Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Cyber-Misery Loves Company

The 21st century, and particularly the invention of the internet, has vastly changed the way humans interact with the world. The internet, I dare say, was probably one of the greatest inventions of all time, right along side the wheel and sliced bread.

Knowledge, that in the past would have to be sought in books, some accessible and some not, is now available to all at the few clicks on a key board. Indeed, in the past knowledge many times was afforded to those who could pay its price. Books were expensive, and therefore the acquisition of knowledge was as well.

With the invention of the internet that all changed. Now, knowledge was accessible to all who sought it. Not only could one find the answers to his questions but he was able to find several sources to compare from, and to be certain that the information was up-to-date.

The internet, in addition, connected the globe in an unprecedented fashion. People from across the world could now, for the first time, send instant messages to one another. Since the invention of the internet and up until the present day, all the conveniences here mentioned, in addition to the great many that I have not written here, have become better, faster and more accessible.

There are, of course, many ills that have accompanied this fine invention; as always is the case. The enormous amount of misinformation that clutters the endless libraries of the internet, the inappropriate cyber-stalking that is easily done, and the many evils that are now only a click away from the innocent eyes of children, are just a few demons that were released with the creation of the internet. However, that is for another essay, and even perhaps, another writer entirely.

There are other goods which come to us via the internet that are perhaps less noticeable at first glance. It is a fascinating activity, and one I repeat often, to type the beginning of a question into a Google search bar, and let the most searched options pop up as Google attempts to guess your question based on the first words typed, and the popularity of the questions beginning with the same words.

A moment ago, and for the sake of this essay, I typed the words: "Why is life" into Google. The following popped up as the most searched questions beginning with these words:
Why is life so hard?
Why is life so tough?
Why is life so pointless?
Why is life expectancy so high in Japan?
Why is life so amazing?
Why is life so unfair?
Why is life so boring?
Why is life worth living?

In other words, the internet has enabled us to ask life's most pressing questions from behind our safe and anonymous computer screens.

Humans have the strange tendency to pretend that we have it all figured out. That we do not need the advice or, even the comfort of others. We are taught that to be successful at life is to have a great job that rewards you with a large paycheck. We are taught that adults shouldn't be asking questions like: "Why is life so hard?". Those types of questions should be buried deep inside oneself, for they are childish and stupid.

We put on our carefully designed masks in order to hide the child quivering within us. The child who, ever since the invention of the internet, has been able to reach out to others, to ask the questions that he would have otherwise buried, and to receive the comfort of company that he would have otherwise not had. The internet gives us the right to be human again.

The other comforting reality we were given through the invention the internet was to see just how many people are feeling the same way as we are. The most popular search result informs us just how many people are suffering from the same deep existential fears or emotional wounds that we ourselves are suffering from.

If only we could internalize this lesson, understand the pain that our fellow human beings are experiencing, how much pity and love we would we instantly feel for them? Why, we would be hugging everyone we met, with the hopes of comforting and being comforted by them!

Sam Harris in The End of Faith wrote in regards to the simple truth of of empathy-based morality: "Consider it: every person you have ever met, every person will suffer the loss of his friends and family. All are going to lose everything they love in this world. Why would one want to be anything but kind to them in the meantime?"

Indeed, were we humans more aware of the suffering of the woman sitting beside us on the bus, or the man who works down the hall, or the child who misbehaves in class, would not kindness sweep through the world, and pity and love fill the hearts of all men, women and children?

