It's no secret that our current world is rife with division and chaos. Everybody is either choosing a side, condemning a side, or trying desperately not to be on a side.. Even those who try to remain neutral will be shoved to one side or another by the masses, especially right now as the presidential election approaches and the candidate field is slowly slimming down. Simultaneously, the frenzy is ramping up. It reminds me of the 2-minutes hate from George Orwell's novel, 1984.
The 2-minutes hate was a daily 2-minute period where all the citizens of Oceania were required to watch a video of whomever might be the great enemy of the state at the time, in this case one Emmanuel Goldstein. For two minutes they watched a video of Goldstein speaking, and his words were mean and dirty lies in Oceania. As they watched, their hatred burned unbearably. Here's a quote from the book:
"Before the hate had proceeded for thirty seconds, uncontrollable exclamations of rage were breaking out from half the people in the room. The self-satisfied, sheep-like face on the screen and the terrifying power of the Eurasian army behind it were too much to be borne. Besides, the sight, or even the thought of Goldstein produced fear and anger automatically. He was an object of hatred more constant than either Eurasia or East Asia, since when Oceania was at war with one of these powers it was generally at peace with the other...
In its second minute, the hate rose to a frenzy. People were leaping up and down in their places and shouting at the tops of their voices in an effort to drown the maddening, bleating voice that came from the screen. The little sandy haired woman had turned bright pink, and her mouth was opening and shutting like that of a landed fish. Even O'Brien's heavy face was flushed. He was sitting very straight in his chair, his powerful chest swelling and quivering as though he were standing up to the assault of a wave. The dark haired girl behind Winston had begun crying out, "Swine! Swine! Swine!" and suddenly she picked up a heavy Newspeak dictionary and flung it at the screen. It struck Goldstein's nose and bounced off. The voice continued inexorably.
In a lucid moment, Winston found that he was shouting with the others, and kicking his heel violently against the rung of his chair. The horrible thing about the two-minutes hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but on the contrary, that it was impossible to avoid joining in."
I know what you're thinking: "this isn't from a novel, this is real life." But you're wrong. It was written in 1948. Uncanny, isn't it?
I don't share this to attack President Trump, or Vladimir Putin, or CNN, or Fox news. In fact, that's the opposite of my intention. I share this in hopes that we can get a glimpse of that last paragraph in our lives. In the frenzy of social media, election cycles, foreign scuffles with nuclear powers and the like, it's sometimes impossible to avoid joining in. Sleep is nature's way of helping us settle the day's inputs: things we read, interactions with people, ideas we've had, etc. We need sleep so our little brains don't get overloaded. But with the extreme amount of news, opinions, interactions, and ideas we encounter each day in this technologically advanced world, sleep isn't enough. That's why so many people are unsettled. Like Winston, we need as many lucid moments as we can get.
So when the foment has got you riled, put your phone down. Our phones have too much information for our minds to process and remain lucid, not to mention all that scientific blue light stuff which I don't understand enough to explain. Facebook and twitter comments can wait. Even texts and emails can wait. Instagram fire and thumbs up emojis can sure as hell wait. Don't make the moment of lucidity wait.
Read a book. Information input from reading a book tends to come at a much better rate for our minds to process and retain sanity. Further, books generally aren't written by people vying for your attention against a hundred other headlines and clickbaits. It doesn't have to be heavy reading. In fact, for most people struggling with phone frenzy I'd think light reading would be more sustainable and therefore the better option. Find a war novel or a mystery thriller and read the thing. It doesn't matter what it is, just make sure your phone is in another room.
Get your lawn chair out on a nice day and sit in it.
Do a workout with nothing in your ears. I recently ran a half marathon and it seemed there were lots more ear buds on that course than the last one I did about three years ago. Nearly everybody had something in their ears and a phone on a strap somewhere. And this was no dull training run, mind you. This was in Gruene, TX, right along the Guadalupe River. Among the prettiest spots in the state, and in my humble opinion, the South. But all that to the side, do a workout with nothing in your ears except your thoughts.
Jump in a cold lake. I'm serious. There is nothing so easy, so quick, and so effective for resetting the mind and flooding the body with endorphins. If everyone in the 2-minutes hate had been dunked in a cold lake for twenty seconds there's a one-hundred percent chance they would've forgotten about Goldstein. But if you don't have a cold lake nearby, take a cold shower. It's not like it's bad for you or anything.
You have ten more months until the election, and the 2 minutes hate will be playing somewhere the whole time. Now is a good time to start training for lucidity. By the time you finish January, maybe you will be ready for February. And if you stay consistent you might even stay sane through November. Good luck.
Today I ran across a meme that shocked me at first. It said, "2050 is just as close as 1990." I actually had to stop and do the math. Listen folks, it's true.
I don't know if I'm alone in this, but to me, 1990 is a time of warm memories and simple living. I was 8 years old and living my best life. My best friend in the world lived three doors down. I always had food on my plate and coffee in my cup. My family made frequent trips to the beach. My mongoose bike hadn't been stolen yet. My head, which had until recently been loaded with golden curls my whole life, was freshly buzzed. 1990 was good, and I still think about it often. Life couldn't have been better.
On the other hand, at least in my head, 2050 will probably never exist. Anything could happen between now and then. Some middle eastern oil conflict will get out of hand and the whole world will nuke itself and Year One will begin again with a few left over cave dwellers scratching pictures of what happened on the rock walls of their homes.
Computers programmed to destroy racists and hate will detect racism and hatred in all of us and Elon Musk will accidentally be the only person left alive, hiding away in his trapezoidal truck behind shatter proof glass.
Rainbow headed feminists will finally destroy the patriarchy and all the social constructs only to discover social constructs and patriarchy are necessary for society to exist and will slowly melt into an angry puddle of impotent misery, berating the soy boys they created for being powerless to help.
Artificial chemical induced testosterone levels will finally equalize between men and women and procreation will cease.
Anything could happen. This is 2050 we're talking about. I'm pretty sure there's a law somewhere requiring all science fiction books and TV to include references to the year 2050. With the current rate of development of technology, corporate greed, military expansion, and social decay, literally anything could happen.
It seems so far away, but the uncomfortable truth is that it's not. In 2050 I will be my dad's age. My son will be my age. It's right at one generation away, and time ain't slowing. I often hear people talk about the insanity of the world and how they couldn't bring a child into this place. But this is how the world ends, with the people who recognize the insanity diminishing and the people who don't increasing. The world desperately needs sane people.
Learn what good things are and teach the 2050 generation. Show them beauty. Let them hear music that penetrates to something deeper than their skin. Instead of a pound of sugar candy, give them an ounce of good chocolate. Do something fast and scary -- and dangerous -- with them so they can know that thrills don't only come in screens. Show them the difference between a McDonald's happy meal burger and an actual burger you grilled at home. Let them taste good beer. Teach them about debt. Teach them about sacrificing for someone in need. Help them experience the reward of persevering on a difficult project. Let them struggle.
The parts of the world that are falling apart are the parts that have rejected all those things. These are the things from which life is made, and these things are the reasons we exist. These things link us to God and keep the earth spinning.
Choose something good in life this year and focus on enjoying it. Make sure it's something that makes your blood flow and your heart rejoice. Learn how to smoke a brisket, grow a garden, or create a dovetail joint with a handsaw and a chisel. Make a point to avoid McDonald's and Netflix. Make life feel like it did when you were 8.
Make the future great again.
Happy new year.