‘The ultimate, hidden truth of the world is that it is something we make and could just as easily make differently’ – David Graeber

We all saw it during the pandemic, didn’t we?  Our ability to quickly and, relatively easily, adapt to new ways of doing things: children didn’t go to school, people didn’t go to work and loungewear became the season’s must have attire. Yet now normality has resumed, so the possibility of doing things differently also seems to be receding.  Instead of fear-inducing headlines around the pandemic we now have catastrophising headlines about recession, energy and the cost of living.  The same old cycles continue to repeat. 

I’m reading over again that our world has come to a turning point, that huge changes are a-foot and humanity can either stumble into the abyss or course correct into a better world.

I’m always one for the middle ground, and I don’t think it’s quite as black and white as that. Yet there’s no denying change is needed. Our current systems are not serving the majority, and it feels as if something has to give.  The exciting thing at times like this is seeing the directions we could go.  Unfortunately, those with the resources to speed up change appear to be squandering them on giant rockets and virtual worlds.

How could the world be different?

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you probably know my feelings on the ‘metaverse.’  Whilst it may look appealing at first glance, I can’t wrap my head around Facebook – sorry Meta – throwing that much money at creating a virtual world when there are so many things to be sorted out in the real one.  I think we all saw during the pandemic that whilst virtual connection can be a wonderous thing, it’s no substitute for in-person interaction.    Do we really want our world to go down that rabbit hole?  But despite the slick adverts heralding the ways in which we will use augmented reality in the future, I don’t believe it’s a done deal, and we have more agency in this than we think.

Take smart phones: on the surface they seem to be terribly addictive but a necessary evil.  Alas, we’re also told repeatedly that they are terribly addictive and a necessary evil, which cements this belief in our brains.  Yet they can be amazing devices for learning, connection and daily tasks. We can choose to use them well; we don’t have to pick it up, just like we don’t have to light that cigarette or drink the entire bottle of wine just because we opened it; these are choices, and often we don’t give ourselves enough credit for the amount of agency we have. We also tend to overlook the fact we don’t have to own a smartphone (really, it is a choice).

Anyway, who’s to say that one day vacuous phone use won’t be as socially unacceptable as smoking? Or drinking alcohol? (which seems to be going the same way as smoking, just give it another decade or two). Can you imagine a world without smartphones?  It was only fifteen years ago that hardly any of us had them, and much more recently that we began to use them in so many of our day to day tasks.  Around half the world’s population don’t own a smartphone and already there is talk of them becoming obsolete in the next decade…what will we worry about then?  I’m sure we’ll find something.

The world (and Twitter) would probably be a better place if we accepted our vast not-knowingness and replaced it with humble curiosity, It’s up to us to imagine how the world could be different, because we’re the one’s who make it.

I believe dreams are what the future’s made of, not dystopian nightmares of good verses bad.  As fascinating and enthralling as these stories are, it’s time for something else.   Give me your outrageous optimism, your fascinating fantasies and your dreams of hope for the future:

Insert optimistic future possibilities here

Is it time to leave the hero story behind?

Photo by Vicki Yde on Pexels.com

So much of what we believe to be true or possible is created culturally, through media.  Movies, stories, books, the news; everything we take in impacts how we view the world, whether we’re conscious of it or not. The problem is that much of the popular discourse focuses on polarising storylines and narratives: to have a hero there must be a villain, and if you’re not with the good guys then you’re definitely bad.  Read, see or hear enough of these kinds of stories and you begin to think only opposing views exist, that most people think in absolutes and human nature is to pick a ‘side’ (and if you’re not on my side, then I’m afraid I can’t be friends with you).  Has the collective human population reverted to age three? (Actually, I think three-year-olds probably see the world clearer than many adults at this point).   What happened to nuance?  Bring it back please, I like a good debate with no definitive answer. 

