One of the questions that’s been with me since becoming aware of my own existence, beyond “Why do I exist?” is “What is the meaning of existence?”
That’s a question not easily answered.
Is the default mode of the human psyche suffering?
These questions are philosophical in nature; trying to formulate answers risks ideological exposition.
Looking down on these questions from a purely technical, non-philosophical perch, a few things can be discerned as fact without questioning their merits.
Human beings exist. Everyone alive got here as the result of biological activity. Human beings are social creatures of limitless potential, both for good and evil.
Though individual human beings can be and often are incredibly resourceful, we still need each other if we are to have any chance whatsoever of rendering that potential.
Existence as a backwoods hermits is possible, but such conditions are not the desired default or recommended position for most.
Human beings need each other in myriads of ways for myriads of reasons.
Human babies need their parents to expend many years’ worth of attention and effort simply to bring those new humans into existence.
Human beings need each other in order to foster and maintain sanity. Without the company of others to bounce off of, individual humans tend to quickly wander off into the murky realms of mental instability.
Is mere existence on a pillow with all physical needs met tenable or desirable? Would the heavenly idea of laying on a cloud playing a harp be an ideal to strive for? Would endless existence without aim and action even be pleasant, or would it be a possible form of meaningless hell?
It is self-evident that on a base level human beings need both aim and action in order for existence to have meaning. Aim without action is meaningless, as is action without proper aim also devoid of meaning. An existence devoid of meaning could indeed be considered a form of suffering.
In order to avoid suffering, humans need aim and action. Aim and action both require the presence of other humans to share in aim and action games. Solitary aim and action games are empty experiences. The sharing of experience in aim and action games offers the possibility of rendering shared meaning.
Broad social trends can be difficult to spot, particularly when living through them. Trends are somewhat more transparent from the perch of hindsight, but even the beginnings of historical trends exist in the murky shadows.
It is now popular to look back on the 1950’s as a “simpler” or “more innocent” time when existence seemed more carefree and daily life seemed easier, filled with less social strife. I was born in 1955, so I don’t actually remember living through the second half of the 50’s decade. Apart from a few memories of very early childhood, I didn’t become aware of my own existence until sometime in the 1960’s. I believe most of the current beliefs about the 50’s decade that exists in the vast majority of minds originates from watching media generated in the 1950’s and early 1960’s.
Our 21st century social problems didn’t happen in a vacuum. These problems have been in play for decades. It is clear our current social pathologies have roots going as far back as the 1930’s and certainly the 1940’s.
The “Greatest Generation” of the Western domain prominent in the 1940’s won World War 2. They saved the world. World War 2 ended, and Western economies boomed as never before. Knowledge increased as never before. Standards of living thrived as never before. However, the seeds of the problem were already present and the weeds of decay were already flourishing in the 1950’s, languishing mostly unrecognized.
The “Greatest Generation” to a large degree failed to transmit their own value systems to their kids in the 1950’s. The evidence for this became particularly conspicuous in the latter half of the decade of the 1960’s. The “Greatest Generation” spoiled their children. They failed to teach them that taking on the voluntary burdens of work, family and general responsibility directly give meaning to an otherwise dead, empty existence.
Fun experiences can and do add spice to an otherwise meaningful existence, but are not helpful or useful as full-time pursuits. Lives devoid of voluntarily chosen, socially-acceptable burdens are lives that are meaningless.
It is difficult to know percentages, however not everyone failed to teach their children the importance of taking on responsibilities. Even so, enough parents spoiled their kids that the spoiling pathology was growing in Western cultures like a metastasized tumor. Divorce and fatherless child rearing grew to pandemic proportions over succeeding generations. For many years it has been easy to see that Western culture has been weakening and is on a definite decline.
With this being said, I believe we are in the middle of some new more positive social trends that are for various reasons rather difficult to spot. Data from the book “National Populism: The Revolt Against Liberal Democracy” indicates a very interesting long-term trend towards conservatism. Generational political leanings measured at age 18 have a consistently higher percentage of self-identifying as conservatives as each new generation comes forward. The “Baby Boom” generation at age 18 identified as 17 percent conservative. 22 percent of generation “X” identified as conservative. 23 percent of Millennials identify as conservatives. Generation “Z” is far more conservative identifying as 30 percent politically, socially and economically conservative. The trend couldn’t be more clear.
Looking at this from another direction, the percentages of self-identified left-wing liberals is in decline as each successive generation comes on the scene. CNN, MSNBC, etc. will never inform you about these trends.
21st Century Puritanism
The Covid 19 pandemic of 2020 has acted as a very peculiar catalyst that has vastly accelerated trends that were already in progress. For example, the movie industry, infected with far-left ideological propaganda was already faced with steeply declining attendance and box office receipts. The Covid 19 lock downs and forced business closings have profoundly destroyed the movie business. What remains will likely never be the same.
The casino business has also been profoundly impacted, and will likely look very different going forward as contrasted with before the lock-downs. Who could have imagined 24/7/365 casinos that not so long ago were clogged with customers being completely closed down for months on end? Now that they have reopened, business is very slow. Las Vegas gaming palaces are virtually deserted.
Since the 1960’s many colleges were increasingly functioning as Marxist indoctrination centers, at the same time many businesses were jacking up requirements for college diplomas for many jobs. In recent years, college diplomas have become virtually worthless. There are millions of mis-educated former students with college degrees that cannot find the work they believed they were guaranteed by the diploma, at the same time being saddled with non-forgivable student loans. Before Covid 19, many colleges were struggling. The Covid 19 lock downs have pushed many of these Marxist indoctrination centers to permanently cease operations. See the article “A look at trends in college consolidation since 2016.”
