Tuesday, October 14, 2014

What's the Big Rush?

Have you noticed the blurring pace of things and people around you lately? Everyone is in such a hurry to get to their next "thing", they barely have time to take a breath. People are in your way and seemingly oblivious to your need to get around them. What's the big rush?

In our modern western world, we all share this challenge of maintaining sufficient energy to stay ahead of it all. Millions of people like you and me have to deal with more and more everyday, every year. And time, relative to our perception of it, appears to be speeding up so we have less and less time to deal with it all as well. Grow that out to larger populations and you begin to see the problem. As the sheer mass of population grows by means of technical modernization, creating more efficiency in energy potential of the people propelling it forward, nevertheless, sustaining that acceleration becomes exponentially more demanding on the humans. People are growing more frantic trying to stay up with the pace of their life in a society that seems to be rushing forward like a runaway freight train.

Alvin Toffler described this phenomenon in great detail in his 1970 best seller, Future Shock. In this seminal work Toffler described the growing time compression effect on humans being overwhelmed by transition through a super-industrial society. The practical effect is a greater compression of energy as well as time, resulting in an exponentially growing mass we have to find the energy to push even faster to maintain our forward momentum.

Growth is good, but it requires sustainable positive energy to continue to move things forward. But there is also a byproduct in any energy system referred to as entropy¹, or energy waste as a result of disordered, therefore unusable energy. It is an inevitable and relational effect of energy burn. As an example, when you burn firewood you have to deal with the unburnable ashes once the wood is depleted of its needed heat energy. It is a waste byproduct of anything you use energy for to change something’s condition from one state to another. In a growing society, there are a percentage of disordered people who decide they can’t keep up; feel left out, and “just can’t seem to get ahead in Life like everybody else”. They begin to feel abused and decide at some point to pull away and become counter productive, or a drag on forward momentum; a byproduct of society’s growth forward. Like the wood consumed in the fireplace, they now become the unusable remains – the ashes.

We have many byproducts of growth in our rush to higher civilization and prosperity. Our air and water suffer greater impurity; we create more garbage requiring greater landfill areas in which to bury it. Even relatively clean nuclear energy requires the disposal of spent radioactive fuel. There is some evidence that the sheer heat byproduct of population growth and waste gases is having an adverse effect on planetary weather and atmospheric temperatures. These are just a few of the many waste products, or growing mass we will have to find ways to deal with in order to continue to grow.

And how much growth are we really talking about here? Consider this: in 1000 A.D. the world population was under 1.5 billion and as recent as 2000 A.D. it was well over 6 billion, or currently about 1.19 percent increase annually. In his book The Universe in a Nutshell, Stephen Hawking states:
“At their current rates, by 2600 the world’s population will be standing shoulder to shoulder, and electricity use will make the Earth glow red-hot.”²
Hopefully Mr. Hawking will be wrong about that as there is now evidence that world population is slowing.

However, the biggest problem to future growth is not as straight forward as maintaining sufficient elbow room, cheap electricity, new landfills or better air and water filtration. It is the enormous and exponentially growing waste of human capital, or human propulsion needed to power the machinery of civilization. People who feel outcast in the growing surge of progress, often turn against society – in effect, they put the brakes on the rest of us and slow momentum by removing their shoulder from that wheel of forward progress.
Sadly, we are developing a socio-economic model that produces more apathy not only in the poor, but in the rich as well.

For the ones who have the means and motivation to stay up with the forward rush of technology, even though they benefit from greater productivity and higher quality Lifestyles afforded them, they are also increasingly impacted by the growing numbers of people without those means. As this gap widens, they will have to support and ultimately protect themselves against a larger body of the population growing angrier with their plight. Moreover, they will also need to deal with their own elevated levels of stress and the frustration of trying to stay ahead of the curve of progress economically. Additionally, they will have to endure an infuriating deterioration of personal freedom, ironically, from thousands of new laws (city, state and federal combined) enacted each year to better protect them from those who try to short-cut and cheat the system to gain an edge in the race to prosperity.

This accumulation of individual trauma on both sides, rich and poor alike, creates a ripple effect in the broader world population where, although we practically live in the 21st Century, our fear for basic survival can be every bit as gnawing as that of our cave dwelling ancestors. Apathy, as a national malaise, is seeping into our mainstream population, growing upward from the roots as a new generation of young people, many of whom now prefer the altered reality of drugs and video games and are increasingly incapable of dealing with the real world pressures of modern Life.

