The other week I read an article that has haunted me ever since. It was an article in The Guardian titled: The Meaning of Life in a World Without Work. The author, Yuval Noah Harari, spoke of the movement of technology to take over many jobs, creating what he calls “the useless class”. My heart broke at the thought of it. (No wonder the high rates of suicide and depression.)
The article goes on to say that, “the same technology that renders humans useless might also make it feasible to feed and support the unemployable masses…the real problem will then be to keep the masses occupied and content.”
The article took an interesting turn, it stated that the “useless class” will turn to virtual reality to feel content. In the past we have seen this by those who turn to religion in times of seeking meaning, and religion is a form of virtual reality. Living by created formulas to win a game, rules to abide by in order to experience a happy afterlife. No part of this is related to natural law.
Living in virtual reality can keep us stuck in a childhood state, a state of make-believe, though not in the fun playful way, because it will become something we take seriously. The game becomes a statement of our who we are. We fight over religion, we fight over technology/video games; we will fight over our sense of “reality” and what we will continue to fail to realize is that it is made up, it’s not natural.
I am reminded of a community I have worked with. Where a large number of people experiencing intergenerational welfare. Families whose income comes from welfare and it’s been that way for their parents and grandparents and on through the generations of their lineage. In working with the teens in this community, asking what they want to do as an adult in the world, I too often heard something along the lines of, “Nothing, I’ll collect welfare like my parents do.”
When and how does one loose passion and purpose for life?
Something essential can be stripped away from the human experience in the situation of technology taking over our jobs and in welfare being a crutch. Meaning. What gives a human life meaning?
If all our needs can be met without us having to do anything, how are we contributing to life and this world? If you didn’t have to worry about getting your needs met, what would you do? (The Million-dollar Question.)
I am sure we could all easily answer this question. I’d fill my time with nature, travel, self-exploration, exercise, my loved ones. It seems like a no brainer. But as I move more deeply into this question, I sensed I would fall into a depression. I would feel useless because I would be contributing little to the world. For the most part, my reality, would be self-involved. I’d stay in a state of being in which I depend on someone/something else to essential take care of me, I’d never meet my maturity.
If we never meet our full selves and know what we are capable of or how we contribute to this world, we would feel empty; constantly seeking purpose and meaning or distracting ourselves endlessly from our emptiness.
The human psyche needs meaning and understanding of life. It helps guide us forward, giving us a sense of purpose, allows us to live into our miraculous human nature and our uniquely singular experience of it. If we stay in a state of immaturity, in the childhood state we become solely about what we want, our bodily whims will be feed, we will engage in play often, indulgence can easily become the aim of our experience. Unfortunately, however, we would lack depth and understanding of human struggle and the ways that life challenges and ordeals reveal to us what we could offer the world. We would miss out on the experiences that lead us to questions about our purpose, integrity, responsibility, spirituality, caring and citizenship. We’d miss out on the living that lead us into the answers of these important questions.
This is not to say that the meaning of life if struggle. Though it isn’t meeting creature comforts and desires either. It’s about nature! The teaching of the medicine wheel has informed me about holding all things that seem opposite, it’s taught me about human nature. We can enjoy our playfulness but also knowing our depth and responsibility and learn to die and be reborn again and again in our life transformations. This doesn’t gain us any points toward winning or some happy ending, but it allows us to connect with ourselves and the world around us. And to me, nothing seems more real than that!
Every tree has purpose and contributes to the world, every tree moves through cycles of joy, comfort, discomfort, death and rebirth. Every tree has grown more informed, stronger and knowledgeable of its way of being in the world as each year’s cycle passes. Every tree does its’ work, sharing its’ purpose, every day. Humans have this same nature.