[Read Elysium (1) & Elysium (II) | For a discussion of the term ‘Mediocrity’ as applied, see Why Should You Celebrate Mediocrity?]
As a human who has cast upon the waters many wholehearted offerings to Society and never caught the fish, as someone who always felt misaligned with the zeitgeist, I have struggled with disappointment about my numerous and varied “failures.”
From an imaginary cosmic perspective, success and failure are illusions. That insight can help us liberate ourselves from their tyranny, but from our actual perspective as human animals dominated by Society, success and failure are often our bread and butter (or at least determine if we can afford to buy these items).
But – I believe that we have reached Peak Everything. From here on out I expect any so-called improvements will be limited to enhanced delivery of monetized, intangible facsimiles of idealized, “curated” experience. (Actually, I think we already hit that inflection point around the time the smart phone was released).
We can also look forward to fully-automated luxury lifestyle improvements…for a few elites. And we can expect all of this to be served up by the newest line of ethically-sourced slaves that capitalism has engineered.
The rest of us humans may kindly exit stage left.
I know that all this is coming off as very negative. I am sorry. But this is just a necessary prelude.
Is it really just a mug’s game they have us all playing? Yes, but…
WE DON’T HAVE TO PLAY
As individuals we CAN transcend society. It involves a fairly radical lifestyle change, something I conceive of as “downshifting.” Downshift a car on the freeway and you won’t be able to keep up with the rest of the drivers on the road, but when you downshift your life you need not concern yourself with keeping pace because YOU ARE NO LONGER RACING AGAINST THEM. You are redefining Success and Failure under a different paradigm.
We can destroy our bodies and our spirits racing to “arrive” at the level that Society tells us we must attain in order to qualify as success, but should any of us ever manage to get there I guarantee you that the goal posts will have already been moved.
The historical perspective allows us to compare our outrageously inflated quality of life to the living standards of virtually all humankind which has come before us. Throughout all of human history nearly everyone has lived in desperate poverty. Tragically, despite the wealth and opportunity afforded to even the lowliest among us in the wealthy western nations, an unconscionable percentage of the world lives in poverty. How is it possible that the wealthiest people in the world are still fighting and scrapping for even more wealth? I think it’s probably the flipside of our incredible adaptability as a species – so when the standards of living are raised we adapt to them almost instantly as the new normal. (That’s also why it is so hard to achieve societally-defined success – those goal posts keep walking down the field).
And this is the reason I am so fixated on the concept of Elysium. The ancient Greeks had achieved a level of sophistication that was hundreds, sometimes thousands of years ahead of its neighbors with regards to depth of contemplation, their understanding of the natural and physical world, exploration of the forms of governance, refinement of artistic techniques, and theoretical conception of the cosmos. As Alfred North Whitehead and George F. Simmons said of Archimedes:
“… in the year 1500 Europe knew less than Archimedes who died in the year 212 BC…”
In the world of the Ancient Greeks, uncorrupted by the capitalist exploitation of our human craving for stimulation, their concept of a pleasurable reward in the afterlife was reduced to a simple, unadorned life in a natural environment with a mild climate, sufficient but simple food, a bit of pleasant physical work without excessive toil, drudgery, or sacrifice of time and energy, and the freedom and materials to pursue timeless hobbies.
That’s it. They dreamed only of peace, leisure, and the opportunity to explore their sacred individual creative self-expression.
But that concept of heaven has represented an unachievable aspiration for almost every human who has ever lived. Today, I believe that a paradisiacal existence resembling this is probably attainable to you, IF you want it.
Society has hacked our minds through that horrific manipulation we call “advertising.” But we still have the power to unsubscribe. It’s just that a LOT of money and energy has been invested in hiding the button.
Of all the obstacles that prevent an individual from achieving a life in Elysium, I believe that the community element is the biggest challenge. No one is an island. The human animal needs society and the community of others who are like us. And that is the reason I advocate so strongly for The Celebration of Mediocrity. Downshift your standards of stimulation from the focus-group-designed-song-and-dance-light-show-extravaganza-of-excess that Society is serving up to you, that it manipulatively insists you not only desire, but DESERVE.
Instead, look outside your window. Look at the creative humans around you. Champion and celebrate their efforts. Create and play with them, and work to build a new and simpler community around them. Discard all heroes and role models who are so inaccessible that you couldn’t invite them to dinner at your place. Opt out of “A” level culture entirely and support all those astonishing “B” level creative human beings who are out there all around you.
Once you do you will see and remember that there really isn’t a lot of distance between A & B. You won’t really be missing a thing.
The Daily Stone