In 1925, the famous Russian author Leo Tolstoy [with a very few additions that I’ve added in parentheses to make up for the 90 years of technological changes] wrote:
Today, electricity, railways, [television and the Internet], and the telegraph spoil the whole world. Everyone makes these things his [and her] own. He [and she] cannot help making them his [and her] own. Everyone suffers in the same way, is forced to the same extent to change his [and her] way of life. All are under the necessity of betraying what is most important for their lives, the understanding of life itself, religion [or exclude the word religion if you don’t like it’s use here]. Machines – to produce what? The telegraph [cable, Twitter, Facebook, the web] – to dispatch what? Books, papers – to spread what kind of news? Railways [cars and jets] – to go to whom and to what place? Millions of people herded together and subject to a supreme power – to accomplish what? Hospitals, physicians, dispensaries in order to prolong life – for what?
How easily do individuals as well as whole nations take their own so-called civilization as the true civilization: finishing one’s studies, keeping one’s nails clean, using the tailor’s and the barber’s services, travelling abroad, and the most civilized man [or woman] is complete.
Tolstoy painfully points out that we are forgetting something.
We have the greatest of technology at our fingertips, but it is like Frankenstein’s monster – it was built to serve us, but it seemingly might destroy us.
We have forgotten about our lives.
We tend to the mechanisms that ought to be tending to us.
We are caught up in our busy-ness. We terrified to get off the hamster wheel and rest for a moment. We forget about tending to our delicate souls. We define ourselves by the things with numbers attached to them when real wealth is in those things that cannot be purchased.
In the 1950’s, the social historian Lewis Mumford suggested three possible solutions to the type of mechanical chaos we find ourselves in: blind rebellion, suicide, or renewal.
We know those who, like teenagers, rebel with bitterness, anger, disappointment, and rage. And, who could blame them? Modern life is hard. (I don’t think there ever was a time when life was easy.) We could turn our backs on against modern society, but this hardly seems like a good solution.
So, if rebelling or suicide aren’t going to work, what will? We can attempt to shake off the pernicious chains of conformity and insist upon tending to that which is most important – our souls and the understanding of life itself. This, while difficult, seems like the only solution.
Late 20th century sage, Jiddu Krishnamurti wrote:
It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.
We often think that there is something wrong with us when we do not feel like things are right. But, perhaps, it is the other way around? Perhaps we oughtn’t feel at peace?
If you were waiting for a sign from the universe that this is the time to act on that secret plan you have, to throw caution to the wind and to start meditating and/or living your life, this is it.
While Craig Groeschel, the founder and senior pastor of LifeChurch.tv, runs a much bigger religious organization than I do and might believe some things that I do not, I like the way he puts it:
If the Devil can’t make us really bad, then he’ll try to make us really busy.
This week’s #wisdom_biscuit:
Society will eat you alive. Look out for #1 – you.