Monday, December 26, 2016

Modern life

Our society sometimes feels to me like an enormous machine which seeks daily to expand.  We are all to be cogs, doing our small part diligently to feed it.

I have been profoundly lazy the past few weeks.  I sleep in every day, and some days I do little but sit around and think and feel.  I sit in silence for hours, just watching the breeze blow through the trees outside my windows, or watch a candle burn.

A Facebook friend posted that old story about the ping pong balls in the glass bottle, about how time is precious, about how we have to make time for what is important, and it occurred to me that efficiency implies we know for certain what is worth doing. I am not at all sure most of us do.

If we say love is the most important thing, can we also say it can be done efficiently? Is one whirlwind romance after another, done deeply, passionately, and temporarily, "life" being done efficiently?

In Game Theory, there is an inherent tension between what they call exploring and exploiting.  Exploring is figuring out what options you have.  Exploiting is staying with one option and working it to its fullest.  In life, I think both remain relevant all our days.  You can't "live" efficiently, in my view.  You can collect experiences.  You can amass wealth and power and fame and success.  But we are all confused, and it is best, I think, to openly acknowledge this.  We can be confused together.  We can laugh and cry about it.  And we can accept it. openly, and willingly.

Confusion need not imply despair.  It can in fact imply a spirit of adventure.  You don't know what is coming, or what it means to you.  All, or most, options remain open.  This is freedom, too.  It is space.  It is room to move.

I would advise prolonged indolence to anyone.  And I would say that the myth of efficiency is, as Jacques Ellul argued back in the 1960's, a propaganda which we have bought hook, line and sinker.

No comments: