If it is important enough to you, you will find a way. If it is not, you will find an excuse.
Here in Ireland – as in most other developed nations -, we live in a very comfortable, very secure society. We turn the key in our door, and step into safe, warm places to dwell. We flip a switch, and we have light; we turn a knob, and we have warmth. We place ourselves on our soft sofas, press a button on a remote, or on the side of a laptop; and we are being entertained. We get into our cars or on the bus, and rain or shine we are being driven down the road to the next shopping center – here, all our hearts desire is available, at all times, needly stacked and arranged on shelves and rails. We head down to the pub, or fly off on a sun holiday, to distract ourselves; we overload our senses with stimulation, then dull them with drugs of various kinds. To be able to do all these things, we sell our manpower, abilities and knowledge to employers, so that we can get paid; we spend that money, then repeat the cycle. Sometimes we fall through the cracks, and the government ensures our survival – there is security, though not always comfort. There is order, structure, society.
But what is the price for these these conveniences, this security ? What price do we really pay, for the comforts of modern society ?
The price is freedom. Not freedom in the physical sense – most of us have that in abundance, what with being able to just jump into your car, or on the next flight, and head off to wherever we choose to go, and do whatever we choose to do. But that kind of freedom is a clever and well-disguised illusion, for in order to go and do what we want, we first have to submit and enslave ourselves to what I can only call “The System”. The System is the overall structure of society, and the way it operates – the system is not designed to afford true freedom, but on the contrary, it is designed to create attachments and entanglements. The system provides a clear blue print of how we are expected to live our lives – be born, go to school, possibly get educated in college or take on an apprenticeship, embark on a career path, start a family, buy property, retire, set your kids on a “straight path” so they can fit into that very same template, so that the cycle continues. The System works, and it works well, because it ensures the survival of the masses, and it ensures that individuals function as a society. But in order for it to work so well, each one of us is expected and required to continuously create attachments – first and foremost the attachment to money, and material possessions. Success is to have money, live in a big house, drive a big car, get a huge pension. Within The System, you are what you have. We depend on what we have, both physically and emotionally, and when we loose a material possession ( for whatever reason ), we are hurting, we are unhappy. We have invested so much time and effort into what we have, that we allow our possessions to define us. We cannot do anything else, because how do we justify for ourselves spending most of our waking lives at work, if we have no material possessions to show for it ? It is a waste. We have attached ourselves to what we have, and spend much time and effort worrying about how to protect those possessions, how to multipy them, how not to loose them.
We also depend on what we possess in other ways. Our possessions are how we survive; if we loose our house, how many of us would know how to find or build shelter ? If we run out of money to go to the supermarket, how do we feed ourselves ? If we do not have the means to entertain and distract ourselves, how can we be content ? If we have nothing, how can we be happy ?
And so we willingly entangle ourselves in a web made of attachments – attachments to material things, to comforts, to securities, to happiness. We do it willingly, because we like being able to turn on the light or the heat with the flip of a switch; we like being able to go down to the supermarket and have our food ready processed and available; we like being passively entertained by staring at screens. We like to think we have choices and freedom.
But take any of these things away, and suddenly everything comes crumbling down around us. By completely relying on these comforts and securities, we give up on the ability to do without them. We become completely dependent on The System, as opposed to our own abilities and who we are as a person. Suddenly, we have no other choice than to go to work every day, submit and conform to the whim and will of someone who buys our manpower, and the results of our education. We readily and willingly cease to be an individual, and start becoming an asset and a tool. We spend money on education, just so that later someone else can utilise us to make more money themselves; they pay us for it, and that money flows out again on bills, and on acquiring more assets. Everything is based on who owns what, and we find ourselves to be in a position where we have no other choice than to partake in this game. There is no alternative. It is the way to live, it is expected of us.
Of course, all of this is an oversimplification, a generalisation; there are some among us who like what they do, but then again, they are the lucky ones. The majority of us work and enslave ourselves to The System simply because there is no alternative on offer; we work and pay the bills because we have to live and want to be comfortable and secure, so we live to work and pay the bills. It is a system that is self-enforcing, a vicious cycle. Some manage to find ways to make a living that fulfills them – they follows their dreams and turn them into money in the process. Some are born into a state of having lots of material possessions, so that they no longer need to work. But the vast majority of us aren’t that lucky – we do what comes along, just to survive. So if we have no real choice, where is the freedom ?
