This is an incredible speech given by one of the great minds of our time. In it, Wallace talks about what it truly means to ‘learn how to think’ and how in doing so we can achieve what he claims to be the hardest thing we will do in our adult lives: to remain conscious and vibrant well into adulthood despite the monotony of routine.
The holy grail
Is to find in the mail
The quiet contentment
That you sent away
The day you decided
To be led astray
The issue doesn’t have anything to do with the way our particular culture is run, but rather the core fundamental way all of our modern, Western societies are set-up; namely that with the advent of agriculture, away went the peaceful, easy, care-free life that our pre-historic foraging ancestors enjoyed.
“Human beings will be happier – not when they cure cancer or get to Mars or eliminate racial prejudice or flush Lake Erie but when they find ways to inhabit primitive communities again. That’s my utopia.” – Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
Many people hold the notion that for hunters and gatherers, life was dismal, unbearably hard, and not the least bit enjoyable. In Sex at Dawn, Dr. Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha argue that this notion is entirely a myth (a myth that comes not without some emotional reassurance of how we’re living today).
On the contrary, Ryan and Jetha go on to write about how lifestyles in the prehistoric time were largely based around socializing, sleeping, having sex, and eating the large abundance of food found in the forest.
“We used to hunt and fish all day and have sex all night, and then the white man thought that he could come in and improve upon that.” – Unnamed Native American tribesman
I believe that one of the biggest issues we’re facing as a culture that is unprecedentedly unhappy (with anti-depressant sales and loneliness figures to prove this) is how to live in more natural terms. Live is strong communities where people care about you and hold you accountable. Remain in touch with the energies and cycles of the earth. Not be caught up in an ever-growing infinite number of choices of how to spend your time.
I believe that these are a few of the huge steps back towards happiness just being a normal part of every day life.
Sex in America today has reached a level of epic tragedy. Everywhere one looks they see signals of how sex is the highest pleasure one can achieve. If you’re sleeping with a beautiful woman or a man of status, then you’ve lived your life well and you can now enjoy the fruits of your labor (or natural gifts).
One of the issues with the prominent role that sex plays in our society today is that there are so few people outspoken against it, and those that are have to deal with very blurry lines between sex and love. It’s easy to point to countless examples of people living a happy and fulfilling life without, for example, money, but how about without love? With intimate love comes sex, and so it’s tough to draw those defining lines.
Turn Hollywood on and what do you see? Rich and powerful men surrounded by a harem of women with some enticing looks from one who’s particularly beautiful, as if everything that this man has done in his life has culminated in this one moment. Don’t mind what he’s achieved or the love he’s felt or the contributions he’s made, all that is meaningless (or the buildup towards) the seductive stare of a woman in her prime. Then a sex scene devoid of emotion, just flesh pounding on flesh, our decaying bodies, as if there are any secrets to be discovered in our aging, decomposing bodies.
Sex has come at the forefront of our minds precisely because it has taken the best marketing strategy anything possibly could: repeat something over and over again until nobody even thinks to question it anymore.
The sexual revolution is generally deemed good. Sex is only natural, right? It’s your body, right? But the thing is that the way sex between humans was ‘naturally’ intended was in-tribe only. Until recently, humans would go their entire lives without meeting a stranger. And then to meet and sleep with a stranger until recently was completely unheard of. But now that we have the option to do this to essentially an unlimited extend and with very little consequence, sex in modern society is no longer natural.
Since going back to tribal societies is out of the question if we are to preserve modern society, there needs to be a way for sex to be regulated and made to work with the lifestyles that are very different from those with which we evolved. Older, more Victorian ideals were doing just that. By making it socially shunning to be promiscuous, the evil side of sex such as walking around all day feeling lustful and having nothing but sexual desire fill our heads and bodies, leaving no room for any of the more important thoughts such as figuring out your purpose on this planet or how to bring more light into the world, was kept at bay. In the absence of asking these very difficult questions, people have no idea how to spend their lives, and so are at the whims of society with how to spend their lives. They fall into meaningless, draining jobs and shop at IKEA on their days off. They’re unhappy with their lives, but don’t even know where they went wrong and so know even less how to get back on track.
Is all of this because there’s a mental prison sitting somewhere that used to house the negative sides of sex? Probably not. There is much more at work that got our society to where it is, but I do know this, that people’s constant preoccupation with sex isn’t leaving much room for them to figure out any solutions.