Static versus Movement: The Modern Dilemma of Idle Hands
Lately I have been contemplating the nature of modern reality. Truthfully, I have been contemplating it for the past thirty years but more recently I have been focusing in on some of the particular issues that have always bothered me, though I was not always able to pin point these issues.
Ever since I was a child I felt a distinct unease about being indoors. On days when the sun was shining in the sky, even if it was 30 degrees, I still wanted to be out there rather than in ‘here.’ As I got older I would suffer from bouts of depression but never really know where they came from and why. As a result I fell into a negative loop cycle that would bring me through the gamut—the gamut being: feeling depressed, eating horrible food, feeling more depressed, eating more horrible food, lashing out on others, lashing out on myself, feelings of suicide, feelings of dismalness—feeling like nothing in the world mattered—and all of this would lead me right back to unhealthy food and thought patterns.
It wasn’t until somewhere in my mid to late twenties when I realized “I’m a caged animal.” Actually, years earlier, while under the influence of an altered mind state, I realized that there’s nothing ‘to do’ in a house. All that one can do is rustle around in his little cage, make loops and eat. That’s what most modern people do. Except most modern people have the television to abate their sense of malaise. This was not the case for me and so I found myself deeply disturbed most of the time and I couldn’t just shut it out with distractions.
When I was 26 or 27 I saw a caged tiger in the Wal-Mart parking lot. There was a sign that said ‘If you want to see animals, come this way’ with an arrow. At first I was elated, I love animals so why wouldn’t I want to see animals. I guess I was thinking maybe horse or cow or goat, but when I got there there was this great orange and black tiger kept in this cage that was not much bigger than it was. All he could to was pace a few feet in front of him and then turn back and pace a few feet behind.
I was outraged. I was emotionally scarred. I realized that I was hurt, of course because it is impossible to see another being suffering and not be hurt. But I also realized that I was deeply hurt because it reminded me of how I felt.
I began to question whether or not it was possible for anyone to live outside of the cage, whether invisible or real. I remember in one of Huxley’s novels he goes into the idea that we’re all in cages, just some of us are in cages that are large enough to remain ‘imperceptible.’
It seems like even if we think ourselves free—people who live ‘outside the box’ and I do find myself to be one of those people—that the truth still remains we’re still caged in so many ways. We’re caged by social pressures, caged by the need to have money (whether real or perceived), caged by our bodies in some respects, caged by our minds in other respects, caged by society, caged by government, caged by the food industry, caged by all of the things that we have to succumb to even if we think we’re free.
In nature the only thing caging natural beings is nature itself, that is, the natural confines of one’s own abilities. Birds remain on land and in air as opposed to in water or underground. Fish remain in water as opposed to in the air or on the land. These are natural divisions but they’re not oppressive, they just are. No one created them. No one created a set of expectations by which a fish or a bird must live. No one created a set of expectations by which a cloud forms or disbands. No one created a set of expectations for how tall a tree will grow. Yet with humans all we do is measure, contain and expect.
The process of measuring, containing and expectance is burdensome. It means we can’t just do.
Do what humans do. (Though I’m sure some would argue, ‘that is what humans do’). I would say, ‘that is what some humans do.’
I’m ok to be bound by my own physical limitations. I am ok to be bound by nature’s limitations. But I am not ok to be bound by the limitations forced upon me by people and entities that I don’t know. I am not ok with being forced to participate in the money system. I am not ok with being forced to dress and act a certain way. I am not ok with being forced to live in one certain place that the government allows me to live. Drink the water that the government allows me to drink and eat the poisoned food that the government wants me to eat.
I’m fully aware of all of the deeper subtexts and side conversations that those statements I just put forth elicit. I fully know that some people have tricked themselves into believing that they could step outside of it. But I dare one of them to step forward and bare themselves to me.
If you have stepped outside of it, you’re probably not reading this article. That’s one.
I am stating these ideas as facts rather than opinions conscious of the implications of doing so. I also wish to switch the tone back into that of inquiry at this point.
One of the big differences between modern man and wild man is that modern man is almost completely stagnant. Sure he roves around in his insulated world of home, car, work, car, home again (with the occasional trip to the supermarket) but those paths are also in many ways stagnant. He is not doing anything truly novel or unique with his time, he is not forcing novel or unique products on the selves of the stores that he shops, he is not experiencing the berth of flora, fauna, microbes, daylight, night light, etc.
In the past, and I guess here I am referring to a remote past; people surly experienced a range of physical stimulations. Even if their days revolved around similar activities, they still had the element of diversity: danger of the elements, danger of wild animals, the joy of finding a new patch of berries, the joy of watching a child being born naturally, the despair of death. These things were at the forefront of a human’s life, not on the sidelines as they are today. We notices the beautiful sunset from our window, we watch animals being born on TV, we eat food picked and packaged by someone we will never know.
Part of the allure of the stagnant lifestyle is the ease in which things come. It is easy to drive your car to work, it is easy to be told what to do all day by someone who is in charge, it is easy to pick from the items in a well-organized supermarket, it is easy to keep the house warm when you don’t have to chop wood to do so, it is easy to live in a bigger dwelling if it means that you aren’t confronted with the elements. It seems difficult to live in a small dwelling and spend the majority of your day outdoors, it seems difficult to have to wonder if you’ll have enough food to survive the winter, it seems difficult to be cold when it’s cold and hot when it’s hot.
What is being sacrificed by the introduction of ease?
It seems that our mental health is the most vulnerable aspect of the easy lifestyle. The more people are shuffled around in boxes that lead to boxes that lead to boxes, instead of experiencing the outside world, the more we see a sense of unease, stress, emotional degradation, neurosis, violence and psychosis. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that industrialized societies have way higher rates of these issues than non-industrial.
Modern humans have more time to stew in their own juices. They have more time to sit around and lament. They have more time to conjure of plots of violence or malevolence.
It seems that the rise of free time has also lent to a lack of creativity, a lack of purpose and a lack of self-worth. Although we have the time to be creative, do things that have meaning to us and contemplate our self-worth, the box that we have confined ourselves in oftentimes does not provide the proper utensils—does not promote—endeavors that expand out into the dangerous zone of constant change; the antithesis of stasis.
In the final words that I wish to share on the topic, I feel as though it is quite possible that these ideas are simply a projection of my own and that the rest of the industrialized world does not feel this way. That is possible. I guess I would have to ask you to look inside yourself and be honest. Look past the comforts and assurances. See how you feel there? As for me, seeing the same things organized in the same way every day without fail is in a word, maddening. It warrants drastic change. It begs convolution. It inspires to me want to tear the decorations off the walls, repave the streets and start walking on my hands instead of my feet.