On the Importance of 'Us,' and Our Embracement Waiting in the Wings
As our ongoing economic difficulties continue to haunt us -- with no actual resolution as yet in sight -- a fundamental philosophical query is surfacing, one that’s soon to demand a simple yes or no answer: “Do people matter?”
by Donald Croft Brickner
There is no feeling in the world that quite rivals the conviction that one’s personal circumstances are so dire as to be hopeless.
You’re seemingly completely alone -- without family, intimates or friends. No one cares, not even those whose job it is to care. They recognize toast when they see it, when they smell it. The sooner you remove yourself from their presence, the better for everybody concerned, their eyes and their body language tell you.
When you write emails, all that’s returned to you is a dismissive, empty silence.
You’ve got a job to do, which is to die -- LOL. Just face it, suck it in, and practice taking your last breaths. Your meaningless final breaths.
In such a scenario, one comes face-to-face with their impending physical demise -- there is no other choice. It’s surely very similar to learning you’ve contracted an incurable disease with but a very short time left to live.
The shock is thundering. Lightning bolts flash in your face without discrimination.
I know -- I’ve just been there, and back -- slingshot back, in fact, and at the very final hour of what had seemed like a dead end; and, as well -- a death sentence.
* * * * *
I’ve just word-painted the punchlines to my recent seven-weeks’-long experience, in large part to strongly suggest -- as I strongly suspect -- that what I experienced was not so much a uniquely personal event, but instead a universal one -- one which I believe tens of millions of Americans are suffering through right now, and one that awaits a much, much larger percentage of us over roughly the next 10-to-15 months.
There are experiential variations on this theme, to be sure -- but my ordeal I’ll never forget. Several once seemingly stronger relationships with established “acquaintances” disintegrated on the spot as a direct result. Others endured.
It’s literally staggering -- and there are several physiological effects that arise related to a sense of feeling trapped like a deer caught in society’s headlights.
As each wall of protection crumbles, you feel jettisoned from the herd.
It’s surreal. It’s cold. It’s in-your-face heartbreaking.
And the worst of it is a gnawing, sustained sense that you’re being judged by sneering assassins.
* * * * *
We are headed toward a much more precipitous downward spiral later this year, I believe -- and while collapsing economics are sure to be the headlines of our if-it-bleeds-it-leads media, its impact on people, from all walks of life, will be far more pronounced -- and from a Big Picture standpoint, far more meaningful.
That’s if we can shift our focus from objects and money to human beings -- which is what the entirety of oncoming events are all about, regardless: being humbled.
I now believe I’ve just experienced my own personal preview of this.
Money isn’t even real, it’s “symbolic” -- and structures inevitably fall apart. Think about it. What around us really has value?
The number one question we are sure to have answered, once and for all, and very possibly by this time next year -- and there’s no kidding about any of it -- will be this: do people matter?
If the answer is no -- we may not continue to survive as a species. The quicksand of our hubris could very well possibly see to that.
Come one year or so from today we may well have hit bottom. A genuine bottom.
A rock bottom.
* * * * *
As an aside, I’m acutely aware that the words I’m writing here smack of prophetic intents -- and although they’re not so intended, they’ll still probably be interpreted that way. I’m sensitive to this bizarre circumstance, both as a philosopher, and as a writer -- two status identifications I’d quickly own up to.
Ask me if you think that I think I’m a prophet, however, and I’ll quickly tell you to forget about it -- I have. I can’t fully explain my internal drives, any more than I can explain how I arrive at my conclusions -- although both are very clear to me. What I do, I do as a job that has to be done with or without pay (and the “without” part is the primary trigger that led to my coming so close to the edge this May 3).
What I’m absolutely sure of, however, is that if “prophetic-sounding” writings are capable of inducing readers to shift their focus from the words written to, instead, the author of those words, then the effort, never mind the intention behind writing them, is pretty much lost. Frankly, I don’t mind retaining my continued anonymity.
Some 18 months from now, the proof will be in the pudding, from an accuracy-of-predictions standpoint. And I can all but promise you, based on my experiences, I will not directly benefit from either a validated or invalidated outcome, regardless.
My intention here in part is that of a wakeup call: one that, ironically, I already know will go unheeded, probably even unnoticed. But because of the Internet’s capacity to keep all kinds of creative efforts alive, even past their past-due dates, my hope is that these words will remain for viewing in retrospect -- for they have a lot more to do with providing a working context than with, what -- fortune telling.