Look at your social circle. I’m sure many of them live their lives differently, have different views and opinions on things and none of this precludes friendship. Like the world, people are multi-faceted, complex, nuanced and ever-changing. Yet our media might convince you otherwise.  I’m friends with vegans, and meat eaters, magical thinkers and realists, older than me people, younger than me people, people into heavy metal, people into house, people who believe in climate change and people who don’t, people who got the vaccine and people who didn’t, people who like marmite and people who hate it; it doesn’t matter, they’re all good people (though scratch that last one, I’m not sure I could be friends with someone who likes marmite, yuck*).

What would the world be like if we championed stories around collaboration instead of competition? If click bait became stories of kindness and compassion instead of violence and hatred? What if we were encouraged to see people as people, not profile pictures or text boxes floating on the screen. What if we entertained the notion that there is good to be found in everyone?

I like a good what if, feel free to add your own.

How can little old me make the world different? 

I’ve felt this despondency often: we don’t control the media, we can’t control the tech giants, it’s all pointless, this is just how the world is, how can I make it any different?

Because of agency.  We have the power to create our own lives, we’re just not very good at realising it. Life’s been pretty comfortable for many of us for a long time, and we don’t want to give that up by messing with the status quo, but I think the current quo could take a bit of messing.  More and more people are getting fed up with the current systems, yet we keep engaging in the same behaviour, because what’s the alternative? 

But change is easier than we think, just look at how quickly we changed things during the pandemic.  Many of these changes were forced, it’s true, but we can also choose to change things: don’t like ordering from amazon?  Visit your local bookshop/toyshop/hardware shop/cosmetics counter/shoe shop…okay I’m going to stop now ‘cos this could go on a while, but just go to the local shops, you know, like people used to? 

Don’t like how much time you’re spending on Instagram or Facebook?  Delete the app for a few weeks (or forever if it suits you), your brain may thank you.  If you don’t mindlessly scroll social media to the point of self-loathing and enjoy the time you spend on there, then quit feeling guilty about it and get back to watching those hilarious cat videos; if it’s not a problem, then don’t worry about it. 

If you’re fed up with negativity in the media or the headlines cause you anxiety, stop watching/reading the news.  You’re not missing much, except maybe a daily dose of cortisol. 

Instead of proving your productivity to the world by filling every minute, slow down; take a little time each day to be present with your loved ones and the people around you, or just present in your own company. The more we see other people slowing down and taking some time, the more we feel it’s ok for us to do it too, so this one is a public service.

Find a calming activity you can engage in regularly; the more people that can access their inner calm the kinder they are to other people, which ripples out and is good for all humanity (did I mention meditation? I’m sure I’ve written about it once or twice). 

If you’re not sure what changes you want to make but are experiencing feelings of discontentment, take some time to learn what makes you tick.  So many people go straight from school into further education, or work, maybe have a family, more work, and never take the time to find out what they enjoy. 

Or maybe you know what lights you up but struggle to find the time to do it.  How can you make some changes to fit the thing that brings you alive into your life?  As Howard Thurman said:

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com. Sunflowers are what make this young woman come alive.

My optimistic dreams for the future:

A radical rethinking of education takes place.   Schools quickly become Centres for Creative Intelligence. Instead of memorising rote facts, children explore the world, nature and their relationship to it.  New ideas are encouraged.  Children follow their interests, maybe one child spends a term reading books on astronomy, another makes paper aeroplanes of all shapes and sizes, another practices their gardening skills.  Children would be encouraged to ask big questions and be supported by guides and mentors to find answers and discover new possibilities. 

Through the pursuits of their interests, children would spend time learning about themselves.  They’d learn how their bodies work and what they’re capable of, how their minds work and what they’re capable of.  Collaboration and community would be encouraged at every step and there would be no competition, most importantly there would be no tests.  Individual fulfilment would be the goal, with a recognition that this will look different for everyone.  

Children would learn how to celebrate themselves and each other. These Centres would produce confident, well-balanced individuals whose goal in life would not be to gather as much money or stuff as humanly possible and hoard it until they die, but to discover what fulfils them as an individual and build a life around that.

