine that prints money for others.
It’s not in the interest of the system for you to stop and think about this. So we’re told it’s normal never to have a silent moment. A good person in this culture never sits still. Never turns off the television. Never stops checking his phone. Sitting still is a counter-cultural act, something just for lazy no-good party poopers. Because, you see, the promise of a silence-free culture is that the party never stops if you’re willing to pay the price. All it costs is a life of debt-slavery and your sanity.
Just like at every other party, in our party-society there is little occasion for real connection. Small talk is fine for an hour, but not for a lifetime. People long for intimacy, for community, for family. Consumer culture precludes all these. You know the kids shouldn’t watch so much TV, but you’re exhausted and there’s still so much work to do. You wish you lived closer to family, but your job is a long way off and besides, only losers spend their lives clinging to the place where they grew up. The cost of pursuing the American dream now is isolation, alienation, a gnawing sense of deep loneliness.
If you find yourself dreaming of a little place in the country, don’t be surprised. Someplace peaceful where the kids can run around. Maybe you’d get a couple of chickens, grow some tomatoes. Maybe you’d just stand outside and listen to nothing but the wind. There, in that little country place, you could be more self-sufficient, less dependent on the whims of bosses and bureaucrats. There, in that little country place, you could just drop out of the whole infernal mess.
Maybe. I don’t know if you will ever have that place. But I know the first step is to drop out now. Drop out in your heart and see what happens. Go ahead. You have my permission. Stop buying whatever they tell you to. Take joy in walking right past that Starbucks and in not going in. Turn off your phone. Take the revolutionary step of sitting in a chair, undistracted for a quarter hour. Declare your revolution daily by shutting up. Call your mom. Call your grandma. Call somebody else’s grandma. Go home.
The point of this post is to tell you that you are not crazy. The world is crazy. Just like you, I am working daily to find a way out of the patterns of living we’ve been handed. It’s a tough calling, and you’re never going to make it if, in your heart, you doubt that you are right. To have any hope at all of changing things for yourself, you’re going to have to make some tough decisions. Other people are going to judge you when you depart from the script. They will scoff and tut-tut with concern. But remember, you aren’t crazy. But to find a way out, at least in the eyes of some, you’re going to have to act like it.
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