This is the first part of my series exploring humanity. Click here for more.
"[Tolstoy] could observe the mass of persons, the peasants, who in the most miserable of conditions found life deeply meaningful, and even sweet. They had not heard about particles and progress. But this is no longer possible. The peasants now watch TV and constantly consume media. There are no peasants now. " Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy
This is what the culture demands: work another hour; add another client; bill another dollar; buy another car, a bigger house, and extra pair of shoes, a new watch (the automatic sort, +/- 20 nanoseconds, Greenwich); know your boss, your neighbor, the contact in Beijing who might be a potential client; connect with them on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn (do millennials use it?), Instagram, Snapchat (do Gen-Xers use it?); know 10 Ways To Travel On The Cheap, or [tweetherder]5 Ways To Please Your Lover in Bed[/tweetherder], or 7 Habits of Highly Defective People; know a language; know Beyonce's "Lemonade," Trump's xenophobia, the time Hillary barked like a dog; Know the best ways to poke fun at Sarah Palin (this might actually come in handy); know about sex, and not just the euphoria of post-relational bliss, but know about its permutations and associated rights; understand gender, identity, the ideologies of sex, sex, sex; know the news, pop culture (an interesting play on words), literature, art; know Jesus, or Buddha, or The Prophet; know religion, all religions, how religion corrupts, the way it gives life and has stolen it; know justice and mercy--conceptually, not practically; know how to make bread, grill steak, roll sushi, steep tea; learn a language; know how to promote the self, the [tweetherder]8 Paths To Marketing Your Ego[/tweetherder]; be so proficient with Google that no one knows how little you know; be a human computer.
A human computer--yes, be that. Compute, compute, compute. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Above that, opine. Above all else, consume. Consume like a baby bird or a murder of crows. Consume like a tapeworm. Consume like a blackhole. This is what the culture demands, and to bolster its demands it plays this endless sleight of hand: consumption drives economies forward; expanding economies drive progress; progress provides jobs; jobs make people happy; happy people consume.
This is the truth of the modern life. And if that feels a bit too broad for your liking, allow me to restate it: this is the truth of my modern life.
There comes a point in life when one has to say enough is enough. I think I've reached that point. No matter what the advertisers, social media, the internet, the educational system, the church, the gym, the civic organization, or the market forces sell me, I am a person bound by the very real limitations of time and space. I simply cannot keep up with everything, no matter how much I try.
In the creation narrative provided in scripture, God created the sun and the moon, bodies which govern time. We call the cycles of their rising and setting days, and these days consist of only 24 hours. He placed immovable heavenly bodies as a tangible reminder--there is only so much time. He then gave us flowers, animals, companionship, things to enjoy. And though these things can be enjoyed in near-infinite arrays, there's only so much time to enjoy them. The limitations of time mean, simply, every decision I make excludes another possible decision. This is the fundamental premise of economics--a decision to enjoy or know one thing excludes enjoyment or knowledge of another (i.e., you cannot have it all).
Consider this illustration. I have the opportunity to watch a presidential debate and to live Tweet it, blow by blow. In that moment, my connection to the debate and my followers on Twitter precludes a meaningful engagement with my sons or my wife. (As an aside, she'll attest that I fall prey to this tradeoff.) On occasion, such tradeoff might be warranted. I might argue that voters should be adequately informed before walking into the booth. But the rub comes when we become constant consumers, always trading human connection for the dollar, the digital, or the Donald (or any other politician). The rub comes when we trade our family, our friends, or meaningful experiences for endless consumption.
I love what I love. I love roots music, literature, and I have a passing fancy for art. I'm no expert in any of it, though society expects me to consume to the point of pretending to be such an expert. I haven't watched "Lemonade" yet (thought I want too), and I haven't sorted out the legalities of North Carolina's Bathroom Law (though I have private thoughts on that, too). I have three less clients than I ought, make a few thousand less than I could. I suspect I'm limited in my culinary skills (though I can stew just about anything and make it edible). I've lived 38 years worth of sun settings, moon waxing and wanings. I'm not claiming any unique wisdom has come with that age--I'm still young-ish, after all--but I've learned a hard-won lesson. I cannot keep up with the consumer demands of today. They rob me of my humanity.
So, don't ask me about my thoughts about the news or entertainment item du jour. Don't ask me to care, or to Google it, or to understand the nuances of it all. Don't tempt me to become something I'm not. Don't tempt me to become digital.
I am not a computer. I am a person. I want to live a human life, not the life of a Mac.
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