Inside even the most pathetic poodle, there is still a little bit of a wolf. – Chris Ryan (paraphrase)
It’s pretty obvious that our society is broken in some ways—even
fundamentally. However, I am not going to focus on the brokenness. I am not
going to praise society, either. A lot of people already have done and continue
to do both those things. Instead, I am just going to share some thoughts.
In general I think what civilized people seek most is a stronger sense of connection. They want to feel more connected to other people, to the land on which they walk, and most of all to themselves. In a lot of ways this can be a lonely society, and a lot of people are experiencing that. It makes no difference that they spend much of their time around other people—not when they aren’t really with those people.
When things get too cushy, familiar, and predictable, they can be awfully depressing. A lot of people fall into that trap, too, thinking that to do anything else would kill them. All the while, of course, they are being killed by a mind-numbing routine.
The Superorganism and its Organisms
However, we have to keep in mind that at the end of the day, it all comes down to personal choice. A society is basically a superorganism consisting of individual organisms that continuously make individual decisions. The decisions of the individual organisms are influenced by those of the other organisms and by the superorganism as a whole—sometimes strongly so.
It is quite possible- even likely- that most of us do not exercise the extent of autonomy we imagine we do. Even if our decisions are relatively congruent with who we are, we are still making and acting on those decisions within the framework of the society that has molded us our whole lives.
People seem to hope for various top-down changes to be made, at the societal level, in order to reduce the misery of people at the individual level. But how can you count on decisions made outside of yourself to reduce your misery? There is no top-down action that can reduce a man’s misery. If he insists on being miserable, he will remain so no matter what. He will find a way.
What if, instead, the most important societal changes will come about not by government action, but by individual people making new choices one by one?
After all, the only way to live congruently- to be in line with your true values and desires- is to live consciously. And no one can impose consciousness upon you. Why, that’s just the opposite—it’s enslavement.
You can become a slave to anything: even something that is supposedly “good” or “better.”
For my part I enjoy spending time not just outdoors and in nature, but in the wilderness. I like hiking and running in the woods, swimming in lakes, and camping out. I feel very good when I’m there. My mind is at its clearest, and I feel so very connected to myself and to the world around me. I’m overtaken by strong feelings of love. I inevitably leave camping trips with new insights and a renewed sense of motivation and purpose.
Is my highest choice, then, to spend as much time in the wilderness as possible? At this point in time, it is not.
One thing that gets risky is turning something that feels very good into an obligation. If I pushed myself to spend as much time in the woods as possible, when there are other things I would like to explore, I may come to resent the woods—that is, until I realize how I’ve been relating to it. Then I can clear away that obligation, think about the situation anew, and more or less start over.
The risk on the other side of things is to make gods of our technology. The first half of this year I was very enthusiastic about programming and computers, and how I might be able to contribute to innovation. However, I haven’t given technology as much attention in recent weeks: I’ve wondered whether I was simply going along the path of least resistance, saying, “Well, advancing technology is what everyone else is doing… It’s noble and good and stuff, right? So I guess I should do that.”
It’s the trap of thinking we humans are merely the “sex organs of the machine world.”
Still, I am interested in exploring technology, and I would be selling myself short if I never did. I have tech-related ideas that I would like to turn into reality. At least to this end, I view technology as an exciting outlet for creativity.
Sometimes I do feel split between two worlds—the world of information and technology, and the natural world. It’d be interested to see how the two worlds can merge without killing one another (i.e. nature kills technology by the elements; technology kills by removing or corrupting nature).
Technology is supposed to automate tasks that otherwise take a lot of time or effort to do, or tasks humans either can’t do or don’t want to do. However, my impression is that working on and creating technology would very much bind me to it—and if not me, then someone else. It would require my near-constant presence in civilization to maintain, improve upon, and share it. And that isn’t what I want. I don’t want to become a slave to a machine.
As I say that, however, I have the feeling that that wouldn’t have to be the case. Somehow. There isn’t much I can do by merely hypothesizing, though. I’d have to dive in and find out.
