Thursday, April 11, 2019

Did You Miss the Part About How We're in Utopia??

In yesterday's posting, "Lost Perspective", I concluded:
Scientists keep trying to tweek the Drake Equation to explain the absence of evidence of advanced civilization in the Universe. What is the X Factor obliterating civilizations before they can build Dyson Spheres, capturing the totality of a star's energy, or find a way to communicate over the void with brutes like us?

Comfort and wealth, baby. That's the perilous X Factor. Comfort and wealth.

Humanity has persevered over illness and lions and warlords; famines, droughts, and extreme poverty, and its pain has only grown in the process. Comfort and wealth will prove an indefatigable challenge.
A reader wryly commented that this seemed like "a downer". I get his point, but please reconsider (or reframe, if you will): I also noted, albeit in passing, that we're living in Utopia. 

We're living in Utopia! This is not a small thing. WE...ARE...LIVING...IN...UTOPIA, even with the shithead president, the school violence, and the robo marketing calls. It only feels awful because we're hyper-sensitized to ever-decreasing pools of grievance, discomfort, and dissatisfaction. And while immense jangled irritation with remaining mattress peas will kindle humanity’s eventual undoing, getting to live in Utopia is no small thing. The fact that a reader could skip over the "Utopia" part, and see my posting as a "downer" perfectly illustrates the very framing problem I've been describing!

We're at the sweet spot. We are blessed not just to be living in Utopia (living in Utopia!), but we're not yet close to the end game. It’s the ideal moment! No longer eaten by lions, nor succumbing to ordinary infections, nor starving. Relatively few of us remain doomed to lives of back-breaking labor for our weekly handful of rice. Yet there’s time before the inevitable apocalyptic Crazy fully erupts (when a world full of furiously entitled and self-certain rich folk get "woke" into peak grievance). Perhaps decades or even centuries. 

We are fantastically lucky to be alive when cars never stall, few adults ever experience physical violence, there's more great food, entertainment, education, and information than we know what to do with, and ambulances pick us up for free and bring us to free ERs for swift fixes to maladies that previously would have killed us. I can drive to Chicago this weekend (toll free, and cheap gas!) if I'd like, on a whim, and crash in an AirBnb for $30, and no tyrant/warlord/feudal overlord needs to grant me permission. This is INSANE. It's GASP-worthy. And I didn't even get to the part about having all human knowledge, media, and music - plus, oh yeah, infinite free worldwide communication - on a slab of glass in my pocket.

So, no, this is not a "downer"! If you’ll simply adjust your framing - habitually locked on the tidbits of displeasure - you can enjoy the best human life that's ever been lived and ever will be lived. Even if you work at Walmart. Even if you don't drive a nice car. Even if you've been told again and again that you're poor or persecuted or beaten down or victimized or ugly (or whichever characteristic you blame for your apparently woeful lot). That’s all in your head, the product of obsessive framing leaving you blind to your unimaginable good luck.

One of my best weekends of this decade was spent in a hospital in cardiac crisis, with one of the nurses crying as I was brought in because I'm so young, and counselors doing their best to make me feel properly grave and frail. I felt taken care of. The tech was absolutely magical. The cardiologist became a pal. And my heart's 100% okay, thanks to a stent inserted through my wrist. On my way home, with my hospital wristband still dangling, I detoured to see a friend who'd been especially upset about my predicament. I stood outside her office window waving with both arms from the street, exuberantly jumping up and down on the sidewalk (middle-aged men aren't supposed to jump) and saw awed radiant delight dawn on her face. In that brief moment, she recognized the Utopia we're in. This is absolutely not your father's planet.

So don't you dare tell me this is all coming from a white dude feeling smug in his bubble of privilege, oblivious to the suffering and subjugation of those with legitimate gripes. I've bottomed out in Utopia - in multiple ways, actually, but one sad story will suffice - discovering that it's Utopia all the way down. The only real downer is that so many theatrically grim and dreary people have needlessly frozen their perspectives. 

Enjoy the Good News, if you can. It's for you to notice...or not. If you do, you’ll not insignificantly “be the change” (framing is contagious; the downer - the downfall - is you). 


FWIW, I am working on a book of exercises to help re-connect with one's latent ability to re-frame perspective. The world doesn't determine your framing, it's been completely under your control all along. You are not a slave to the dramatic view of It All that's been drilled in via endless repetition. Watch this Slog for an open call to beta test the exercises (sometime late this year).

1 comment:

Display Name said...

Ooooo oooo I want to be a beta tester. I got to beta test some massive multi player online games and this sounds even funner because my avatar probably won't get killed by an angry troll. My dad's business partner Joe was a second father to me. Once when I went to their bar Joe inexplicably backed away from me when I wanted to give him a hug. His face looked strange and my mom yelled at me not to get too close. I listened and years later I got to ask him how hard was it to endure shingles and even land in the hospital for the shingles. He grinned and told me it was one of the best times of his life. It just so happened my mom and my aunt ceil were both hospitalized at the same time. My mom and my aunt ceil knew how to have fun anywhere. And they did. This was in the early sixties when patients could sneak around more and insurance companies didn't dictate length of stay. They had a blast

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