Still, the maw of the economic engine demands to be fed. An incessant marketing and advertising machine works ever more efficiently at crafting messages which compel us to buy and therefore to work harder – individual economic pressure to earn more for fear of being left behind. We are driven to incessantly purchase! Pressure and frustration builds from the allure, ironically, of “more leisure” prescribed in addictive new realities created for us by high-tech marketing, pitted against the “in-your-face” grind of Life in the fast lane. Family values are ransomed, selfless acts of kindness are banished, human interaction becomes conditional and time for self, away from the press of responsibility and obligation, becomes the new Holy Grail. We are becoming a culture addicted to change for the sake of change alone. And like any other junkie, we agonize over getting our next fix almost as soon as we have completed our last purchase.

Add to this the toll being taken by the escalating cost of crime, drugs and the omnipresence of a carnivorous litigation system and you begin to see the uphill struggle of the average individual. We literally have to fight our way through each day, en garde. to real and imagined attack at every turn. Predatory attitudes of survival, supposedly banished through the fruits of modernization, are only intensified by it in fact. We have just become more refined predators – stalking greater economic advantage instead of meat. Those who do not measure up, litter our metropolitan streets, begging the survivors for scraps which they are more grudgingly handing over.

We can empathize with the plight of the homeless. In the back of our minds, we all know any vestige of comfort we have managed to earn could be snatched away at a moment’s notice through various personal misfortunes, or even by poor policy decisions of our leaders, creating a cascading effect of disasters crossing world populations.

Beyond the obvious nuclear war end-game scenario, we could destroy the entire world economic engine we all depend on for our livelihood with a few seemingly innocuous decisions that hide like ticking time bombs in our regulatory process. Witness the recent meltdown of the credit markets, killing off commerce worldwide that stemmed from decisions by the US government to insist banks make home loans available to those who technically couldn’t afford home ownership³. These risky loans were then packaged with premium loans as low risk mortgage backed securities and sold worldwide to unsuspecting institutional investors looking for safety and preservation of capital for reasonable returns. Ultimately they received neither. 

The world banking mechanism as well as confidence in American real estate values may take a decade or more to recover and the impact on retirement plans for countless Americans may never be repaired. The policy decisions affecting this debacle originated 13 years before the full effect of the coming financial disaster was realized in 2007.

How have we gotten into this diabolical Catch-22, where such perils of vast proportion can explode upon the scene at any turn and whose frequency only seem to be on the rise? Can we as a human race ever escape this phenomenon of the loss of forward momentum from the increasing drag of a socio-human mass? Are we making reasonable assumptions about how we expect society to improve, given the evolving tendency toward greater complexity and disorder? A better question might be: has society ever proceeded from a correct assumption regarding the human role in civilization on this planet, much less other possibilities in the universe beyond? The accepted answer at present is that we simply can’t know that answer.

In the book, A View Beyond the Stars, revolutionary new answers are revealed, as science begins to look more deeply into the physical structure underpinning our material world and are coming face-to-face with the wonders of the multiverse. What is the multiverse you ask and why do I need to concern myself with it? How does this help me find peace and stability within a frenetic society that tests my will at every turn? All good questions you can find out more about by doing a little research and reading - when you decide to you can afford to spend the time that is. 

So, "what's the big rush?" Take a moment and breathe. Ruthlessly, build "me" time into your schedule. Get out into nature periodically, away from the hubbub and press of humanity. Drink in the elixir of solitude, away from family, spouses, kids, pets and especially the lists and expectations of your many obligations. Listen for the wind through the trees, the trickle of a brook and the sounds of birds. Spread your perceptions outward, beyond the inside of your head. Reacquaint yourself with your inner peace that connects to the broader energy in the universe around you - maybe even to a broader multiverse. Relax and consider nothing at all. Ponder nothing. Leave all your thinking apparatus behind you. And above all, just take a personal moment to slooowww dooowwwnnn.

¹ entropy - A measure of the disorder or randomness in a closed system
² The Universe in a Nutshell, by Stephen Hawking, 2001 Bantam Books, page 158
³  “There is evidence that the Federal government leaned on the mortgage industry, including Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the GSE), to lower lending standards.” - Quoted from Wikipedia: Subprime Mortgage Crisis

No comments:

Post a Comment