* * * * *
When denial and forgetfulness are as entrenched as both are now at this time in our history, the game must be played out in full.
That “game” is a global spiritual melodrama.
And it is already some 17 months’ afoot.
I’m striving to provide a peek into a resolved future, too, which, honestly, a lot of you reading this will come to prefer to our inhibiting, “life’s graduates’” and upper-class-driven, psychologically-one-note and, yes, severely dysfunctional present.
Unfortunately, the road getting there could be shredded, right in front of our eyes. Still, you know -- forewarned is forearmed. And even literally, it’s just a road.
Young adults are likely to react the worst. No single generation is oddly more in actual sync with these times -- yet, as well, the farthest away, in terms of being in denial. Once the bottom is hit, the silent nihilist overview widely embraced by the young will have turned and betrayed them. This game, after all, is a spiritual one.
The melodrama isn’t so much about youth, however. Predominantly speaking, it’s mostly there for the young -- to experience, to react to, and to learn from.
All future scenarios on this planet, after all, are theirs.
* * * * *
The so-called materialistic “American dream” will be dismantled, in the process. But so, too, will the awful, selfish “entitlement of entitlement,” right along with it.
The vast majority of Americans will survive, in any case -- if only we re-discover and embrace the importance of the concept of “Us.”
One suspects that among global populations, this melodrama began, and so will end, right here in the U.S. Some countries, like Bhutan, already understand “Us.”
Genuinely touching one another’s hearts has never been so difficult to do -- and right now, that failure is literally, if invisibly, killing us.
We were never meant to be so terribly alone as a people.
* * * * *
The anger in this American society is off the charts. It works in much the same way that hidden addictions operate: we have no means of effectively challenging the legitimacy of our emotions. We’re rarely even motivated to hold ourselves accountable, in that regard.
Instead, half of our TV series are about crime and punishment -- and our favorite film heroes don’t hesitate to seek out revenge for cartoonish, no-brainer affronts.
All of our late night talk show hosts do monologues laced with “put-down humor,” which is also heavily featured in both network and cable sitcoms. Reality shows reward overt dysfunctional behavior, with or without pitching childish snits.
We send our kids to schools where bullying of all kinds is not only the norm, it’s a social behavior that necessitates being copied, just to make it through each day.
There are good bullies, and there are bad bullies. The rest of us are “gay” wimps.
If you want to carve someone a new a-hole, that’s okay. Just carve it cool.
It’s even good for business.
* * * * *
Do people matter at this moment in our history?
For the most part, no. They truly don’t.
Pets, even gardens, make far better friends -- people are our enemies.
Destitute people (the worst!) should just go die somewhere, and be done with it, already.
* * * * *
I was a graduate of the once-intriguing high school “Class of ’65.” Had any of us back then abruptly been transported into this future, today, there are two primary and completely unanticipated discoveries we would encounter:
One, we would not only be taken aback by PCs, we would be dumbfounded that so many everyday people not only owned one, but could effortless navigate it.
What -- were there special universities that taught everyone how to do that, we’d ask? No, we’d be told: they learned how to do most of it when they were children.
Two, we wouldn’t understand the widely popularized anger, or the constant state of agitation permeating this U.S. culture. We’d walk down the street and wonder why so many people were dressed up like bikers or Halloween characters, and worse, why they looked like they wanted to pick a violent fight. Over what? Why?
We would also wonder why people believed things that weren’t at all funny, were.
Upon our return to our mid-1960s present, we would then vote on whether or not we wanted to live in such a future. The unanimous response would likely be, no.
There’s something very wrong taking place in that future, our consensus reaction would be, adding tentatively … am I likely to still be living then? -- living like that?
Unquestionably, our guides would respond. Not only that: you here all created it!
No! -- we’re not that stupid!!, we’d whine in unison, as well as in disbelief. No-o!!!
* * * * *
The often hushed “death silence” of rage today is real -- and it permeates every aspect of our lives.
We tend not to believe that, however, because in our new “normal,” degrees of rage are (unwittingly) measured, rather than “rage vs. non-rage” -- which is what we’ve come to believe we’re measuring when we’re not. It’s one of our delusions.
We believe the low end of our rage to be entirely free from it. It absolutely isn’t.
It all may be compared to moving from, say, 1965 to the present, not by a time machine, but by the passing of each of our 44 years on a day-to-day basis. We grow older, only we rarely notice it. The individual we see reflected in the mirror today looks just like the person we saw viewing him or herself in the same mirror yesterday.