The Covid 19 pandemic and attendant lock-downs have profoundly broken many social behavioral cycles. Many restaurants have been forced to permanently close. Vastly more people are cooking and eating at home. Businesses are closing earlier. Gone for now are the “we sell everything” 24/7 Walmart shopping meccas. Gone are many 24/7 restaurants.
When I was growing up in the 1960’s many retail stores were completely closed on Sundays. Many state and local governments had so-called “blue laws” mandating these Sunday business closures. In a weird way the Covid 19 forced business closings and forced reductions in hours of operations remind me of the blue laws and what it was like living with these government mandated closures that are essentially government mandated inconvenience.
Is 2020 starting to become the 2.0 version of the 1950’s?
Despite the reduced shopping hours, many businesses such as Walmart, Home Depot, Lowe’s, etc. are experiencing sales booms as never before. Home improvement is through the roof. Supply chains of some items has been disrupted. Car dealership service departments seem to be booming.
While we can’t know what’s happening right now, I suspect that Covid 19, the lock-downs as well as the riots in left-wing cities and states have caused many people to go back to basics. Thousands and thousands of people are permanently moving out of big cities.
On December 6, 2018, I decided it would be a good idea to eliminate pasta, potatoes, rice and bread from my diet. I ended up sticking with it. At this point, I’ve lost 40 pounds. My weight seems to have stabilized at about 147 pounds. This change has been nothing short of a revolution as well as a revelation.
What caused me to radically change my diet? A bit of back story is in order. I’ve spent much of my life overweight. My parents tell me when I was 4 months old, I weighed a hefty 25 pounds. At around 7 years old, I weighed around 100 pounds. Once I moved into adolescence the weight dropped off somewhat.
As an adult in my 20’s and 30’s, my weight stabilized at around 155 pounds and remained there for many years. However, once I got into my 40’s the weight started increasing. Around age 45, I reached my highest weight ever at 225 pounds. At that time, I had a job where I was constantly around cookies, cakes and candies day in and day out. Once I was away from that job, left to my own devices, my weight dropped to around 185 to 190 pounds and hovered there until my dietary change.
In November of 2018 I was talking to one of my younger brothers and he mentioned he’d just been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. That grabbed my attention. I really didn’t know a lot about type 2 diabetes, so I started watching a bunch of YouTube videos about it. I figured if type 2 diabetes could happen to my younger brother who is five and a half years younger than I am, it could just as easily happen to me. From the information in the videos it quickly became obvious that the cause of type 2 diabetes is carbohydrate overconsumption, plain and simple. That is what motivated me to change my diet.
At first, I thought changing my diet would be difficult. I drive a truck over the road and therefore am forced to constantly eat in restaurants. I quickly figured out that I could simply drop pasta, potatoes, rice and bread from my diet.
For many years I have eaten twice a day, with occasional vending machine snacks. Making the change was easier than I thought. I did have a decisive experience early on, however. I was in a Denny’s restaurant and they brought a yeast roll with my meal of steak, broccoli and salad. The yeast roll was fresh from the oven, fragrant, warm an oh-so soft! I thought to myself I’m not going to eat the roll. I ate the steak, the salad and the broccoli. The roll was still sitting there. I couldn’t resist. I pinched off a piece. I chewed it for about thirty seconds and then thought I’m not going to swallow it. I discreetly spit the chewed bite of yeast roll out into a napkin, and that was that. Following that experience, it has been easy for me to avoid bread.
I’ve always adored pasta. I could eat pasta every day or even every meal. What’s interesting is that now it can be placed right in front of me and I’m not tempted by it. There’s scientific evidence that the digestive bacteria in the human gut, the species of which is controlled by what we eat, communicates with a brain area that controls cravings. Change your gut bacteria by changing your diet, and you will change what you crave.
Within the first week I no longer had acid reflux. No more need to constantly gobble antacid tablets, which are ineffective anyway. Permanently eliminating acid reflux is reason enough to continue to never eat pasta, potatoes, rice or bread again.
Besides spontaneously losing the acid reflux problem I’d been plagued with since I was a child, I also had another pleasant surprise. Since around 1990, I had a weird dry skin problem on the heels of my feet. The dry skin would form painful cracks in the winter months. At one point I got a secondary bacterial infection that required an antibiotic in order to avoid blood poisoning. That condition was diagnosed as eczema. In the intervening months it has spontaneously healed.
For many years I also had a chronic fungal infection in the nail of my right big toe. One day a few months ago I noticed that the super thick toenail had reverted back to a normal nail.
Another beneficial side effect of a low-carb diet is a distinct reduction in overall body inflammation. Prior to the diet, I would have mucous drainage particularly from my sinuses. That problem also went away.
At age 65, losing 40 pounds is kind of a big deal. Not having to worry about gaining weight or worrying about overeating is an amazing thing. Sometimes I eat rather large meals, but my weight remains completely stable. On the rare occasions I feel like eating a snack from a convenience store in the middle of the day, I will either eat frankfurters from the “roller grill” every self-respecting convenience store has, or cheese sticks. On occasion I’ve eaten nuts such as pecans.
Generally, I don’t feel hungry. When I do feel a bit hungry but I can’t stop or there is no food around close, it is very easy to ignore.
Another amazing benefit is that I never experience energy dips. Before this, there were regular occasions where I would suddenly feel drowsy to the point where I wanted to stop and take a nap, particularly a couple of hours after eating. That never happens anymore.
I also seem to have better overall mental clarity.