In talking about the mind previously, I’ve considered the idea that conditions such as depression or anxiety might be reasonable responses to modern life: that the world we live in may be fostering such outlooks through the levels of meaning and respect afforded to us.
I mean, we’re effectively born into social systems which set us up to struggle against almost innate inequalities (see Notes One); and it doesn’t seem unreasonable that some might see little point or security in walking that path. We’re offered very little meaning or sense of our own worth since modern thinking stripped belief, tradition, and many reassuring social conventions or niceties from how we live.
After all we’re not mindless creatures. We have immense capacity for understanding alongside deep inner lives of feeling. Yet, as a start, life itself isn’t easy: this human condition of separation with its struggles for security, acceptance, belonging, and worth; all the while reconciling ourselves with the finite and ever-changing nature of existence. And, within society, we can surely see everyone’s essentially the same, even if history made some better off (and often at the cost of others).
The mind has to live with it all. We live within systems of competition that seek advantage, differentiation, profit. We have to somehow justify these things and accommodate all the subtle shades of judgement we allow in how we label or relate to others (Notes Two).
Society – how we live, the ideas we spin – may not be this remote construct so much as the lived meanings we give to our existence: we all occupy certain places within that system; living that reality, feeling it, and being told that’s our “worth” in material as well as psychological terms (Note Three). Society’s ideas come to life through us all, and if those ideas happen to be slightly mistaken then we risk getting hurt.
So should ‘the meaning of life’ be this elusive, laughable search we wait for people to grow out of? Or is it something we hope to find within our communities, within society, within the ideas and options we’re presented?
Western society seems based largely around ideas of wealth, exploitation or competition that spill from our economic activities into almost all other areas of our lives (Note Four); a sort of ‘survival of the fittest’ attitude towards human existence and how best to organise it. And that can seem a little inhuman to me, almost coldly rational, careless and transactional.
Because, beneath it all, we’re all still human: people seeking meaning and belonging, looking to make constructive contributions and often just live a simple, decent life with those we love. Not to fight for basic courtesy, but for society to be sensibly coordinated out of respect for the dignity and importance of each human life.
How aware we are of the implications behind the systems we live within and attitudes we express seem essential questions, because I wonder if deep down we don’t sense the disparities and struggle to accept them.
Notes and References:
Note 1: Does it matter if others suffer?
Note 1: Mental health as a truth to be heard
Note 1: What inspires all of this
Note 2: Complicity and cultural attitudes
Note 2: How many aren’t well represented?
Note 3: Intrinsic worth over social identity
Note 4: Does it all balance out?