The Human Spirit
Overall, what I try to do is focus on the non-physical. I focus on the essence of my desires and values. Rather than tout a particular diet (though it appears I do so), I move toward what strikes me as greater health. Rather than force myself to exercise I let a desire to move, to experience my body, and to have fun naturally arise, and take whatever form it will (though that form tends to be fairly consistent). Rather than weigh moral imperatives and calculate whether I should be in the woods or in civilization, I simply go to wherever I feel called to be. Rather than debate whether what I’m currently doing is “primitive” and “natural” or “contrived” and a product of society, I simply do whatever it is I naturally desire to do at that time.
If it wasn’t for our civilization in its current form, there are a lot of things I wouldn’t do that I currently do. I wouldn’t be writing this article and posting it on the Internet. I would never drive. There are subjects I wouldn’t or wouldn’t have to read about (such as diet and physical health). Perhaps there would not be much to read at all.
You can only ever act within the framework of all the existing and available environments—even if that action entails changing the environment.
The key is to keep check of yourself and make sure you don’t act merely as a reaction to the current environment. Don’t be doing one thing and then start doing something else just because a person walks in the room. Don’t take a job just because it seems society demands it of you. Don’t say something just to appease another person (FYI, it will probably backfire).
There are a lot of sad and screwed up things in this world we have created. We shove some animals into strollers and cages, and kill others en masse; we have destroyed forests and contaminate the water which we drink; we make ourselves so unhealthy we can barely walk; and, above all else, we drive fear into one another’s hearts, and shame into each other’s souls.
“We” means every single one of us. Even if you are doing the opposite of the above, you still are responsible for its occurrence. You and I both. We all participate. When one of us says, “But what can I do?” we deny our power—not just as individuals, but all of us together.
How foolish it is to think that the things we have created are more powerful than us. That would be like cooking a pot of rice and then worshipping it like it’s a God. No, no! We can’t eat the rice. It is our master. Let it exercise its dominant will over us.
What we must do is regard the sad and screwed up aspects of society as opportunities for growth. We can find new ways to relate to other animals. We can use our resources differently, in ways that are more efficient and kinder to the Earth (such as using hemp to make paper, instead of trees). We can exercise greater respect for our bodies and become strong. And, above all else, we can treat one another with genuine love.
We have to be completely honest about what we see. Denial is never constructive. We have to lay out everything on the table. We have to take the rice out of the pot and put it where all eyes can see it and everyone can touch it.
It is through such complete honesty that we can start over, in any aspect of our lives. When we lay out everything on the table, we set up everything that we need to have a feast. Once all of it is in place, we can finally begin to eat. There is no need to worship the false gods anymore. We can nourish ourselves at last.
What we cannot do is fear the sad and screwed up things. When your physical health is compromised, the worst thing you can do is be stressed and worried about it. Stress and worry will take a greater toll on you than any physical condition will.
Don't deny the condition, but don't let it scare you. Be honest about your reality, and resolve to shine as brightly as you can in the face of it.
In its physical form, society is infrastructure and humans gathered closely together. Ultimately, though, society is non-physical—it is an aspect of your consciousness. What you think society demands from you is ultimately your own thought. And you can choose to believe, perpetuate, and act on whatever thoughts you desire.
Mere walls and roads are nothing compared to the potential of the human spirit. It is all just physical stuff, and eventually will crumble. But your spirit is something else entirely. It is power and love beyond measure. It is infinite. It can create anything of its choosing.
The reality is that you can think and live as independently as you choose. You can stay as true to your nature as you desire. Either physically, psychologically, or both, you can be “off the grid.” You can be your wild, au naturel, untamed, beautiful self.
Define for yourself what it means to live intelligently, and pursue that path relentlessly. Adjust as needed. Don’t worry about having a foggy or vague idea of what it means. Just keep moving toward your desires and keep exploring.
Above all else, keep growing, and keep choosing to live consciously, with full awareness of what you are doing and why. Be firm that you will live by your own choice. Fundamental changes to a society can only be made possible by humans living consciously.
Let us seek to change our world from the inside-out. What we really desire is to communicate and live honestly, to exercise our power, and to relate to one another with love. Let us then do these things no matter what the world around us looks like. That is how we will gain the power to change it, and the foresight to do so intelligently.
In fact, we might find the world so changed simply by being a certain way that there is very little that we have to do. So let us be conscious, and let us be human.
Read Related Articles: