Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Internet and Ranch Dressing

The following will be an amalgamation post.  I have several ideas I want to address and they loosely fit together so instead of writing 3 short essays I will attempt to connect them all together into something that appears as a cohesive thought.


I'd like for a moment to revisit a previous post that I wrote about nostalgia. To quote myself: "I want to see the world through an old lens, when thieves and enemies were trusted friends. A filter to distort everything new and soften all of the colors put in view." I am not certain if I aptly discussed the excerpt, actually, I think I just let it sit there and hoped that it would impress upon the reader by its own merit. Now though, I want to dig into it a little bit and describe my perspective.

Even I, the consummate pessimist have a difficult time recording and maintaining sadness for specific events that have occurred in my life. Certainly the bad things that have happened to me have taken their toll and contributed to who I am today (good/bad) but I can't really remember the events with vivid detail. To the contrary and quite unexpectedly I do recall many of the good times in my childhood and formative years, experiences that if you asked me back then I may not have recognized as "good times."

It is no longer a profound thought to say that a vast majority of the best moments/years of our lives go by without much notice. In fact, you/I might have thought that while living through those times that they were some of the worst moments/years of our lives.  While a perspective like this can greatly be attributed to the ignorance of youth, there appears to be a disconnect (at least for me) between the experience of life, and the lasting impression the events ultimately leave me with.

I never gave much credence to the saying "Carpe Diem" probably because of that which I stated above.  I've never quite felt in a standing moment that I was living life to the fullest. Only days, weeks or months after events have occurred in my life, once I have had time to reflect, have I been able to gauge the final value of the experience. Even on the rare occasion where I do find myself enjoying the moment, I rarely if ever am able to predict the final implications of the good feelings.

Allow me to provide some anecdotal evidence to better describe what I am saying. When I was a youngster my family and I would go on long road trips. As individuals the members of my immediate family were fairly caustic but when loaded into a van and forced to travel together for a few weeks we were downright unbearable. Straining to think about it, I can vaguely remember the perpetual yelling/punching/screaming but I can't remember what all the fuss was about.  Vague echos swirl somewhere deep in my brain of my parents trying to wake me up to enjoy the scenery while I ignored them and slumbered in the backseat. Yet I remember with vivid detail the few times that briefly I glimpsed at the long stretches of landscape, reflective lakes and busy city centers.

I think this idea may also hold true to the way that we view past decades on a larger scale. I've read many books and watched several movies where I've thought "boy they really seemed to have it all figured out back then." Back in the pre industrial revolution when everyone was dressed to impress, the men were chivalrous, the women were classy, it just seemed like a better time to be alive. Yet, that type of thinking is similar to the displacement that I described above. When we remove all of the day to day drudgery and choose only to see the best parts of living in the best light, then any time to be alive truly becomes remarkable. The only limitation is that we are entrenched in our current lives and as such are unable to view our lives from a distant softer perspective.  I don't want to seize the day and live in the moment, I want to experience my current life circumstances through the scope of my future self, to alleviate the stresses that encumber me in the moment.


The examined life isn't really worth living either. First and foremost, Socrates is a hero so the following bluster is hereby exempt from your criticism. I cannot argue that in theory the statement "The unexamined life is not worth living" is true.  However, if we examine what the average examined life amounts to you might as well just be ignorant and live whatever bliss it might provide.

The idea of us trying to self actualize and become all that we can be is a noble one. Yet, I would argue that even if we spent our entire lives striving toward the greater good, it would not be worth it for the majority of us. A common misconception is that we are all sheep who are asleep until one day something happens to wake up from our slumber. From that point on (post red pill ingestion) we become empowered architects tasked with crafting the world to our design. It is a nice, simple, easily digestible thought but it isn't entirely true.

