Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Stop Being Crazy

I’ve got news for you: you’re not that crazy. How do I know? If you were among the small percentage of the population currently wandering the streets in tattered ballet slippers pushing a baby stroller filled with colored Easter eggs shaped from your own excrement, you probably wouldn’t be reading this with anything close to comprehension. I’d even wager that the poopy-pushing nut job yodeling outside your local Starbucks isn’t nearly as insane he would like you and society at large to believe. He stops speaking in tongues long enough to open the door for you in expectation of a tip, doesn't he?

There’s no denying that life is difficult. Or that the chaos and confusion of the modern world exists way out of proportion to the ability of our marginally-evolved brains to process and absorb it. Recent advances in our technologically-enhanced culture may already be rewiring the way we process information and formulate thought, so that very soon the average person will have difficulty locating a hamburger joint around the corner without consulting the ubiquitous hand-held device downloading signals from orbiting global positioning satellites. Our elected officials don't seem to have our best interests at heart, and big business makes a show of ecological awareness while befouling our air and water. And, as a rapidly growing population teems across the imaginary borders of our tiny blue planet, it’s natural to be a bit anxious about the subsequent distribution of our dwindling resources in the face of inevitable warfare and climate change. But does that justify succumbing to the seduction of medication and mediation, succumbing to an industry for which society had no need just a few generations ago?

What would you say fuels your neurosis, your psychosis? Financial worries during a time of economic uncertainty? A parent that never loved you? The fear of dying alone? The inability to find fulfilling work? Unhappy childhood experiences, followed by an adulthood that has been less than satisfying? I’ve just described the human condition, and there has to be a better way to navigate it than for us to collectively shell out billions of dollars to supposed practitioners that will only pretend to listen to our woes without supplying any applicable answers and trick us into “feeling better” by dosing us with complex combinations of pharmaceuticals.

At this exact moment, there are thousands of relocated Somalian refugee families thriving in the once-abandoned industrial cities of northern New England. Are they filling the waiting rooms of the local psychologists and therapists to sob and obsess about the civil war that displaced them, the ethnic cleansing efforts that drove them from their ancestral homes onto the sleet-frozen streets of Lewiston, Maine to serve as taxi drivers and kitchen crews? Not generally. Like any of us who have survived torture and turmoil, they have nightmares, they exhibit caution in strange surroundings, and they apply themselves to make the most of the current situation in which they find themselves. What about the young Chinese and Indian adults who work seven days a week and must pay, out of their meager earnings, to reside in squalid factory dormitories owned by American retailers, so that our overweight, over-indulged children can slink off to school with $6 backpacks?  Do they doubt their self-worth, and trouble themselves into a state of emotional instability because of their circumstances? No, they seize the opportunity to provide for their poverty-stricken families back in their villages and home provinces, and embrace the one afternoon they have off each week to date, dance, and dream of better things to come.

The simple fact is that throughout history people have persevered because they must. Cultural mass-insanity is a by-product of a leisure culture, one with enough time on its hands to feel sorry for itself, to indulge in weakness and childishness, and, worse, to allow itself to become so insecure it seeks solace in false cures and foolish promises. In short: suck it up. Life is hard. And you can stop being crazy now.

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