About 16,060 days have passed since my high school class graduated.
Mirrors have so little to tell us of value regarding much of anything.
* * * * *
The same thing has happened to the evolution of new norms in our behaviors.
Today’s youth have no clue what the mid-1960s were like. All of the reference points have been obliterated after the passing of so many years, and that’s new.
My parents’ generation wasn’t all that different from my own.
We ceased being curious about our emotional health, as well. I have argued in previous essays that we are an addicted society, for instance -- and I’m hardly the first to make such a claim, although nowadays you’d never know it.
Among an array of related earlier titles, author and psychotherapist Anne Wilson Schaef wrote, “When Society Becomes an Addict” back in 1988. America opted to ignore the depths of addiction as a concept then, and in the interim, we largely came to dismiss not only her work but also that of her peers, who were all trained in the comprehensions and resolutions of both addiction and co-dependency.
To that end, then, we have no preventative psychological diagnostic that’s readily accessible by our society today, if one were even sought (and it’s not).
Put another way: we are an emotionally ill society, but no longer have any way of knowing it.
Worse -- and this is just for the time being, because all of it is about to change -- we have little interest, or investment, in correcting our off-kilter emotional health.
How does that not sound like a recipe for disaster?
* * * * *
Based on my very recent experiences, a lot of what follows next is likely to be an excerpt gleaned from The Rules of the (Shredded) Road lying just ahead of us:
* A societal downward spiral leading to a “bottom-hitting” is headed our way, and neither will be sidestepped successfully.
* Whenever one encounters "bottoming-out" as a phenomenon, addiction hovers nearby as its primary culprit.
* The type of addiction is less important than its impact -- the best treatments are always the same, and are only loosely tied to the symptoms. (Materialism may yet prove to be an addiction … whose chief physical symptom is internal “noise!”)
* If you’re living with your stable family or intimates, continue to do so. This is no time to be wandering off by yourself. Any inflexible isolation can prove to be fatal.
* Old friendships left to expire commonly transform into weak acquaintanceships.
* If you are alone, most acquaintances will turn away from you. Friends will not. But friends could be hard to chase down in the relative near future.
* Find someone to love in the days ahead. It needn’t be a romantic relationship.
* One must -- must -- learn to care about the safety and well-being of his or her neighbors once again. There will be ample opportunities to do so.
* Be kind.
* Ride out whatever’s coming, no matter what its manifestations, for as long as it takes. The days ahead will demand courage of us. All of us have lots in reserve.
* Once a true “bottom” has been hit, the worst will be over. But then comes work.
* Contribute in any way you can to a Rebuilding, in any and all of its guises.
* There will be no hard fast rules to follow during Rebuilding. Follow your heart.
* Embrace your new humility -- it was hard won. You deserve it. It deserves you.
* * * * *
And we’ll close here with some good “prophetic” news:
Love has been patiently awaiting us in the wings all this time, ready to be easily embraced. It’s not going to abandon us, either, even though it’s been misplaced and forgotten on numerous occasions in our individual and group pasts.
As for “Us,” as a Humanity -- love will also assure us, without blinking, that we do matter.
We’ll have no trouble at all embracing it, when the time is right. That time hasn’t quite arrived -- there’s going to be a “shouting down” period first -- but it can’t hurt to practice.
The darkest days ahead are likely to prove extremely intense, but also fairly brief in duration -- six to nine months, say, once this second “downward spiral” sets in.
What happens after that periodically will be tinged with remarkable moments of optimism, and even of a kind of magic, now and again -- like feelings of deep peace, which will seem like some kind of silent gift that engulfed us, as if from out of nowhere.
At times we’ll awaken in such a state … and then lose it as our day progresses.
It’s not a big issue, regardless. We’ll learn to simply accept such a “peace” as a passing prize, and run with it for as long as it lasts. It will come around again.
There will be lots of “noiseless” experiences like that in our conjoined futures.
By the time 2013 or thereabouts rolls around, we’ll all be living in a New Day, in a New Time.
Even present-day probabilities overwhelmingly favor such a beautiful transition. A handful of American citizens are already putting “a New Day” into practice in their families, businesses, and their communities. They understand the fundamentals.
We will live. We will laugh.
And, yes -- we will once again love.
You can pretty well bet your bottom dollar on it.
# # #
Tags: Philosophy , Psychology , Recession , The Great Leveling , Rage , Homelessness , America
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.