everything is harder now, so relax and have a beer

Technology making your life easier?  No way.  Technology is probably taking a potential job away from you right now as you read this.  Unless you’re a young Millennial born with an iPod in your mouth, much of the technology we cherish is giving us more to do, not less, and simultaneously replacing human power in the workforce.

We are also racing towards what eminent inventor and author Ray Kurzweil calls “the singularity.”  The singularity is, roughly speaking, that moment when the exponential growth of technology gets so rapid that one advance is indistinguishable from the next.  This singularity could even give birth to true artificial intelligence.

Which is weird, about time speeding up, because college seems to be taking people longer than ever.  And more women are now in college than men.  For men, that means less chicks around to pick up their dirty socks and tend to the young ‘uns. For women, that makes picking up the dirty socks and raising the young ‘uns less tenable than ever.  Maybe the robots berthed in the singularity will help with all of that, like those maid-bots from The Jetsons.

Will robots actually make our lives any easier?  Not likely.  Having an autonomous robot around will make that toddler eating pine needles from the Christmas tree and pooping down the side of her leg seem like a piece of cake.  Robots will be high maintenance and there is always a chance they will go crazy and start trying on your clothes, emulate your voice and try to be you.  This may sound like the clone you dreamed of as a kid going to third grade in your stead, but that clone wouldn’t try to kill you when it realized it wasn’t a real live boy.

We used to be tribes.  Even in our agrarian history, which has all but vanished, we could depend on our extended families to help us raise the kids, keep the house in order, and keep our sanity.  We’ve gone from tribes to nuclear families to perpetually neurotic, single Jerry Seinfelds.  It no wonder the US birth rate is on the decline; raising a kid now is often a solitary job.  In a Huffington Post article, Amy Morrison talks about why you shouldn’t beat yourself up about it.

In the good old fashioned nuclear family days, people either believed in creation or in evolution.  Today, the Pope has a book out claiming that a sixth century monk got the birth of Jesus Christ wrong, screwing up the entire Christian calendar.  Plus, co-opted pagan celebrations, such as the Romans’ mid-winter Saturnalia festival in late December, the feast of the birth of Sol Invictus (the Unconquered Sun) or the holidays of the barbarian peoples of northern and western Europe are considered to be largely responsible for our biggest holiday of the year.  If you look closely, pagan solar festivals and strange druidic traditions (keeping a pine tree indoors for a month) hardly smack of the warmth and innocence we like to attribute Christmas.

Evolution is under the microscope, too.  In another recent article in the Huffington Post, Tia Ghose writes:

“For decades, scientists have tried to recreate the primordial events that gave rise to life on the planet. In the famous Miller-Urey experiments reported in 1953, scientists electrically charged a primordial soup of chemicals that mimicked the chemical makeup of the planet’s early oceans and found that several simple amino acids, the most primitive building blocks of life, formed as a result.

But since then, scientists aren’t much further along in understanding how simple amino acids could have eventually morphed into simple, and then complex, living beings.”

Ugh.  So some very important and smart scientists are basically saying… “Ah, so exactly HOW did all of this evolution happen?”

As it is, we humans have struggled since the libraries of Alexandria were first built to decide on what constitutes the beginning of even an individual life, or how much that life is worth, and now the whole thing is in question 5,000 years later.  So much for this Age when we are supposed to be expanding into some sort of super consciousness and getting all the juicy answers to things.

But maybe that’s just it.  Maybe this time in our lives, this placeholder zone between epochs, this moment anticipated by the Mayans and Nostradamus and celestial observers of old is not about academic answers.  Maybe this is a time when this question-and-answer method no longer applies.

…Making it all the harder to navigate today’s swiftly moving, technology-hogging, every-man-for-himself world.  So relax, take a break.  If you’re one of those thirty-something statistics still living at home after getting your masters or PhD, or still just trying to figure out what the hell you are doing with your life, it’s not your fault.

Put your feet up on your parents’ coffee table and have a beer.  Or, if you don’t drink alcohol, have a coke.  And not a diet coke either.  The aspartame could kill you.

Like the grapefruit juice you mix with your prescription drugs could kill you because it slows down your body’s absorption and you could overdose.  Oh, and stay put; don’t go to the movies or to the mall because there has been a rash of rampaging killers lately.  Avoid vacation spots like the ocean because the sea level is likely rising.  And now you see, on top of all of your angst about what to do with your life is the big question of what we are all going to do about life in general.

The options are before you:  Become an urban homesteader in the event that the coastal flooding begets mass migration which begets food shortages?  What about the fact that the growing population and ostensible working class prosperity in the Middle East is expected to require more of the earth’s resource to sustain itself then we currently have at our disposal?  What about the fiscal future of our country?  What about the fact that government seems to be getting so big and invasive, and privacy such a retreating memory that you have nowhere left to go and just do your own thing?

Sure, every generation has had it rough.  You hear about guys who used to log the Adirondacks.  The first lumberers in the 1800s. French-Canadians and Scots-Canadians.  Men who went well beyond what we think of as ‘hearty.’  Men before the cross-cut saw or even the double-bitted axe.  They slept on shoddy blankets laid over balsam or pine boughs in foul-smelling shacks.  They woke at three in the morning in the winter and worked the woods by pine torchlight.  They ate marsh hay sprinkled with whiskey.  When they got their time off, they would head to the taverns and brothels where they would screw everything that moved, fight a man who looked like something they didn’t like, drink until they had to work again, and then they would go back to work.  They were called distempered and indolent.

Oh and before that there were the Dark Ages.

So people have had it rough for a long time.  But, were they aware of how tough it was, though? That’s the key.  They probably weren’t.  You, you know how tough things are, and that makes it all the harder to bear up under the pressure.

Everything is harder now, and you know it.  So take some time for yourself.  Figure out what the next step is.  Like the Dalai Lama says, the world doesn’t need any more successful people.  What the world needs now are healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers.

We have been given a golden hall pass from the Lama.  Let’s use it wisely.

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