Thinking about “life”, in a way it’s just this limited span of time filled with interests and activities; the choices we make, things we pursue, and relationships we form within the world around us. With that, we can go with the flow or decide to chart our own paths through the options available and what that journey might ultimately mean.
And, these days, those options and their meanings seem to be frequently shaped by business, money, and the economics of life. So much is framed in those terms: image, personal branding, industries we support, all we choose to put ourselves behind and construct our identities around. It seems to just be how things are, what modern life’s about, the form perennial human activities are now taking (see Notes One).
Which is what it is: humans have these basic needs for shelter, belonging, security, and whatever else for them is now seen as essential. We each live our lives as best we’re able, contributing towards and drawing from our communities in various ways. That’s simply life, as we make our way from youth through to older age.
Along that path we leave our mark, letting others know what they mean to us as we relate ourselves to them socially, emotionally, economically etc. We’re all leading these lives, this dance of interaction as we effectively communicate which people, opportunities, structures matter to us and how much we care about them. Choices that fit together into this complex, often slightly fractured, picture of life.
And, within that, there’s industry. All these commercial entities that take a look at society, decide what to offer it, then spin stories around how our lives will be better if we buy into what they’re saying. Often, stories that seek to undermine us so we feel that psychological need; chipping away at our humanity, in countless ways, until we’re increasingly dependent on products, services and brands to feel good about ourselves.
It’s strange how human industry and economic activity now seems to feed off us – creating addictions, imbalances, and insecurity – in order to secure a stable customer base. Also, how so many valuable and worthwhile areas of human society, civilisation and culture are apparently seen as fair game in that pursuit of profit (Notes Two).
Maybe modern society ‘is’ built on such things – the profits and companies this sustains fuelling employment and contributing funds through taxation – but at what cost? What does it mean for humanity if these are the activities, principles, values at its foundation? What does it mean if our lives are enveloped by products, the ways of thinking that accompany them, and social or environmental costs they entail? (Notes Three).
Of course, it’s how life is and large sections of our societies are organised around approaching the practical challenges of existence this way. But, surely, the question of what life’s really about and who should get to define, shape, and set the standards we wish to live by are slightly different – and essentially human – concerns.
Notes and References:
Note 1: Money as a pivot of matter & intention
Note 1: Can we overcome purely economic thinking?
Note 2: Privacy and our online existence
Note 2: Culture selling us meaning
Note 2: Language and values
Note 3: At what cost, for humans & for nature?
Note 3: Created a system we seek to escape?
Whether asking such questions might ever lead to meaningful change was explored in Right to question and decide.