When this generation comes of age, over-consumption of Earth’s resources goes into decline.  People don’t feel the need to buy more or own more to fill an unfillable hole. There’s no sense of needing to keep up with the Joneses, the Joneses are friends, to be helped if they ever need it.  People don’t over-compensate with food, or numb themselves through drugs and alcohol.  Disease and mental health issues rapidly decline.  When the majority of the population are leading fulfilled lives there are no feelings of lack or entitlement.  With no competition, a strong sense of community threads through humanity and people are much more well behaved.  Red tape falls by the wayside and bureaucracy withers, because you just can’t get the staff.  Life becomes simpler, but also deeper, richer.

This is no utopia, the usual challenges of death, injury and illness still remain.  Problems still arise that need to be solved. There are still differences of approach and opinion and different personalities.  But when people are living fulfilled lives, these challenges are met with grace, stoicism and the support of friends, family and the wider community. 

A healthier, stronger, more prosperous-in-all-the-ways-that-matter society emerges because people are content.  Their contentedness infuses everything, and freed from drudgery, fear and greed, ingenious ideas to live in harmony with the planet and each other explode.  Twitter goes under, but it’s generally agreed to be a worthwhile sacrifice.  Balance is restored.  The world has been made differently.  The epoch of contentedness has arrived. 

How about you, what fantastic future possibilities can you see?

Photo by Belle Co on Pexels.com

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Thanks for joining me for this blog post.  I was a little reluctant to post this one because of its optimism.  I have a faith in humanity that I can’t seem to shake.  Over the years it’s led me to think of myself as naïve, gullible and a dreamer with ostrich like tendencies.  Yet I have also experienced moments of pure love and connection, and in these moments, it is possible to see love’s opposite: the pain that underlies the worst of humanities tendencies. 

I believe this pain is a result of our disconnection from our deepest selves, each other and the natural world.  If we could set society up in such a way that children were nurtured to reconnect to themselves and nature, and raise every person to feel good enough and consequently fulfilled, what kind of world might emerge from that?

*Just to clarify, I can totally be friends with you if you don’t like marmite, just don’t try to make me like marmite too.

Image by David Griffiths on Unsplash. I wonder if David likes marmite? 🤔

6 thoughts on “‘The ultimate, hidden truth of the world is that it is something we make and could just as easily make differently’ – David Graeber

  1. If there were more people who thought like you the world would be a nicer place. Unfortunately the world is run by psychopaths who wish to dehumanise us and divide us with tactics like those you mentioned and even more unfortunately most of us take the bait. I certainly did until recently. You never know one day the May be a mass awakening and we all may realise that we have the power for change as long as we don’t allow ourselves to be brainwashed x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks lovely, that’s very kind of you to say ☺️

      That’s the cool thing though isn’t it? In my future scenario, once contentedness becomes the dominant paradigm, people who hold onto the old paradigm of pursuit of power/money/status would have to look around themselves at all these content people just helping each other through life and they’d have to wonder, maybe I got it wrong 🤔 Then they’d shift too…and who knows, perhaps at this point we evolve…excuse me while I drift off into imaginings of what this awesome world is going to be like 😚

      Like

  2. Your world is possible and I believe is beginning to happen. We just have to live our lives being true to our selves and stay strong through the cynicism and criticism that will attract. Be kind, do unto others as you’d have them do unto you, set the example and it will change the world one person at a time.
    And….sorry Rae, I love Marmite !!! X

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You ask: Can you imagine a world without smartphones?

    I answer: YES!

    I’d happily live in it. Give me an old-fashioned clam-style phone to keep with me for emergencies and I’d be happy. No app crap, as a friend of mine says.

    As for time spent mindlessly scrolling online, I deleted FB permanently years ago and have never regretted it. I’m still on IG but only in a limited way and only looking at photos of pretty things. No hate allowed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m with you Ally! In fact I periodically fantasise about getting a ‘dumb phone’ as they call them now, I just haven’t quite been able to make the leap.

      Yes for some reason FB seems to lend itself to more mindless scrolling than IG. I do find my IG feed quite uplifting (your lovely and funny content included).

      Liked by 1 person

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