The modern world doesn’t care about what is going on inside us.
It doesn’t care about how we feel.
The world, the system we live in, this whole culture, this society, this economy, this whole machine that we operate within as the modern world: it is based on material things.
It is based on things that can be counted, things that can be produced, seen, and assigned with, in most cases, a dollar value.
Things that have tangible effects are rewarded or punished.
Things that are not readily apparent in the material world, as things, as events, as what we might call “reality”: they are simply ignored.
Now, in many ways this is a perfectly reasonable and good arrangement, because it is optimized for material well-being.
It is a system that is very highly developed towards taking care of material needs and desires in the best way possible.
When it comes to systems for making sure that we get food delivered somehow to our table.
Even especially noticeable in the realm of healthcare, that we can get professional, highly advanced modern medicine to take care of us and cure so many illnesses that would previously have been death sentences.
Maintaining sanitation and safety to an amazing degree.
Naturally, not equally all over the world, and certainly much more in some parts than others.
But this worldwide machine is more effective than anything we’ve yet seen before at taking care of these material needs.
And to do this, it only needs to deal with material factors.
It doesn’t need to care about how you feel inside, because it is only dealing with the movement of materials, goods and services, actions with tangible effects.
Where I see it as being a problem, a limitation, is that this vision of what the world is and how the world works, as powerful and effective as it is within its domain of what it works with, can easily become more and more seen as the everything, seen as all we need, covering all matters.
And even as I say it, “Oh, it’s only concerned with material reality”: “Oh, as in anything that you can see, touch, hear, taste, feel: these are the things that are part of material reality, and that’s all it cares about? Well, that’s a pretty good selection.” You know, if you include everything you could possibly sense in the world, and that’s material reality, that seems like a pretty good coverage area.
It’s everything that can be quantified, everything that can be evaluated, given a valuation.
And when we talk about how people feel inside, how people are motivated, how people are driven, how people have a sense of meaning, meaningfulness, or meaninglessness, a sense of connection, community, love: these things are so immaterial, so outside the world of the senses.
They are so difficult to describe, to evaluate, to consider what they’re worth.
And when it comes to so much of the practical function of our world, they are irrelevant.
If the doctor who’s treating you feels a deep sense of meaninglessness in his life, yet he still applies the correct procedures and diagnosis and treatment to take care of the problem, then the system has worked, and it doesn’t matter how he feels about it.
And of course, people are doing studies where they look at things like this.
They could have a questionnaire and say “How do you feel about the meaning of life? Do you feel meaning in your life? Yes or no?” and then compare that to actual material outcomes in the system, and then say “Oh, look, when the doctor has a sense of meaning, the doctor does a better job.” Then it’s connected somehow to this material outcome.
You could say if your feelings affect your job performance in some way, then they’ve become material.
Then they are something that the material system can deal with, something that it might care about, maybe can do something about.
But it only matters in the system insofar as it affects your performance, your ability to make the material contributions that make things work.
But it seems like it’s so common and easy and normal and understandable to live within this system of materiality, the world of things things that can be sensed and experienced in a direct, material way, and see that as being all we need.
Yet it seems to me like there’s so much in the world of feelings and motivations, inspiration, meaning: these things are outside the world of what is tangible and measurable, and yet they seem to be so critical to living a full life.
So my thought for today is that there’s this limitation in the functional, utilitarian, material world, that as much as it takes care of our material needs so well, leaves so much of life untouched, undeveloped, unanswered, unpursued.
So we can’t look to this wonderful system to answer our deepest needs.
It only works within its sphere, but there’s so much more to living a human life than what we can directly sense and measure.
It’s up to us to develop those things, and to bring vibrancy and real life to the world.
#modernworld #materialism #meaningless