In reality, a much larger amount of us have "woken up."  We've realized our parents don't know everything, we know the government does not have our best interests in mind, we're aware of the corporate mindset that has reduced us to rank and file. We have destroyed our gods, found spirituality, lost spirituality. We have found a reason to live while simultaneously losing all hope. And beyond those revelations and life changing moments, most of us remain stuck, unnoticed without real purpose and without power to ultimately effect the living world. Reality is such that outside of the select few (the lottery winners) who are able to escape their caste, a great portion of who we are and what we do is decided without room for our input. To label a mass of people who do not succeed as lazy or untalented is short sighted. There are only so many places to sit in this game of musical chairs and once the music stops, a bunch of equally deserving people are left out.

What purpose then is there to examining your life and suffering the anguish of knowing without the power to change anything? I could argue for my legacy and suggest that people will fondly remember me for my good works, or that 300 years from now someone will discover my paintings in a burnt out garage and I will become the figurehead for a new art movement. However, is there really and solace or more importantly satisfaction derived from the possibility that one day something I've done may be recognized long after I'm gone? For me, the answer is no.

While I intellectually support concepts of of universal "oneness" I don't feel in my heart of hearts directly connected to anything, absolutely. I don't seek out recognition for my works because I want to be admired, my root desire is to compel another to have an intellectual or emotional response to something that I have brought into creation. I want to be verified, to feel that I exist, to believe that whatever I am, connected with something else, if only for a brief moment.

So while I submit to you that the examined life is not really worth living either I suppose it is the only chance we've got. I might modify the statement to read "Life unexamined is not worth living." This phrasing gives the message a more generalized stance and charges us as a collective with the duty to see how far the rabbit hole goes. Moreover, it doesn't guarantee individual supremacy or accomplishment. The phrase only provides the fleeting potential for us to derive a sense of satisfaction for the things that we do. As pessimistic as I am, that is hope, a tiny glimmer of hope.


In Part 2, I painted a fairly grim portrait of life claiming that there is very little hope, you can't change anything and no one really cares. While  I believe this to be a truth, I also recognize that the world that I exist in is vastly different than the world that I was born in to. Flipping through any history book I can look at our human timeline and note the huge technological and cultural differences that each century has produced. Yet, when it comes to my own timeline simply because I am entrenched in it, I find it very difficult to assess the changes as they occur.

In the summer time I was eating an ice cream and the thought dawned on me that ice cream hasn't been around that long. I know it sounds stupid but I have this feeling that anything that was invented before I was born has always existed. Of course I know that cars, Coca-cola and Christmas trees are not traditions that have lasted eons yet I revere them in my mind with an eternal permanence.

I get stuck in the mindset that life is not worth anything, that everything stays the same and only the names change. It is a depressing thought because it engenders a feeling that everything is falling away. Without a role or goal to fulfill I am merely a temporal observer who one day without notice will be digested by the big black sky. Short of a breathtaking sunset or a Fight Clubesque self inflicted tradgedy,  the ability to assess the probable entirety of your being is rather grim, philosophically speaking.

Yet, amidst all of the fear and loathing every once in a while I remember things like the internet and ranch dressing. There is almost nothing I can think of more different than the internet and ranch dressing yet both are equally ubiquitous within American culture. While the internet may have been invented in the 1960's by Al Gore and while ranch dressing may have been invented in the 1940's on a small farm by a housewife, they were not fully expressed until after I was born. Throughout my life I have watched a rapidly increasing number of people throw down fat globs of ranch on their salads, pizza, chicken wings, burgers etc. In that same time I have watched the internet evolve from a refuge for basement dwelling freaks and nutters into an integrated part of every day human life.

The knowledge that there are ideas out there that have yet to be thought of that will change the course of our lives is exciting to me. While the traditionalist in me fears and rejects the future and its necessity to devour all of the things that are familiar, I recognize the importance of it. Without discovery and interpretation of new things, life would have no meaning. Also, without the ability to move beyond a current moment or pattern of thought I would not be able to see today for what it is.  

Nostalgia is a powerful opiate. It has the ability to fill a void in life with a purity and sweetness.  At its root though it is a coping mechanism that dilutes suffering with a temporal moment of unfettered joy. Like with any drug, overexposure or a dependence on nostalgia ultimately inhibits personal growth/progress. Letting go is part of moving forward and moving forward is what gives my life meaning.