Crayons, Existentialism, and our Dystopia

child_scribble_age_1y10mOn occasion, when feeling the wrath of the ‘existential blues’, I secretly envy those with cookie-cutter world views. To have a set of beliefs laid out in front of you like cutlery on a table must be nice – yes, knives go to the right of you and forks to the left. While incapable of not being a skeptic, about anything, I am still torn by the theoretical decision of choosing between a life of ignorance and a life of truth seeking. Which is preferable?

I can only imagine the self worth one must feel by truly believing that they have a purpose outside of themselves, that they aren’t just members of a group of well dressed monkeys hobbling across a useless rock. What would it be like to never think beyond the sociopolitical structure that dictates the very boundaries of our waking life? To not be burdened by ethical dilemmas because right and wrong can be so clearly defined? Certainly that reality is very quantifiable, but it’s also very limiting. Would you rather color inside of the lines, or stray to the outside, where an infinite amount of blank canvas exists? Staying inside the lines and following the status quo is a quick and easy approach for drifting through life in linear fashion. From Point A to Point B we go, we follow the path and we’re careful not to stray. We’ve been told that everything will turn out okay in the end, and God forbid, we going exploring, the world is far too scary of a place for that.

Unfortunately for the thinker, the majority of the population has, by nature, chosen the former. With so many people in the world, and so few being thinkers, we’re stuck living inside a socially assembled world that has been crafted without our best interests in mind. It’s only natural for intellectuals to become increasingly more ideological as the calendar advances – for we’re always learning, always analyzing, and always seeking while the world at large remains stagnant and asleep at the wheel. Thus, a healthy cynicism begins to sprout up, eventually blossoming into full-fledged unhappiness with civilization as a whole. Throughout recorded history the thinker has always struggled against the ignorant masses and this is no exception.

With the advance of technology we’re supposedly more connected than ever, yet somehow nothing has fundamentally altered our way of discourse. Communication may have become easier, but that doesn’t change the fact that most people still don’t have anything to say. We’re like parrots squabbling back and forth to each other. We speak in gibberish that’s been spoon fed to us by multi-billion dollar entertainment corporations. We’re forced to conform to their rules, absorb the latest catch phrase, hear empty political rhetoric, be swayed by media fear mongering (swine flu anyone?), take lessons on how we should look, the way we should act, and what we should feel. We work too much and the only thing we have to show for it are gas guzzling automobiles and plasma TV’s. Suddenly, nothing is real. Just lies, regurgitated pig slop – it’s what’s for dinner. Dig in; you might as well enjoy it.

As thinkers we become progressively more appalled by the cheapening and commercialization of our very existence. We watch in horror as our friends and loved ones ‘sell their souls’ chasing pipe dreams in blind faith of this so-called American Dream – and they do it all with a rosy cheeks, fake smiles and lifeless eyes. Zombies now void of the presumably infinite curiosity of their youths. They’re beyond help now, there’s no turning back – and we’re starting to slip too. Coloring outside of the lines is becoming such a hassle, and it’s really getting lonely out here. Occasionally we’ll catch fleeting moments of inspiration which may, in turn, fuel short bursts of creativity. If we’re lucky enough to have captured it we’ll feel privileged to share it with anyone who dares to listen. But have no fear society, we’re getting weakened. We’ll be in our cubicles by sunrise as if nothing ever happened – still alone within our thoughts in a world that just wasn’t meant for us.

Po is a contributing writer and the founder of Get instant updates for this blog via Twitter: PGTblog.



Filed under philosophy

2 responses to “Crayons, Existentialism, and our Dystopia

  1. Soahki

    I too have felt this on occasion, during those moments of existential crisis: “I can only imagine the self worth one must feel by truly believing that they have a purpose outside of themselves, that they aren’t just members of a group of well dressed monkeys hobbling across a useless rock.” I agree that there’s often little comfort in not knowing, in not having an orderly world view laid out in front of you, all questions answered, all worries soothed by the belief that you already know the single Truth of the world. But not having such a tidy world view doesn’t necessarily mean that one is lost or alone. There IS a purpose outside of oneself, to be found on the quest for greater understanding, and there is meaning to be found in seeking, which is where you are right now. This is meaning far deeper than anyone who has merely accepted an established worldview could hope to glimpse. As you clearly know, the development of wisdom is not a linear process. As Rainer Maria Rilke said in one of my favorite poems, “I live my life in growing orbits which move out over the things of the world. I may never achieve the last, but that will be my attempt.”

    I do relate very well to the sentiments expressed in your concluding paragraph. The withering of dreams and the slow, agonized death of youthful enthusiasm are awful by-products of post- academic life. I especially loved this bit: “We’ll be in our cubicles by sunrise as if nothing ever happened – still alone within our thoughts in a world that just wasn’t meant for us.” It was absolutely chilling, yet so true! A follow- up blog on what one could do to prevent this terrible loss of “soul”, and of Self… how we can bear up and survive under the great machine of Society would be greatly appreciated.

    Soahki is a contributing writer for Get instant updates for this blog via Twitter: PGTblog.

  2. davidrsheehan

    Boo, not a post (at least at the end) to take into the bath with you if there’s a blow-dryer handy.

    Having said, there’s some good writing in there and points well-made. I do think dichotomies for just two approaches might be over-simplifying (there are lots of people who are intelligent and think about their place in the world, but still continue to fall back on the comfort of faith), as many struggle to bridge this gap daily… but for the sake of showing the spectrum, you did admirably.

    What do you do with tradition? In Japanese society (maybe not modern, but definitely in the past), there was an intense and hugely-important ceremony behind serving tea. People trained for decades to achieve the balance and art of a proper tea pouring – requiring specific measurements, movements, and actions (all in accordance with strict rules and precedents established long before).

    So what do you do with this tradition? It’s about as within-the-lines as one can draw, seemingly. Yet the true masters, the tea pourers who’ve achieved as no others through dedication and practice and contemplation and meditation and still more practice – these masters are considered true artists and are (or were) highly regarded by their society. Is not art the ultimate outside-the-lines? (Crap, just set up my own dichotomy!)

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