Serenity Now: The Anxiety of Modern Living
I’ve had it. I’m done. Over it. Kaput.
Yes, you heard it. I am done with modern living.
Usually I write of inspiring and uplifting topics. I look to see the best in things, people and places but not today. No not today.
Today I am officially over it.
I wish to rant and rage and burn into the night. I wish to bend down on bloodied knee, light a flame and howl at the moon in anguish about the world that we have created for ourselves.
So what exactly I’m sick of tired of? I am exasperated beyond originality. I am sick and tired of everything! Every. Single. Little. Thing!
For one (and yes my finger is wagging) I’m so sick and tired of the weight of expectation placed on what and how the modern-human eats.
We’re not allowed to eat carbs, sugar or fat. We have to activate our almonds before placing them in a bowl of paleo grains garnished with heirloom berries that have soaked in organic yoghurt that’s gestated in the gut of foraging goats who only ever graze on a grassy sea-breeze blown hilltop.
A trip to the shopping centre is not enjoyable. It’s filled instead with the pressure of doing the right thing.
I’m not just looking for milk and bread. No. No I’m looking for non-GMO, low fat, high protein, gluten avoidant, RSPCA back-slapped, hormone free, organic, ethical, happy, sugar-free, fake-sugar-free, Palaeolithic, biodegradable, donation-to-charity, low calorie, slow releasing food.
I’m not saying that all of these things aren’t good. Of course I want the goat that’s gestated my yoghurt to have a nice life. I would never deny a goat a slow-sea-stare. But I’m riddled with guilt and confusion down the shopping aisles and I’m sure I’m not the only one.
It’s at this point that I must admit to loving the seventies program ‘The Good Life.’ Not to be mistaken for Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie’s vacuous and soul-destroying reality show ‘The Simple Life’, ‘The Good Life’ was actually about living simply, not simpleton living.
The lead characters Tom and Barbara (remember when names were simple too?) set up an entirely self-sufficient house in Surbiton with their own chickens, food and electricity. But far from trying to impress their local Hipster collective, their only motivation was to live a straightforward life. A good life.
In 2014 one isn’t expected to know what a good life is. We are harassed, harangued, bullied and coerced in every direction we manage to flick our world-weary eyes.
Advertising is so ubiquitous that one can no longer even enter a restroom or pour petrol from a bowser without being talked at.
After a long day of consuming you-are-worthless-unless-you-buy messages on busses, billboards, TVs, magazines, coffee cups, novelty cars, place mats, park benches, clothing, water bottles, movie screens, pop-ups, elevators and even as the first thing you see before you try to escape the world on a flight away from it all, you would be excused for wanting to grab a cold one and switch off.
But now… now the ads find you. Oh yes, now you’re targeted. Now you are hunted down. Your details are collected and filed and distributed and every single thing you’ve consumed or bought or glanced at is push-notified and location-allowed.
Somewhere an Austin-Powers-nemesis-type-dude is stroking a white cat on a slow swinging chair and planning your demise with a good dose of 21st century ‘consumption’.
There comes a point when the anxiety of modern life becomes too much. It’s too loud. It’s too demanding. It’s too shallow and laborious. It’s too conforming and judgemental.
Something has to give.
I heard Michael Katakis speak this year at the Brisbane Writer’s Festival. An enigmatic and charming man who strode into the hall with a soft leather briefcase, caramel trench coat and wood-handled umbrella; Katakis is a chap who likes simple things.
Not only is he a world renowned writer but he also has the glorious title of being official guardian of Hemingway’s literary estate. Now there was a man who liked simple things.
In his latest collection of essays ‘A Thousand Shards of Glass’ Katakis traces his self-imposed exile from America. In it he states:
“The nation of menial tasks and lists was unacceptable to us and we were not going to allow it to rob us of our lives or drown us in a trivial sea. We wanted a simple life filled with daily work done well and time together that was not interrupted other than by people we loved. We wanted to get far away from what we came to refer to as the American Noise.”
He’s got a point. Oh to live a life with time only interrupted by those we love.
Every time the ‘noise’ gets too loud for me I state clearly to anyone who will listen that I am going to give it all up and live in a tree. I sound daft when I say this. Deranged even. But I don’t mean to give up on life. Just modern life.
It will be a fine tree that I’ll live in, by the way.
There will be good food and bookshelves heaped to the ceiling. I’ll pop down at times and go for lovely long walks. Occasionally I’ll swim in the ocean under silvery moonlight. There will be comforts but not consumption. Things will ‘open’ not ‘turn on’. There will be a sense of calm that will cloak my little tree as night falls and I will sleep soundly.
Ah the good life.
Who’s with me?