Take biology and psychology that developed over many thousands of years in the Stone Age, throw in Bronze Age spirituality and religions, mix in legal, finance, and government institutions developed in the Renaissance, toss in jobs, consumerism, work ethic, and education developed in the Industrial Revolution, add mass media and instant communications of the early 21st century, and possibly add machine automation that will make the work force far smaller and resources far easier to get as icing on the cake. Stand back and watch mayhem and chaos ensue or work toward bringing about the Star Trek future.
Haven’t had a great deal to report the last few days. We’ve had lots of snow and it’s been quite cold. Too cold and snowy to go anywhere unless necessary. So I’ve been staying home, catching up on my reading, and taking long naps in the afternoon. I’ve been sleeping a little more during the days, but mostly to pass the long drawn out cold days. I still go to bed around 10pm and am usually awake for good by 5 or 6am. My apartment is feeling quite like a regular home now rather than just the monk’s chamber I let it become the last couple years. It helps that I put a few pieces of art done by an old friend and have a regular cleaning person come in once a week and help me keep on top of things. Still have a few unresolved maintenance issues, but those will be knocked down before too long. Rome wasn’t built in one day and I won’t be pulling out of my depression and anxiety induced exile and isolation all at once either. It is coming along though.
One of my fellow tenants had a birthday party the other day. About ten of us went to her party. It felt good to be socializing again when people weren’t being irritable and rude to each other. It just seems that most people I meet in person anymore are more short tempered and on edge than usual lately. I was talking with an old friend of mine who lives here and he’s noticed the same thing. So I’m not the only one noticing the subtle and not so subtle changes. One of the reasons I don’t socialize much in person anymore is precisely because so many people I meet are in irritable and short tempered moods. The fact that almost no one I know in person shares my interests in science, history, philosophy, and literature makes things even tougher.
It is true that social media and my smart phone are the bulk of my socializing now. I know most people will think this is sad but I actually love social media and communications tech. They have given me access to people with similar interests and concerns that I wouldn’t have had in high school. My teenage years, other than a handful of confidants I could tell even my darkest secrets to, were quite lonely. As an adult now near age 40, I have more social interaction than at any point in my life besides my college years. And it is exactly because of social media, internet, and communication tech. I know many people condemn what social media can be used for and think we would be better off without it. I call their bluff on that. I call the bluff on all nostalgics who are fearful of change and want to go back to the past.
I know many people, especially in my USA, are nostalgic about the past when only one income could support a family in a house in the suburbs. Yet you don’t hear the same people decry the lack of opportunities for women, high taxes on rich people and large businesses, lack of variety in entertainment and fashion, Jim Crow laws, Cold War paranoias, cost of even long distance phone calls. I ran up long distance bills over $100 two months in a row as recently as 1999 because my two best confidants lived in other towns. My parents were not amused by that. Yet, here it is in 2019 and I talk to far more out of town people, and even out of country people, then I could have ever imagined even my wildest Star Trek optimist fantasy. And twenty years isn’t that long. It’s just enough time to get a newborn baby to adulthood. The world has changed that much.
Social media, like all other tech changes, is a tool that can be used to go great good or great harm. Nuclear energy provides a significant source of power to civilization with relatively quite few facilities. Yet the same tech can be used in weapons that can end all life on our planet. Mass media can spread the ideas of personal freedom, self responsibility, civic duty, and show our similarities to billions of people quite easily. It also empowered some truly sick and depraved monstrous people just in the last one hundred years. Religion can give people hope, a connection to something beyond ourselves and our surroundings, and a sense of taking care of others in even the darkest times humanity ever faced. It can also justify some truly evil actions. Even farming led to humanity going from only a relatively few people who managed to survive the ice ages in isolated bands to being the masses we are now making plots to travel off world and settle other planets. It has also led to the extinction of many other species, the decline of biodiversity, war, easily transferable diseases, and a loss of connection of most people to the natural world. And yet, I wouldn’t give up any of these advances among any others. Even the same chemicals that make the fertilizer for our food crops can be used as deadly poisons and weapons of mass terror and destruction.
Changes are a constant of human existence. Changes even in nature are constant too. With human existence, change will continue to come. In fact, they will come even faster and be more disruptive than at any point in history in the lifetimes of all but the oldest people in our civilizations. These changes can be delayed but they will come whether we are as individuals or nations are preparing or not. We no longer live in a world where only one nation or race has the monopoly on knowledge and progress, as if we ever did. The old ways of doing things, the ancient appeals to religious, gender, racial, national, socioeconomic, ageist differences and discriminations are losing the effectiveness they had in the past. Even homeless people in our largest cities and farmers in the poorest countries in the world have smart phones and access to the collective knowledge gathered through the trials, bloodshed, tears, and revolutions of history. This is a level of computing power that not even the U.S. Department of Defense had as recently as 1980, the year I was born.
