The Concrete Desert

In the concrete fields of suburbia, bereft of critical thought, a parking space waits for you. Will you find your way home?

Name:
Location: United States

Monday, February 14, 2005

Preamble

If the world had a dream, what would it be?

I once had dreams. From an early age I fancied a future without money and avarice where people cooperated with each other and lacked for nothing. Knowledge was the only currency needed and was it's own reward. People lived simply and did as they pleased so long as it didn't injure others. There was no hate. No injustice. No limitations. After all, we are taught that humanity is ever evolving into a new age of social and technological achievement.

Twenty-some years have passed and the grim reality is this future I longed for is farther away than ever before. Was I taken by folly or wishful thinking? Was it my youthful optimism and naivete? Perhaps if this future were ever a possibility for our world, it was stillborn, discarded, and forgotten. What had happened to people's goodwill and love for each other? Had the balance of humanity's maleficence tipped us into greater chaos and darkness? I didn't know the answer. I couldn't even define the correct question.

I was cast adrift on a sea of lost hopes, the breadth and depth of which I couldn't fathom. There were no stars by which to plot a course, no moon to lend the slightest comfort. Only perpetual falling from one valley to the next as each wave swallowed me. At the nadir of my tempest, I became increasingly aware that what I believed about the world was diverging from the reality I was beginning to see. In some ways, they were completely opposed.

I see perpetual war, poverty, and disease which rarely is avoided, solved, or cured. I see insatiable consumption and greed coupled to political power and it's inevitable results. I see rampant ecological destruction which affects the sustainable existence of all life, including our children's children. Any reasonable person would conclude that at this rate, we're killing our future.

Questions swirled like eddies in my mind. If humanity is evolving, why does it appear we're collectively committing suicide? Is this human nature or just the condition humanity finds itself in? Where did we as a species come from? Where are we heading? If people were mostly good, how could they let so many bad things happen? How could God let this happen? Who am I, really? How do I fit into this world I thought I knew? What IS the TRUTH?

There was no reply at all.

Adversity has an interesting effect on people: some thrive on it, most avoid it at all costs. Who doesn't want to avoid pain and suffering if given a choice? I hadn't much contemplated the function or value of the shocks life regularly sends to us, Special Delivery. So it had never occurred to me that people, just as rose bushes, need periodic pruning. As a survival mechanism, I skillfully learned to avoid many conflicts in my short life but this time there was no escaping the wall of water crashing down on me. Simply put: my life depended on the answers to these questions. Where would I find them?

It's been said that truth is repugnant to the mind which is not ready to receive it. New information is often resisted in favor of the comforting and familiar landscape of our beliefs. Still, many profess to having an "open mind" but who really knows what that means? Can your thoughts, beliefs, expectations and assumptions withstand the litmus of inquiry, self reflection, calamity or crisis?

Then when you least expect it, life administers a shock so devastating all you can do is collect the fragments of your former self and subject them to the rigorous eye of the scientist. Piece by piece. Separating the false from the true and the subjective from the objective. Looking for what is real and what is illusion.

At least, this is what one does to learn from their errors. Others sweep the whole mess under the rug, never to see the light of day again. However, those who truly undertake this excavation of their life may find something greater and far more valuable then their errors: they may find the truth of themselves. Thus, I learned that if the world was to change for the better, I had to start with society's smallest unit: myself. Now the last traces of whimsical dreams and Hollywood happy endings have evaporated from my mind.

In a society that values neither substance nor the underlying complexities of things, it is predictable that the acquisition of self knowledge is an endeavor which few people pursue. It's better to buy the newest gadget or talk about the latest cinema buzz than to have to think about your life and it's why's and how's. It's easier to leave these uncomfortable questions and their ramifications to your congressman or clergyman or whomever. It's much more pleasant to go on believing the reality presented to you, wrapped in a box with a big red bow and 120 channels.

Not I.