- Why is it that we don't seem to be able to adjust ourselves to the physical environment without destroying it?
Why is it that, in a way, this culture represents in a unique fashion, the law of diminishing returns? That our success is a failure.
That we are building up, in other words, an enormous technological civilization which seems to promise the fulfillment of every wish, almost at the touch of a button.
And yet, as in so many fairy tales, when the wish is finally materialized, they're like fairy gold. They're not really material at all.
In other words, so many of our products: our cars, our homes, our clothing, our food...it looks as if it were really the instant creation of pure thought; that is to say it's thoroughly insubstantial, lacking in what the connoisseur of wine calls, "body."
And in so many other ways, the riches that we produce are ephemeral...and as the result of that we are frustrated. We are terribly frustrated. We feel that the only thing, is to go on and getting more and more.
And as a result of that the whole landscape begins to look like the nursery of a spoiled child who's got too many toys and is bored with them, and throws them away as fast as he gets them, (plays [with] them for a few minutes.)
Also, we are dedicated to a tremendous war on the basic material dimensions of time and space. We want to obliterate their limitations. We want to get everything done as fast as possible. We want to convert the rhythms and the skills of work into cash, which indeed, you can buy something with, but you can't eat it.
And then rush home to get away from work and begin the real business of life, to enjoy ourselves. You know, for the vast majority of American families, what seems to be the real point of life, what you rush home to get to, is to watch an electronic reproduction of life. You can't touch it, it doesn't smell, and it has no taste.
You might think that people getting home to the real point of life in a robust material culture, would go home to a colossal banquet, or an orgy of love-making, or a riot of music and dancing; But nothing of the kind.
It turns out to be this purely passive contemplation of a twittering screen. You see mile after mile of darkened houses with that little electronic screen flickering in the room. Everybody isolated, watching this thing. And thus in no real communion with each other at all. And this isolation of people into a private world of their own, is really the creation of a mindless crowd.
And so we don't get with each other, except for public expressions of getting rid of our hostility, like football, or prize-fighting.
And even in the spectacles one sees on this television, it's perfectly proper to exhibit people slugging and slaying each other, but oh dear no, not people loving each other, except in a rather restrained way.
One can only draw the conclusion that the assumption underlying this, is that expressions of physical love are far more dangerous than expressions of physical hatred.
And it seems to me that a culture that has that sort of assumption, is basically crazy, and devoted (unintentionally indeed but nevertheless in fact,) devoted not to survival, but to the actual destruction of life.
How did our culture become this way? Alan Watts is talking about American culture here, but it seems to be effecting everyone. He presents a cynical view, but it rings true. At least for me, he hits the nail on the head. Why do we punish pleasure and yet glorify violence? What happened that allowed people to place so much emphasis on material possession and think it was a good idea? How did it come to this? What keeps the status quo in place? I don't believe that people haven't realized at least part of this message. Surely everyone has thrown their hands up in the air at the futility and insignificance of their own life before. And yet it's back to the rat race. This is fresh on my mind, because I am currently a student and working full time at an internship. It used to amaze me how adults could center their entire lives around work. "Not me" I said, "I could never do that." But now I'm working full time and I get home at night and I'm exhausted. I don't want to live life then, as Alan says. I want to turn my brain off and sit in front of a screen, despite already having been in front of a screen all day. I don't want to live, I want to sleep. I understand how people let their work dominate their lives now, and it is infinitely depressing. How do you cope?
Forgive me, as conveying emotions and ideas through words is not one of my great strengths.