Today’s society is a strange thing. If we take a moment and truly look around, what is one major thing that has dramatically increased with technological “advancements” around the world? One might say suffering, but suffering has always been present in human history. I think many of us see it more simply because the massive expansion of the human population. More people gives more people a chance to see more suffering. I am not so sure the percentage of suffering has increased in reference to the population. Nevertheless, suffering is a topic upon which this article sets.
If I am not so much talking about suffering, then what is that one major thing? Escapism. Our society seems to be solidly based upon the removal of all suffering, while on the other hand it creates immeasurable amounts of it. Yes it creates a huge fissure within the human existence upon this earth; the ideas of removing all suffering while creating suffering in the process. Is it any wonder so many people always appear to be so incredibly confused??
In a social system, and on a global scale, the rather idealistic aim is to remove suffering from the human existence. This has given rise to things such as more efficient pain medications, more comfortable furniture and clothing, fancier and more luxurious vehicles, more cleared land and paved walkways; more effective heating and lighting, faster communication services, more advanced toys, and so on. Beyond that we can see the attempts to remove suffering through the destruction of the “untamed and dangerous wilderness”, more regulated foods, transportation services, community sanitation, heating and cooling systems and the list could go on to create and entire book. If we really take the time to examine all of those things we find at their base the attempt to make life “easier” and thus to remove suffering. Is that a negative thing? In my opinion sometimes it is and sometimes it is not.
I think there is such a thing as too much suffering to be of any benefit. I can speak from personal experience as well as personal observations of others. When suffering becomes too much it does nothing but degrade without offering the benefit of learning, growing and strengthen on various layers of being. Too much suffering just destroys. For instance it can lead to a mental breakdown and induce “insanity”. Excessive suffering can cause the mind to snap and the individual go on a killing spree. It can also become so oppressive and so unbearable that is can cause a person to take their own life.
I once believed, or thought I believed that if we are experiencing some kind of struggle then we also have the tools and strength to overcome it. I thought I believed that if we did not have the capacity to overcome a struggle then that struggle would not be along our path of experience. Truth is that I never really believed that. Prior to thinking I believed it, I never much thought about it. Once the thought came to me I began hearing the philosophy of others who were talking about only experiencing things we could handle. I ignored my own council based upon my own experiences and adopted that belief. But deep down inside I never believed it because my life has shown me otherwise seemingly countless times. We are perfectly able to experience levels of challenge and suffering that are beyond our capacity to overcome. It is part of our vulnerability in a mortal human existence and one that a great many people refuse to accept. But just because one does not accept something does not make it any less fact.
Suffering has its place though in manageable levels. It can challenge us to learn and grow; strengthen from the inside out and teach us who we truly are. I think it also helps us learn gratitude and the general state of being thankful for what we have and to perhaps enhance the times of pleasure and the moments absent of suffering. Once upon a time I think these attitudes and understandings were more widely accepted and focused on. Today however my observations reveal quite the opposite in many instances. Our society and how it is built and how it continues to grow help to give confirmation to my observations.
Escapism I think has been within the human social system for maybe as long as humans have existed. Even in tribal times people used story telling as a form of entertainment and escapism from the chores of daily life. Some tribal people around the globe used various plants with chemical natures that forced the brain out of its normal conscious perception. “Drugs” were used in rituals, ceremonies, prior to war and for personal “entertainment” and “enlightenment”. Of course areas of those cultures will tell you it was all for “spiritual enlightenment” and such things, but “drug” use is for escapism.
Movies, video games, TV shows, virtual reality headsets, illegal drug use, nicotine, alcohol, fiction stories and many other things used in excess in modern society are all forms of escapism. If the aim is to remove people from the suffering of life, society might view all these forms of escapism as a level of success. However, when we really look at what is happening I think otherwise. I do think everyone needs some sort of escapism in their lives. Pre-technological societies understood this and obviously modern societies feel the same, just at a much more excessive levels. Without the rest periods for storytelling and games the people in tribal times would fall to depression from the drudgery of daily chores. Native American Elders that documented cultural lifestyle facts mentioned this many times in many interviews, from the 1800’s through to the 60’s and 70’s. We are little different today. Without some form of escapism/entertainment that removes our focus on the drudgery of our daily lives many of us would not be very “civil”.
There does seem to be some lines though with the healthiness of escapism and the degradation created by it. I think many areas of modern society have crossed these lines and this action has created more and more suffering. When the pathway or activity that leads to escapism harms the body, it makes no sense because the very desire to escape from suffering is leading to a great level of suffering outside of the escapism, forming an addiction to the activity that creates escapism. The more this activity is used, the deeper the destruction, the higher the suffering and the more “need” for escapism. Pretty soon the person is no longer living in this reality, but rather an alternate existence.
We live in a time when alternate realities or states of existence or perceptions are preferred, condoned and even promoted as opposed to this waking consciousness. Addiction to escapism does not bring enlightenment, but rather a level of sleep. People along the New Age belief system love to say that people are waking up, but from what I see more people are falling into a deeper level of sleep, not waking up. The advancements of the technological world is creating a more widespread and highly dynamic level of alternate realities that more people seem to spend the bulk of their time in. Many people are spending more time in alternative states of reality it seems than in the earthen wakeful consciousness we were all born into. When movies and video games and the digital capacity of TV sets and screens give the illusion of becoming greater that the physical reality, people seeking an escape fall prey to it and fall asleep to the physical world. They get lost in the illusionary digital world that involves little more than the brains acceptance of this new non-physical “place” being created by computer technology. Physical skill sets are lost; health of the body which is meant to physically interact is lost, attention to physical quality of action is disregarded and this physical reality is lost upon people. Today it astounds me how many people think they have all these skills from playing video games when they never actually took the time and invested the energy to physically learn anything. They are deluded into thinking they possess skills they never had in the first place and never physically built, all because they can move some controller and see things happen in their escapism digital world.
Society suffers from such pathways consuming larger and large amounts of the population. Society and this physical world require physical engagement and the genuine time and energy investment that goes along with it. When that is removed and people fall asleep into the digital world of computer matrix, the physical nature of society breaks down. What happens when more time and money goes into making more visually dynamic movies and video games and faster and stronger illegal drugs rather than helping people and areas of the world in need? I think it is obvious since it has been happening more and more and at blindingly fast rates since the 90’s.
Today we even have states that have legalized escapism drugs, like Colorado and Washington, or are working to legalize escapism drugs. Society is promoting it and one way, one powerful way is through legalization. What happens behind the scenes? The governments, agencies and military slowly take greater and greater control and slip more and more freedoms right out from under the population because more and more of the population is falling asleep in escapism – and they do not seem to mind at all. Don’t like something? No worries, it takes too much energy to complain and even more energy to do something about it, so just go smoke some pot, sit down to drink some beer and play some video games and it will all be better. Wow! Is it any wonder the problems of the world increase dramatically every year??
The addiction of escapism is creating more suffering than was here to create the desire for escapism to start with. Younger and younger people are falling prey to it because society is promoting it. More and more generations are being lost to it. Before long how many people will be left with real skills for the real world? What happens when natural or unnatural disaster occur to wipe out vast areas of the social systems, as happens often? We cannot rebuild with video game skills and computer skills. Real skills build a real world.