Yes, information tech has greatly advanced just in my lifetime. Some will scoff and say, this hasn’t translated into any other aspect of life. I can’t afford my rent even on two jobs but I’m supposed to be happy with having access to Google and Facebook. Give it time. Other aspects of our lives will catch up eventually. It is tragic that many people go homeless in my country while thousands of houses and apartments sit vacant and idle waiting for someone to call such places a home just because of the prices. Individual workers are more productive now than ever yet wages have barely budged in my country in terms of inflation since at least the 1970s. My critics will say even with communication tech advancing as well as the social progress we’ve made, our standard of living has actually gone down.
For many this is true, at least in USA. Our standard of living hasn’t caught up with our efficiency, tech, medical, and social advances. At least not yet. We are still in the process of a great change, one that is even more chaotic and impacting than the Industrial Revolution was two hundred years ago. In short, we have science fiction like technology, industrial era education, renaissance era governing, legal, and business institutions, Bronze Age spirituality, and Stone Age bodies and psychology. Of course there are going to be conflicts. We will work these out, it just won’t happen nearly as fast as many people want. Changes like we are going through took centuries during the start of farming, generations during the renaissance and industrial ages, and now on the scope of only years. No wonder people are stressed. We are not experiencing the death of our species or our civilization no matter how much some people fear or even want. We are in transition. And I welcome this transition and it’s highs and lows. Stay tuned. Things are only going to get more interesting and chaotic, yet full of opportunities too.
This blog entry is going to be about the importance of finding a purpose for your life and having agency. By agency I mean finding something that you can do with your given skill set that gives your life meaning. We as humans do not exist in a vacuum. We have to interact with other people and the environment around us. How we interact can either be beneficial or destructive. I have found if I just try being neutral and not standing out I become miserable. I cannot go through life without working toward some goal. I have to have something to work toward or even work against. I get lost into thinking ‘why am I here’ if I have no purpose. This is true of all people, especially men. That is why we throw ourselves into our jobs, our hobbies, our projects, our families, and our beliefs.
Having a purpose can be either good or bad. Having good, constructive, and beneficial purpose leads people to build businesses, create great works of art, think up great ideas no one else came up with, and strive to better the lives of others. Bad and destructive purpose, however, can lead people into joining street gains, terrorist groups, crime syndicates, and commiting atrocites.
I think of people as bundles of energy. Direct them into things that allow them to channel energy into creative endeavors and you’ll ultimately wind up with civilization and means to improve civilization. Yet do not allow them to channel energy into creative purpose, it will be expressed in destructive acts and chaos. Part of me fears the reason we are seeing so many heinous acts of violence like the recent shootings in South Carolina, Tennessee, and Louisiana is that many people, especially younger men, feel like they have no place or purpose. Granted not all people are not going to resort to murder or joining groups like ISIS because they don’t have a life mission or they feel they aren’t making a difference. Others may be using their pent up energy to less obvious destructive means, such as small time hustling, petty crime, or even computer hacking and internet trolling. It could be possible that one of the reasons that mental illness is becoming prevalent is that many people no longer feel they have a purpose or belong to anything bigger than themselves or no longer feel connected to their communities.
One of the things that gives me agency is writing this blog. I write to explain mental illness to others who don’t know it personally. I blog to give advice to others with mental illness who may be recently diagnosed or having serious problems for the first time and not know what is going on or what to expect. I write to be an encouragement to others who, like myself, have been dealing with mental illness for awhile and still have ups and downs.
As my Definite Chief Aim, to borrow a term from Napoleon Hill, I am seeking to inform and enlighten others as what having a mental illness is like from the mentally ill person’s point of view. I have always done well at explaining ideas and concepts to others and I have no fear of speaking up in public. And there is a percentage of the general population who has mental illness, I think close to 5 percent for serious, chronic mental illnesses like schizophrenia, bipolar, autism spectrum, major depression, borderline personality disorder, etc. Many of these mentally ill individuals are unable to express the issues of their illnesses. This is where I, and other bloggers come in.
If I were asked what I am working against, it would be ignorance and cruelty. Too many people don’t know what mental illness is like for us or what a hinderance it can be. Some people even refuse to acknowledge it even exists. Yes, it does exist. I, and others like me, are not making up our problems with crippling anxiety, our problems with alternating between crushing sadness and euphoria, or dealing with delusions to where we have to work to distinguish between what is reality and what is within the constraints of our troubled minds. We do not make up these problems because we want attention or we are angry about our childhoods. Our issues are not simplistic type problems that can be overcome only by feel good memes and other quick fixes that try to put a Band Aid on a gushing wound.
It is an understatement to say I do not respect ignorance and cruelty. We live in an age of nearly unlimited information on any topic imaginable. I have far more information at my fingertips through a $400 laptop computer and $32 a month wireless internet service than the scholars who set up the Great Library of ancient Alexandria could have imagined even possible. Medieval scholars would have killed, and sometimes were killed, for having access to a tiny fraction of a fraction of the information I can call up at a whim. There are no more excuses for being ignorant. In 2015, ignorance is not a matter of destiny, it is a matter of choice to paraphrase William Jennings Bryan.
In closing, writing and researching for this mental illness blog gives me some sense of agency and purpose. Ignorance and the resulting cruelty are two of the ‘enemies’ I ‘fight’ against. We all have things we are passionate about. We all have things we can do for others and ourselves. It is a matter of finding those things that give us agency and purpose and then going to work.