On Living in the Modern Day
On The World as a Wonderless, Godless, Hopeless Abyss
[DISCLAIMER- I've done basically no reading on this topic so this might all be obvious. Also, I'm not even religious].
Despite what the title might suggest, I am a happy, agnostic young adult with prospects and ambitions for the future. However, despite my naturally happy disposition, I have always felt somehow underwhelmed. I enjoy life, but at just age 20 I am unsatisfied with the everyday and yet rely on it to feel I have a purpose. I am stuck in a loop- if I do not work on a routine schedule I feel unfulfilled, lazy and dejected, and yet when I do work, I am forced to confront the idea that this is it. My role in society is ultimately always self-indulgent, and evidence of my own consciousness is not quite enough to sustain my passion for life.
At some point in these existential musings, I was forced to ask myself- am I depressed? I feel constantly underwhelmed with the experience life offers me, and can do nothing to alter this sense of craving for something more profound- a mysterious something which doesn’t seem to exist. But I am a happy person, and I would say I enjoy life overall, and so I then had to question- is everyone depressed? Surly that can’t be right? Adulthood cannot equal inevitable depression. But, I reasoned, if I- an active, sociable, healthy, happy and relatively responsibility-free person- am feeling like the last two decades of life has led up to nothing but a stretched out anti-climax, then others must be too.
I began to question: what is wrong with life? What is that something else that life is no longer providing? The following thoughts are my attempt to answer this.
Component One: It’s a Small World:
Not literally of course, but it might as well be. Practically every corner of the world has been tainted by human discovery. This means that I could look at every corner of the world on Google Images if I wanted to. Every secret has been learnt. If I have a question, I need not ponder the answer. I have access to anything and anyone with the internet.
Consider what this means. There is no more longing; there is no more imagining; there is no more waiting. This initially might not seem overwhelmingly negative. I have an analogy to explain what I mean:
Remember when you were a child; everything was magical. Everything that you could imagine could be true, because you didn’t know for sure what was real and what wasn’t.
Now remember being a young teenager, maybe younger, aged 10, 11, 12. Imagining your first kiss, your first time holding hands with someone- and later, imagining what it would be like to fall in love, and to have sex! In those days, I could be happy for hours guessing what it would be like, imagining the perfect scenarios, anticipating the feeling of ‘butterflies’ which I was told would feel more incredible that anything I could possible conceive.
Now, don’t get me wrong, all those things were amazing when the time came, but then there was suddenly nothing left that was so amazing it couldn’t even be dreamed of. The promise of something unthinkably earth-shattering had expired, because we had suddenly done all those things. And they keep us content, and happy, but we aren’t in a state of dazed disarray at the brilliance of it 24/7. And so the vision of that is gone, traded in for the badge of experience.
An adult simply cannot not possess the sense of wonder of a child. They can try and recreate it by immersing themselves in books and films, forcing themselves into stories to which they don’t already know the ending, but they don’t have the authentic sense of being in awe simply by being alive.
Now let me link up my ideas- the world nowadays is the same. The populations of, say, England in the 1600s is the child. Full of hope, imagining what the world outside their small lives might be like, and never getting the full answer, and therefore remaining inquisitive and optimistic forever. And we, the population of the modern day, are the adults. We have our answers, and they are fine. Some things are wonderful, some things are terrible, and most things fall somewhere in between. But even if everything was fantastic the result would be the same- by having such easy access to everything, we lose hope for anything. We crave knowing there is something more than the life we live, but now there just isn’t, because of how widely our lives span, and how richly we are educated.
The world is the same- in fact it is much more complex now than in the 1600s. But our perception of it is now just our understanding of facts, which is the difference.
This brings me to my second point.
Component Two: The Death of the God Figure in the Modern Day.
Although I haven’t done extensive research on the topic, I know that we, as humans (at least in England), have been accompanied by The Almighty and the presence of Him for almost as long as we have had rational thought- certain as long as we had civilisation. The idea of a greater being, something that we must worship and abide by, is ancient. However, in the last few centuries, we have felt qualified, with the aid of science and in the face of new proofs, to reject this idea entirely.
How unfortunate, that in the era in which our world is increasingly shrinking around us, the promise of some great beyond has also been eradicated.
The transition was quick, and without regard for the consequences- since the dawn of humankind we had this invisible mentor who held us to our promises and watched over our morals, and within a fragment of the timeline we have eliminated Him. And I, an agnostic bordering on atheist, have come to the conclusion that we can’t live without this presence.
My first reasoning for this is one most will understand- the plain idea that having an omniscient figure judging the moral merit of all our actions is surely beneficial to the human race. This needs no further explaining. Unfortunately, being good for the sake of goodness is just not enough for a large proportion of people. We need The Heaven Bribe.
My second reasoning is my main point, and is an extension of the ideas explained in the previous component. Our world is small now, and our questions are answered. But there is indeed a question we can’t answer, and that is the question of life after death- what happens when there is nothing happening? When we die do we cease to exist? The fact that we can’t measure a persons essence is a blessing. It is the last piece of not-knowing that we can speculate upon. So we must resurrect it. But the problems with organised religion and black and white, textbook morality are whole different question.