|Moyan Brenn, Flickr|
I'm in a good mood today, yet I feel the need to rant about our crazy society. It happens once in a while. I hope you bear with me. What I hope even more is that you will share your thoughts in the comments.
But first a little parenthesis, the answers to our literary quiz:
- Dumas, Alexandre: The Count of Monte Cristo (1844) - b
- Fielding, Henry: Tom Jones (1749) - d
- Fitzgerald, F. Scott: The Great Gatsby (1925) - g
- García Márquez, Gabriel: Chronicle of a Death Foretold (1981) - f
- Homer, The Odyssey (Antiquity) - c
- Scott, Walter: Ivanhoe (1820) - h
- Steinbeck, John: East of Eden (1952) - e
- Tolstoy, Leo: Anna Karenina (1877) - a
Now on to the rant. Here are the topics that irk me.
It seems like nobody cares. I keep seeing idling cars everywhere. I could understand when it was minus 25 ºC (-13 ºF) outside, but the temperatures these days are between + 10 and the early twenties (between 50 and 75 ºF). You stop your car for a minute? Shut the engine! That applies to:
- waiting in line at the drive-through
- dropping something or someone off
- stopping to chat with someone
- Do it!
This takes me to the next topic, consumerism. Last night I was doing something I rarely do, i.e. watching TV. Since I almost never sit in front of the tube, I haven't reached the "blasé" mindset when it comes to commercials. I still pay attention. The message, the images, still reach my conscious mind before they make their way to the unconscious level. And I can tell you, if you didn't know it already, that we are a full-blown consumerist society. It's scary, really. Stuff, stuff, stuff, and more stuff. Everything material, superficial, and bad for either the environment or our health (or both). I can't stand it! Please don't fall prey to advertisement. It's there to get you, and all it wants is your money, NOT your well-being!
Our approach to health is so completely misguided I don't even know where to begin. We avoid gluten yet eat bacon (and big portions of red meat). We cut on the fruit (too much sugar) but drink pop. Regular or diet, as if the latter was healthier (think again!) We think produce (especially organic produce) is too expensive, yet we order $4.75 lattes. And even when we do manage to eat relatively healthy, we still eat too much (see more on this and Dr. J's "3 word diet" here).
Instead of dealing with things we eat our emotions. Instead of going to bed earlier we snack late at night. I know because I do it. I'm a healthy woman yet it's a constant battle. Hopefully being aware is the first useful step.
And I'm not even talking about our sedentary lifestyle. We can't even walk a kilometer, we have to take the car. We don't even have time to go to the gym, we're too busy wasting precious hours online. We don't have enough energy for exercise... but exercising regularly is precisely the best way to feel more energetic!
We're lying to ourselves in all impunity (yet the consequences don't lie). Sometimes I think we don't even want to know what's healthy and what's not. I was once talking to a friend about how I limit my consumption of "cold cuts" (nitrates) and of cleaning products (relying instead on baking soda, lemon juice and vinegar); she dismissed me with a short sentence: "Let's not freak out!"
The next generation
One thing that strikes me about the next generation is that they "should not and cannot be made uncomfortable". Or upset. At any cost. Their life has to be pleasant. And easy. We do everything for them. We expect little of them. They are not to be held accountable for their choices and behavior. There are no consequences. It's all la-la land and let's all smile and skip around and eat marshmallows! We even "drug them" with sweets and screens so that they won't ever experience boredom or sorrow or frustration or anger.
Before you call me a grumpy old lady, look around, and you will see. I am all for making childhood (and teenage years) enjoyable and wonderful, but I am also all for building our kids' strength and confidence and resourcefulness and work ethic and selflessness. This won't happen without a certain level of discomfort, believe me.
We might be trying to convince ourselves of the contrary, but gender categories are still very rigid and mutually exclusive. In many environments there is a tacit segregation of genders: women hang out with women, men hang out with men. Children's birthday parties are gender exclusive: all girls or all boys. Gender roles in the house, at work and in our hobbies are still very stereotypical (ask yourself if the chores you do, the job you have and the hobbies you enjoy are typical to your gender or not; observe your own demeanor, the way you present yourself, the choices you make - is it really based on your personal preferences, or do you unconsciously go for what is expected of you?) We might tolerate a little bit of experimentation outside of gender boundaries, but not that much, and we feel the need to put a tag on it: "Oh, she's a tomboy". What's for sure is that we cannot tolerate gender ambiguity. Why? For goodness' sake, people always assume my dog is a male because her collar is blue!!! Can't we be a little bit more flexible?
We are so suspicious, distrustful and even scared of difference, we don't even begin to try to understand (plus, we can't envision losing any of our privileges). We want to put everyone in neat little boxes. We negate historical, economic, political, cultural and personal context. And if someone else suffers, it's always their own fault, right? Well here's my two cents: when people act a certain way, there's always a reason. Always. It might not be a good reason, and the consecutive behavior might not be acceptable, but punishing without looking for the cause is like putting a band-aid on a malignant tumor.
We are sometimes so busy being judgemental of others we fail to see how imperfect we personally are. We are sometimes so busy criticizing what strangers do that we tolerate things that hurt us directly in our own homes.
Louis CK about racism and inequality
Funny but not so funny at the same time
Funny but not so funny at the same time
The antidote to it all: back to the basics
The meditation series I registered for began this week. Our wonderful instructor reminded us that when you add meditation to your life, when you find your center and welcome stillness, all kinds of things happen and fall into place:
- you have a quieter mind (i.e. you feel less anxious about all the little stresses in your life)
- you spontaneously treat yourself and others better (i.e. you take care of your health, you take care of your relationships)
- you are more serene and peaceful (i.e. you can wait in line or in traffic without feeling impatient)
- you feel more connected to what is inside of you (i.e. you make the right decision by listening to your intuition)
- you feel more connected to what is outside of you (i.e. you have compassion for other people and everything that is alive on this Earth)
When I drove back from my first guided meditation session, not only was I utterly calm, I noticed my surroundings like never before, namely the beauty of the forest on each side of the road, the glimpse of a smooth lake, the bird songs.
If meditation in its "purest form", i.e. sitting still and thinking about nothing (or letting your thoughts pass like clouds in the sky) is intimidating at first, you can start with guided relaxation, breathing exercises and/or visualization exercises. Relaxing music or nature sounds can help. You can also do yoga postures before you actually settle down to meditate. Not to forget that meditation can also be done (or will sometimes spontaneously happen) if you walk or run at a regular pace for long enough.
Try it! And feel at one with yourself and the universe.