An Amazing Age,,,


Maybe in order to understand mankind, we have to look at the word itself. Basically, it’s made up of two separate words — mank and ind. What do these words mean? It’s a mystery, and that’s why so is mankind.” Jack Handy

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An Amazing Age…

A father stood by a campfire sharing thoughts of life with his discouraged adolescent son. He explained that life can be hard, but reminded his son that it was much worse for their ancestors. He explained that they live an amazing age. He spoke about how quickly man can cover long distances – much faster and further than even a few generations ago. The food system had advanced in a way that fewer people were going hungry, and food was much easier to produce. Though wars still took place, there were less of them, and with fewer casualties within them. Tyrannical leaders had declined in number, and advances in medicine had enabled longer lives, and a better quality of life with each passing year.

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Of course that conversation could have taken place in any age of man going back 4,000 years or more. And I guess that’s my point; that every generation of man reaps the benefits of advancement. All who have lived, have lived in an amazing age.

Today we live with the most advanced technologies and social structures to date, and certainly the most complex. Yet I’m not such a fan. The worst unintended consequences of advancement are… a lack of advancement. I too am a discouraged youth.

And Then, Depression Set In…

I have experienced my share of depressive episodes – those times when continuing my own life seems the worst possible solution. I have survived those episodes though, without medication, for one reason above all others, the knowledge that my depression always passes – always.

I don’t wish to understate the value of medication for those who live with depression. That technology – the advancement of pharmaceuticals, has changed and saved millions who live with depression. I only suggest that for me, the best medicine is the knowledge that my depression always passes – always. It’s kind of old school.

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When I’m in the throes of depression, it’s not so easy or so convenient to conjure up thoughts of it passing. Nor are those thoughts fast-acting. They do come though, with no side effects, nor any cascading consequences which may lead to more cascading consequences.

In recent decades depression has become better addressed, both scientifically and socially. Depression can be treated, discussed, and most importantly, it can be allowed. That it is allowed, is a great social advancement – part of our amazing age.

I Need A Kind Of Therapy Which Hasn’t Been Invented Yet…

I live with another ailment though, one which is rarely discussed and may not even exist beyond my tortured mind, though I suspect it does; the inability to comprehend and cope with the increasing complexities of our amazing age. I live in a greater state of flux today than I did at age 40. Each new advancement for the betterment of mankind seems to come with choices, tenfold.

Last night I spent 75 minutes navigating the Netflix search menu, looking for a program worthy of my time. Eventually I selected a series of TED Talks on space exploration. Seventy-five minutes spent searching. In that amount of time I could have watched 5 of those TED Talks, or 4 episodes of McHale’s Navy. I yearn for the black and white Admiral TV of my youth. Only 12 channels choose from and a few dozen more on UHF, but most of those were snow.

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Driving last week my advanced navigation system was guiding me to a job interview. Knowing the area fairly well I decided to trust my hunter-gatherer instincts and took an alternate route. The voice from the speakers kept attempting to reroute me – even to the point when I was directly across the street from my intended location. “Make a U-turn and go 1 mile to the Rancho California Exit” the voice said. My destination was 50 yards away. That actually happened.

I can’t remember my daughter’s phone number – because I don’t have to. Talk about an instant panic attack when I needed to call her from someone else’s phone…

The thought that gets me through my depressive episodes, that it always passes – always, doesn’t work for my complexity issues. The increasing complexities of life are exponential. They never pass, they only get worse. To paraphrase Lewis Black, “Exponential means to get crappier and crappier and crappier.”

I’m not a neuroscientist nor a cognitive psychologist, but I do read some of their work when time permits. Once conclusion I can safely make is that in no way is the human brain keeping up with the pace of our advancements. My disease may not be your disease yet, but it will be.

No Going Back. Close Your Eyes And Ears Going Forward…

There’s no going backward though, only the hopes that humanity will figure out how to take the greatest advancements from the past, retool them, and superimpose them on the future. We won’t see horse drawn carriages again, but we already see cars without internal combustion engines and that’s a legitimate advancement. That those cars might drive themselves is also an advancement. If self-driving cars are an advancement, there will surely be unintended consequences along with them – like losing our inherent ability to find north or south quickly, or to minimize what little muscle tone most people have left – from turning that steering wheel.

I genuinely believe the humanity is headed in a positive direction, pulled by the underlying currents of a higher purpose. Read the books Nonzero and The Better Angels Of Our Nature and you too might be convinced of this. That future though, might look a lot like Idiocracy. Be well… rc

Please take a moment to scroll up and rate this. Thank you!

