Wednesday, September 15, 2004

A thousand words on life

The other day I was at a birthday gathering and as tends to happen as such events, the conversation got deep and philosophical. Spurred on by the recent news reports of the dangers of Prozac and the way in which doctors seem to give them out like sweets, we found ourselves discussing our generations place in society.

At 26 years old I find myself at an impasse. I often put it down to a tendency I have for getting bored with the status quo. I like change. I enjoy a challenge. My life in many ways has been devoid of such things for some time. I wouldn't call myself depressed. I have a good life, a stable job (famous last words!), which pays well and a girlfriend I wouldn't want to lose or change in any way.

Yet there is a disturbing emptiness in my life that I've had for a long time. As I looked around this group of friends I realised that I wasn't alone. Here was a group of twenty something’s who had all seemingly entered that phase where they ask themselves the question, "Is this all there is?"

I realise that many people go through this. It's that point in which a person rejects the dreams of youth and accepts their lot in life. All but a chosen few have to face it. For some it passes them by without incident, while for others, it's a deeply ritualistic process, not unlike mourning the loss of something intangible.

Then again, if almost every person goes through this, how do we explain the vast amounts of anti-depressants thrown at people from every Doctors surgery in the land? Our parents went through it; and our grandparents; and their grandparents. Didn't they?

As with everything in my life I was brought back to the movies. There's a quote in Fight Club which sums up my argument.
We are the middle children of history, with no purpose or place. We have no
great war, or great depression. The great war is a spiritual war. The great
depression is our lives. We were raised by television to believe that we'd be
millionaires and movie gods and rock stars -- but we won't. And we're learning
that fact.
Throughout history, there has been a reason for existence. Prior to the advancement of literacy, the majority that made up the working classes were led by the few and were (on the whole) happy to accept that lot.

Until 1960, when conscription in Britain was abolished, every generation had faced some kind of conflict. Throughout history our ancestors had a war to fight. It was fought either on the battlefields or at home by working to support the vast military this country sent around the world. Even when there was no war, society tended to be plagued by various diseases and famines.

Aside from the battles against other nations and ravishing depressions people maintained their other primary role in society; procreation. All of this was bound together by a deeply spiritual order led by the people’s devotion to their faith.

These three things, conflict, procreation and religion are the essence of what drove British society throughout history. I say British society, because it would be far too pretentious of me to try to speak about the driving factors in other cultures... although I have a sneaking suspicion that the factors were the same for many, if not all.

The point here, is that on the whole people were happy with their lot because they truly believed in what they were doing. Most in the military believed in fighting for their flag or King. For every deserter there were dozens willing to die for the cause, even if the cause would only truly benefit their rich leaders. The fact that their leaders were acting with the blessing of their church galvanised their belief in the cause.

Of course, the 20th century saw the empowering of the common man (and woman!). Literacy spread like wild fire and with it, the freedom to choose. The result is that Christianity is no longer the driving force in Britain. People have chosen to desert God. Women, offered the choice, have chosen to reject motherhood. While our advancements in diplomacy, global relations, healthcare and trade have removed the fear of disease and conflict from Britain. Our wars are minor, and in far off (almost mythical) lands with names like Iraq, Kosovo and Sierra Leone. Our diseases are controlled enough to allow society to function in an orderly manner.

As far as I see, it is this freedom to choose that has led to the emptiness I and others feel. With no great war to fight and no great religion to believe in, we are left asking the question "Is this all their is?". The end of the cold war marked the end of the pretence, although many people had already begun to see life for what it was long before then.

Every generation in this country (and many others in the advanced democracies of the world) are left with the reality of existence. A world in which our role is to maintain the status quo until we die. I don't want a war, nor do I want to welcome God into my heart. And, surprisingly enough, I feel no desire to father a dozen children just so I can 'live on' in them. This choice, brought on by our society’s advancement is the source of the emptiness and for many, the source of their depression.

We are the disenfranchised masses. We want to belong to something, but we don't like any of the clubs on offer. We are too educated to just accept our lot in life and too comfortable to do anything about it.

This blog isn't meant to go anywhere. It isn't striving to make the world a better place. It's looking for answers. I don't have answers. But I do know that I am not willing to just accept the status quo quite yet. After all, I might have another 5 or 6 decades ahead of me to just accept my lot in life!

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