Friday, November 20, 2015

Are you living … or existing?

There comes a time when we are faced with our own mortality.  When the light switches on and we realise life in the body - as we know it - is finite, there seems to be an urgent need to experience things.  Interestingly, many people go from being collectors of “stuff” (status symbols and the like), to collectors of experiences, and these manifest in the form of “bucket lists” through which people mark their final decades, or sometimes their final months.  I find it an interesting concept that people wait until the end of their lives to truly start living.  The social construction of societal norms renders it problematic to truly live in this world; rather, people often merely exist.  The cycle begins early – at around five in New Zealand – when children are sent off to school.  In Nepal where I recently spent several weeks, many children do not attend school.  You could argue this is an indication of the poverty of the country and how can they “better’ themselves if they do not have education?  However, when you take a step back and see it for what it is, the children who do not go to school, stay within the family and help develop the land with their parents and eventually taking over from the parents in order to look after them – and the cycle repeats.
They are reported to be amongst the happiest people on the planet – yet by our standards they have “nothing”.
 In an “educated” society, children are programmed from the age of five, to study hard to get a job to earn money to pay for things like houses (that they purchase with imaginary money but pay for through the mortgage system with their hard-earned real money).  And the cycle repeats until they are sixty or seventy-ish and then realise that time is running out! They exist merely to support the system.
The Nepalese child who stays within the family fold, helping to produce food to feed the family is possibly more authentic in his or her lifestyle than any person living on the treadmill within the neo-constructivist society.
The system is simply not set up to allow people to truly live.  It is set up to force people to rely on a monetary system in order to realise their dreams of “freedom” and independence, rather than teaching them that everything they need to be a happy engaged contributing individual is within them.  I am not advocating a return to a primitive society, but I am advocating less of a reliance on the current system. The main problem that stops people really thinking about this is fear; fear of doing without all the “goodies” and comforts of modern society.  Fear of doing without the devices; the status symbols (my GOD! How would anyone know how important I am if I cannot show it off through my flash car and house?!); the identity gained through work (you are NOT your job remember).  Fear of being somehow “left behind”; fear of missing out (FOMO); meanwhile we do not live … we exist. 
We hear it all the time don’t we … “work-life balance”.  We are programmed into thinking we cannot have life (or draw on our “experiencing life” account) unless we have first built up a work stockpile against which we can draw. That’s how society thinks.  Society also frowns on people who make the deliberate decision not to buy into that system.  We also label those people with names like ‘free-loader’,  ‘socially irresponsible’, ‘bludger’ (don’t get me wrong – I am not talking about the people who make a conscious decision NOT to work just so they can live off the support of the tax-payer), or sometimes we simply label them as loners, weird, alternative, “greenies”… the list goes on.  You see, we are lead to believe that anything outside of the norm of the ‘eat, work, sleep, repeat’ cycle, is socially unacceptable. 
I do believe that having a feeling of contributing somehow to society adds value to a person’s day.  I do not support notions of laziness, for example; I do not support living off others (however that’s EXACTLY what the people at the top of this system are doing); I do not support using people for one’s own ends.

I am writing this because I know that I too am trapped inside this cycle; that I am in a situation of “having to” (or do I really?) work.  Then I ask myself  “what am I really working for?” The simple answers such as “money – you idiot” can be justified with “yeah I have a mortgage and bills to pay”, but then I cannot justify much else really except that I know for me personally, living is the experiencing of the world in this body I have been given to experience it through.  When I go out of here, my mortgage, my bills, my job title, my degrees, my car, my house … none of it will matter.  
What will matter is how I lived; how I gave of myself; how I treated people around me; that I lived, not merely existed.

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