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Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head…

13 responses

  1. Your timing of this writing is impeccable. Yesterday, as we were texting back and forth,I just happened to leave my Dr.’s office. Until I can bounce back into a healthy therapy,she has an Rx of pharmaceutical kick starting me to manage this age I live in. I will move forward in faith. Thank you my brother for being part of this journey.

  2. I wonder what mystery Jack sees in him own name, lol

    I’ve noticed the increasing complexity of life. More importantly perhaps is the loss of many of the simpler aspects, places and behaviors that I believe leave an irreplaceable void in the development of our souls.

    I’ve long felt that many psychiatric conditions are over medicated and under counselled with therapy and activities, especially exercise and nutrition. There are places for meds for sure, as long as they are used to control a behavior that cannot be addressed in another less invasive way.

    For a long while, I didn’t know my own cell number, let alone how to find it on the phone! 🙂

    • Could not agree with you more on the therapy and meds, Dr. J. As far as the complexity goes, I just opened my new pizza cutter. No joke, there were 7 steps to get it unwrapped. In 1968 it would have sold without a package. Yes, I said pizza cutter 😉

      • I’ve heard a can opener can help with that, or maybe that pizza cutter for the next package! At least most are still making pizza the old way 🙂

  3. Beautifully written, and profound as always.

    Everything we do, every advancement we make, every step we take (sorry, Sting), has unintended consequences. Because we are not alone in this universe, and our actions, and sometimes our inactions, impact on others.

  4. And some days I am willing to bet you yearn for the snow on TV? I shared with a colleague recently that I took a 2.5 hour road trip with no radio on and she thought I was nuts. Forced silence does wonders sometimes. If nothing else seems to work, I would humbly suggest you go to a park or ocean and just sit in the sun listening to children’s laughter. And as hard as it may be, try to remember a time when we were young and carefree and without responsibility. Great post, Roy.

    • Thank you, Heidi! Yearn yes! But sometime silence just happens. My daughter and I took a rad trip when she was 13. As we were pulling back into Southern California after a week I turned the radio on to get a traffic update. It occurred to us simultaneously that it was the 1st time the radio had been on during the entire trip. Epic moment of discovery!

  5. I get some of this for sure. Crap, I keep seeing news stories on the GPS that leads people into lakes & off roads & in one case a lady lost her life – scary! As for meds & all that – with Dr. J – a place for them but many have become pushers of them. Instead of trying to figure out what is truly wrong, they just start medicating.. some due to the health care system & lack of funding for time for patients.

    It is a complex world in general….

    • Thank you, Jody. Another example is my neighbor’s back yard grill — it does more than my stove/oven. I’m buying a simple charcoal grill today. Not a single button to push 🙂

  6. Excellent piece, Roy. Very well written.

    One of the things I most enjoy about my personality is also the thing that can frustrate me to no end. I’m extremely curious. I want to know everything about everything that interests me…and there are very few things that do not interest me. I want to know how stuff works, I want to hear people’s stories, I want to know about history.

    When I was kid and wanted to learn about something, I went to the library and checked out every book on the subject, maybe read an encyclopedia entry. Once I had exhausted those options, the subject was done and I moved on to something else.

    Now, I have 500 tv channels throwing interesting information and stories at me. I’ve been watching Mythbusters on tv all day. Do I need to know if you can stuff a flat tire on your car with hay in order to make it out of the wilderness in an emergency? Probably not going to come up in my life, but once they pose the question…I can’t not find out the answer.

    And the internet is never-ending. Want some information on this random thing someone mentioned on a podcast? Boom. Here are 100 sites with varying degrees of accuracy or interest. Don’t read only 60 of them, because the 61st may just be the best of the bunch! You finished all 100? Great. Surprise! Someone just wrote the 101st! And all you have to do to read it is click this link!

    Too many places are throwing too much information at me too often.

    Not to mention, the tasks I need to get done, the exercise I want to get, the writing and creating I want to do, the connections I want to make with people. It’s not easy for me to turn my brain off sometimes.

    Those are the days I go for one of my “thinking walks”. After ranting in my head for a few minutes about having too much I need/want to do, I then pick one thing I want to focus on after my walk.

    The complexities of the world and our brains never end, the challenge is finding your own way to deal with that fact. Luckily, you can find 100 articles on the internet about how to deal with that challenge…I’ve read 20 of them. 😉

  7. Shannon — than you always for insightful comments! That last paragraph though, made my day — for its humor, and reality. Truly, that made me smile! May your best thinking walks take place in your own yard…

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