I realized recently that I value most those who are able to step outside convention when living their lives. The most powerful manifestation of this is being acutely aware of why one does what one does. Examples include questioning why we seek mates, why we have children, why we work 9-5 jobs to make money and have the things other people think we should have.
To say it plainly, I think people who don’t question such things are basically asleep. People who move through life doing exactly what they’ve been prodded to do by their surroundings are no more than complex animals. There is no spark there of what makes us human.
What interests me most, though, is being able to classify groups and systems based on this criteria, for the purpose of identifying that which we should nurture or phase out. For example, there are many cultures that are today, in 2012, encouraged to behave precisely as their ancestors have for tens of thousands of years.
This system goes like so:
Learn to love your god(s).
Get any job that makes money.
Find a mate and have lots of kids.
Teach your kids to love your god(s).
Teach your kids to find any job that makes money.
This is a system that worked great for tens of thousands of years. Respect. But things are different now. The worst thing smart and caring people can do is pretend it’s somehow charming for millions of people to hold onto this system of life in the 21st century.
It’s immoral to do so.
It’s immoral to watch millions of people attempt to live a lifestyle of 50,000 years ago in the middle of the modern day. They cannot thrive. They will only suffer. It’d be different if they were isolated and lived as if our world didn’t exist, but that’s very rare (and likely temporary).
The right thing to do is to try to help them wake up. I propose a different model:
Learn to appreciate our joint, global human struggle.
Learn to revere continuous education.
Strive to do work that helps others, ideally through creation.
Continually question how we can maximize happiness and reduce suffering.
Be curious about the universe.
Have children only when it’s good for the world to do so.
Teach those children these same values.
Many people recoil at this list. Why? Because it’s weird. It’s different. It’s not natural. But remember, lions eating human babies on the plains of Africa is natural, too. The point of being human is evolution–becoming better.
This is what I’ve been noticing recently: people and cultures that are thinking beyond their animal natures vs. those who are bound to a primitive wheel of mediocrity and suffering. And don’t think this is tied to financial success or “westernization”: there are many supposedly successful people who haven’t questioned anything in their life other than what other people REALLY want them to do.
I heard somewhere once that there’s nothing more depressing than having a conversation with yourself using someone else’s canned dialog. And that’s what the majority of our world passes off as contemplation.
Wake up. Don’t sleep. Be human. Be better than the animal you are. And don’t fall prey to the narrative that it’s endearing for others to conduct their lives as if they were living 50,000 years ago. It’s not endearing. It’s not wholesome. It’s not quaint. It’s primitive, limiting, and it propagates suffering.
Demand that we improve.