Life could be this growing into a system where we all played a valuable part and our interactions were full of meaning and purpose. Society could be a building up, a collaboration, a development of worthwhile ideas and solutions. Yet it seems we generally seek to be free of it. Why is that?
Why does it have to be this uphill struggle? Why has ‘making ends meet’ become this strange means to an end where we toil away in search of freedom from it all, often resenting one another and much of what we do.
It just seems we seek escape: consumption, indulgence, addictions of varying intensities, ways to pass time or feel better. Large chunks of modern culture seem to be these somewhat destructive or careless pursuits of obliteration, criticism, and fleeting sensations of happiness; else a building up of identity, ways we set ourselves apart (see Notes One).
At times we might distance ourselves from things, using despair or humour as our vehicles: laughing at or blaming others or ourselves for the situations playing out. But does any of this get us anywhere; does it help shift matters or create paths beyond our current limitations?
Systems are what they are: ideas, ways of organising the necessities and opportunities of life. We all exist at some point within that, taking what we can and often maintaining the structures that afford us what we possess. Many now seem to be saying – in different ways – that our systems aren’t working; but finding a new way clearly isn’t straightforward. And it revolves around money; which seems difficult to move beyond.
We might seek to reform capitalism: creating organisations that operate more responsibly within it; making efforts to redistribute resources or redefine things. Essentially though, this system seems to work by plugging our ‘needs’ – real or imagined – with goods and services produced for profit; draining a presumably finite material world for our satisfaction (Notes Two). And if one company doesn’t do it, another probably will.
But surely we don’t need all this; we might ‘want’ it and it might set us apart from others, but much of it can hardly been deemed essential. So, what is that bubble of frivolity that seems to be engulfing us? What are we chasing, and why aren’t we stopping?
And I’m very aware I’m being a little dark here; that life’s ‘always’ been a struggle and people find a way. But these systems and the lives we live within them say something about how we view life, what’s important, and the ways we see and value one another. Could all that be organised more purposefully, with greater restraint and consideration? Are there ways to step back and engage more intentionally in reshaping these systems; creating meaning where we find it lacking?
Because this really seems a rather strange way of living; and maybe if we saw a choice we’d choose to say something quite different through the lives we lead and how we spend our time.
Notes and References:
Note 1: Relating to cultural benchmarks
Note 1: Intrinsic worth over social identity
Note 1: Life and money, seamlessly interwoven
Note 2: The motivation of money
Note 2: How many things are cycles (we could break)
Note 2: Is sustainable design an impossibility?
In a similar vein, What inspires all of this considered the human side of systems we inhabit.