If there is a lesson to be learned from our Google searches it is this: That we are all suffering. We are all asking the deep unanswerable and, at times, childish questions. We all want to be accepted and loved. We are all, in other words, human, all too human.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Critiquing the Zeitgeist

One who would take quick glance at the world today, especially the culture of the young adults, will find a rather horrifying picture. He will see that everything from the music to social interaction to the goals to which we aspire have become meaningless. The music that is produced today is for the most part nonsensical, and that which does retain a level of coherency, glorifies emptiness, worships lust, and deifies money. The mantra repeated by most young adults is "live as if it was your last day." And where this is a fine sentiment to live by, the general attitude is that of partying like there was no tomorrow. That is, making sure that before death's cold hand grips us, we have fulfilled every lustful desire that plagues us; and remaining numb enough, through the aid of drugs or alcohol, as to defeat the fear the we may disappear tomorrow. The obvious fallacy is the notion that desire is something that can ever be satiated. An attempt to placate the screams of desire will only show that it is a like trying to construct a building on quicksand.

Whereas, were it my last day I would wish to spend it in the most sober fashion possible, grasping onto my consciousness with all my strength, the youth preach a numbing of the intellect, so that in effect they are dead already. The very thought of death has the power to make me reach for my loved ones, not a bottle, not so, it seems, of many of my peers. Of course, many of them don't actually think they will die tonight, though some probably wish they would; what is important to focus on is the intention behind the popular sentiment.

It is placing our animalistic tendencies as the zenith of human happiness. "Say as you please, do as you please, live as you please." Respect for the aged has decreased greatly, a sense of duty towards the Earth has almost vanished and "meaning" has become a word so misused and misunderstood as to become the opposite of its own definition.

Yet something peculiar has come coupled with the shallow ideology of the 21st century. As they preach "let me do as I please!" they afford this right to all. And so, amid the decay of the human race their is, arising from the ashes, an unprecedented 'love of thy neighbor.' A certain xenophilia has become the rebellion of the youth.

Perhaps "unprecedented" is not an appropriate word. Indeed, in the not so distant history of America of the 1960's, "love" became the word that filled the mouths of many young adults. However, that generation, drowned itself in drugs and sexual promiscuity and thereby wasted away their chance to bring utopia to the Earth. We should look to their civil rights achievements and be inspired by them, and their decadence and distance ourselves from it.

Religions are staggering to keep their control of a young population that is unanimously screaming for equal rights. The Church who has denied a homosexual the right to marry has simultaneously pushed the youth, who embrace all differences and who abhor bigotry, out of the Church with them. They see no use for systems which exclude others.

The youth are rebelling by loving their fellow human! It is truly a wonderful revolution. Of course, this love is many times misguided, misplaced and crude, but we mustn't focus on the nuances just yet. Let us first revel in the tide that is turning ever so slightly towards global unity.

There is much that must happen in my generation before we can say that we have built on the foundations of the past. We need to deepen our connection to life. We need to relearn the philosophers of the past, not to pass a grade in university, but to excel at life itself! We need a resurgence of discussions about how we are supposed to live. Religions need to reevaluate themselves so as to have some relevancy in the coming years. Secularism has to deepen itself, so as to remain a healthy replacement for religious dogma. Either system, if unaltered will become a poison for the world.

For too long the world has been separated by creeds, flags, and ancient disputes. The youth are demanding unity! They are tired of hate, sickened by war, and broken by poverty. However, even an ideal such as unity can be dangerous to the world if done improperly. Indeed the overzealous sheep who lies with the lion, too soon, will find that unity requires understanding on both sides, not a passion on one.

This is why I am calling for a global enlightenment. A wild change in the way we approach life. Indeed, a unified world filled sex, drugs, and rock n' roll, cannot be considered a monumental step forward. It is our generations turn. We are stepping into the world, and are becoming its leaders. What shall we modern minded, peace craving, members of the human race do? Will we become so openminded as to allow evil to annihilate us? Will we become so shallow as to fall from our noble platform of human intellect to the primal instincts of our lowly origin? Will we, as so many generations have done, waste this opportunity for social justice in our pursuit of comfort and lust? What shall become of us?

The time for universal unity has never been so ripe, We stand at the threshold of a brand new world. A world where people are accepted for who they are. Where people are embraced no matter how different they appear to us. But, if we are not careful our season will pass and we will fall into the pages of history and vanish as a speck of dust in an ocean.