Do not get me wrong, The System is not inherently bad. After all, for most of us it removes the need to forage for food, it gives us warm shelters, supports our desire to procreate, affords opportunities to follow some of our dreams. It takes care of the basic modalities of daily survival. A lot of us find happiness that way, happiness in no longer having to worry about physical survival, about being in civilisation. Most people are perfectly content fitting into the template of what society expects, and going through the motions. But then, there are some of us for whom this isn’t enough; there are some of us for whom there is no intrinsic value in possessions and material things. There are some of us who are different.
We are the dreamers, the thinkers, the philosophers of this world; fitting into a blue print, spending our lives working just to pay bills and perpetuate the cycle, attaching ourselves to duties and responsibilities, is simply not enough. We look at things from a more holistic point of view, spend our days pondering ideas and concepts, build models and theories. Being caught in this new world-wide web of material entanglements and attachments smothers us, stifles us, makes us deeply and profoundly unhappy. What matters to most members of society are things we are not passionate about, because we know that by attaching ourselves to them, we surrender our emotional and spiritual freedoms, and become slaves to The System. And herein lies the problem, because no alternatives are on offer for those who do not fit it. Submitting to societal norms and templates is simply expected, and those who do not comply are at best frowned upon or laughed at, or at worst actively shunned or even persecuted. But we do not want to fit in, do not want to be slaves; we are not better or worse than everyone else, but simply different, and often not understood.
So what are the answers ? I have none. I wish I did, but I have none. Society as it is – in spite of all its failings, evils and shortcomings – works just fine, in that it provides a way for several billion people to more or less manage to coexist. That is its value. The ones that fall through the cracks are those whose values are different from everyone elses, and there is no alternative on offer for them; there is only “submit, or else !”. But for society at large, I have no better model to offer.
I cannot speak for anyone else, but to me, and for myself as an individual, the answer must begin with reducing the attachments and entanglements I have with the structures of society. I want to become more self-reliant, in every way, and not be dependent on “work to live, so you can live to work”. Ultimately, I want to find ways to go off-grid completely, and no longer be reliant ( or at least minimalising reliance ) on money for my survival and energy needs. Why would I need to help making a large energy cooperation richer ? We live in a land full of wind and light and water; those things cannot power society as a whole, but they surely can power my own individual needs. I just have to find ways to make use of those resources, which are, after all, freely available.
I want to learn to get close to the land again; humanity started off as hunter-gatherers, and we once had the skills to live off the land, and survive. Of course, there was no true freedom in that either, because we were at the mercy of nature – there was no safety net, and one bad winter was enough to threaten survival. And that survival took up all of our time and energy, so no resources were left for other pursuits. We are now in a much better position, in that we have evolved to a point where we have technology at our disposal. There has to be some way to find a middle ground, to use technology to ensure and support survival and live in sustainable ways; in fact, ultimately it needs to be understood that this was originally the whole point in having technology ! A middle ground between enslaving ourselves to the whims of nature, and enslaving ourselves to the whims of society. True peace and happiness, to me, is the freedom from all attachments – living off what the land can provide, while supporting that survival with the technology that society has achieved, without becoming completely reliant on either while forgetting the other. I might coin the term intelligent living in this context, without wishing to imply anything about that majority of us who choose to become happy within the confines of society. I do not wish to pass judgement on them, I only wish to find a different road to walk on – just for myself. Is it arrogant and selfish ? Well perhaps it is, but to hell with it.
How will I do it ? I have absolutely no idea yet. But then again, you can be damn sure that it is important enough to me that I will find a way. I will use this online journal to document my efforts, in the hopes that perhaps one day I find what I am looking for, and in the hope that maybe, just maybe, others can benefit from whatever there is to remember for me along the way. And I use the word “remember” on purpose – I believe that deep down we have never truly lost our roots, so there is nothing new to learn. It is only because of self-imposed separation from our true natures, that we have forgotten so much.
We just have to make the effort to remember again.