Monday, August 22, 2011

Society's Expectations and the Human Response.

There are moments of clarity when a person looks around his surroundings and suddenly decides that he no longer wishes to take place in anything that can be considered society.  It happens in most cultures and civilizations of the world and ages past: the lone hermit, exiling himself (or herself, I guess, but I'm hard pressed to find a female example) to gain a better understanding of the world around him (or her, still trying to be inclusive).  The largest example would be, in a spiritual sense, the most well known: Siddhartha Guatama, the Buddha himself.  But, examples exist across a spectrum when one looks at asceticism in its more common affiliation with religious or spiritual practices.  Thomas Aquinas, noted medieval theologian and later saint spent much of his time living the life of a hermit in a more communal aspect: part of the Dominican order.  Jesus himself spent 40 days in the wilderness living the life of an ascetic.  Even to this day, in India and other predominantly Hindu nations, ascetics still exist living lives of spiritual purity  away from the common man.  Legends move past that.  The old man on the mountain, giving spiritual guidance and advice to those who make the treacherous journey.  Ascetics live together in some instances like monasteries of silent monks.  Asceticism also exists for predetermined amount of time, like during Ramadan for Muslims or Lent for Catholics.

However, despite it's affiliation with its more common spiritual side, or religious even, ascetics can and do exist within a secular society.  People who decide that they wish to make a wilderness sabbatical, or remove themselves from the "grid," or anyone who puts an ideology above physical comfort in order to better live it.  It's possible.  But, is it possible for an ascetic to be created out of a sense of removal from the world due to being simply "fed up?"  I say, yes.  It is.  And I don't understand why more people don't try it, or contemplate it at the very least.

Society can be, and often is, an oppressive system to the individual.  The constant monitoring by ones "peers," the constant self-driven sense to achieve normalcy, and the desires of society for normalcy.  For most individuals, that sense of normalcy is almost inherent.  Conditioned, if you will.  Go to school, listen to your parents, and eventually a young individual understands those concepts of what society wants and desires out of its inhabitants.  Some don't get it, and seek solace with like minded individuals.  Welcome to the world of subcultures.  When I was in college, I took an Intro to Sociology class.  It was interesting enough, but the generality of it kind of killed it for me.  That, and the professor was a super hot Japanese woman, and that was distracting.  Anyways, we had to write a paper on a pretty wide variety of topics, which included a subculture of our designation.  At the time, I was still really big into the punk scene, so I wrote this huge, in depth paper about punk ethics and the subculture.  But, it got me thinking.  Because I had looked perhaps a little to closely at my brothers and sisters in arms.  Foibles and concepts I didn't agree with arose, and I stopped identifying as a "punk" as it were.  The posturing and the constant questioning of legitimacy finally got to me, and while I still did and still do enjoy the music, that was that.  My refuge from mainstream society since I was 16 and first listened to the Clash in my friend's bronco came crashing down around me.  Subcultures are not a constant replacement for alienation from mainstream society.  Many of them are the response of youth, and when youth fades, so does association.  They are not a permanent solution to alienation most of the time.

But, I digress.  To some people, that time comes when they witness society's wants and needs are in direct conflict to there own wants and needs.  And, self-preservation kicks in.  So you assimilate, or remove yourself from society.  Or, in a completely ballsy act, try to change it.  But let's be reasonable here.  One person of moderate to little importance is not going to change the course of the collective.  It's like David and Goliath, only instead, David's a fucking midget, and Goliath is a goliath from Star Craft and is a veteran of Arcturus's war (ten years later and I still remember the Terran campaign. Fuck yeah).  Needless to say, it's damn near one sided.  So, you, as one of the alienated, must make a decision: fight or flight.  Burn out or fade away.

So I look at the world around me, and wonder which decision to make today.  It's incredibly apparent: there are things around me that I despise, and things around me I want to change, but I do not have the ability to enact said change.  So, I can adopt a defeatist attitude and attempt to assimilate, which I have been attempting most of my life, or get radical.  Children don't want to be astronauts or painters anymore.  They want cash monies, bitches, and material goods.  It's the progression of the success of the modern era.  I've mentioned that I don't belong in this age before, and I stand by that.  I don't belong in any previous age either, except for possibly the renaissance, but even then, I'm no visionary or luminary.  Just a guy with blind ambition and minimal motivation.  I play games like Fallout and watch Mad Max, realizing that is the age I belong in.  My rabid appetite for knowledge, and my wish to be left alone by most people ensures it.  Not to be some warrior of the wastes, some Ayatollah of Rock'n'rollah, but to be a man on the mountain.  Hording the knowledge of the past and granting it to those I deem worthy.  An ascetic, but without the sense of spirituality or religion, because I am a spiritual black hole.  So I sit here, daydreaming and typing, listening to Bob Dylan while I slowly knock back a bottle of red wine, hoping that the path in front of me goes where I want it to.  I see forest and jungle on either side, and if the path zigs before it zags, I will pull the machete from my side and help me hack and slash my way to where I want to go.  All I know is that probably 90% of the time, this picture sums up my thoughts on this place and this idea around me...

So, because I'm listening to Robert Dylan and knocking back a glass or four of wine, here's the man himself


  1. all's well when there's mr dylan. ;)

  2. Okay...that was amazing. I also have dreams of removing myself from society, but I'm an internet addict, so I can't really claim to be removed totally. One day I plan to have a house next to a forest where I can go if I need to get away, or if I still haven't found myself a "Bitch" yet, maybe just actually live in the forest for a bit lol. I never gained a subculture. I hung around the goth kids, but I was never truly one of them. Even at 13 I wanted to be my own man. The ascetic life is one that has appealed to me. There is one thing though. Don't say you don't have the power to change anything, I don't think anyone can really do it alone, but if you get others with you, you can. I'm on your side, so you've already made a start! Although what two guys who keep themselves away from society at large can do I'm not sure.

  3. I too get these urges, just to remove myself from everything but since I live in the city it's not that easy.

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  5. It is such a shame how society distorts who we are because sometimes, in our struggle to ‘fit in’, we tend to forget which was our original purpose. I’ve never been through phases but I have to admit it was quite fun watching people around me changing from goths to punks and now to dubstepers (errrm, is that even correct? I don’t know).
    Trying to change the society on your own would be quite a challenge; I think that even if 80% of the population of earth would be up for change, it wouldn’t happen. Or even if it would, it wouldn’t last long, ‘cause hey, isn’t it easier to just accept things the way they are rather than make an effort and change them?
    Sometimes I think about how I’d like to isolate myself from society - that unless there are other people to whom I can relate, in which case I wouldn’t isolate from them - but then I just think about how silly that sounds. Going further through your post makes me feel like I’m reading my own thoughts: ‘blind ambition and minimal motivation’, ‘rabid appetite for knowledge, and my wish to be left alone by most people’, ‘An ascetic, but without the sense of spirituality or religion, because I am a spiritual black hole’ (get out of my head!!). I guess daydreaming is all that we’re left.. but why do people tell you to ‘dream big’ and then destroy all your motivation? (And by the way, I wanted to be an astronaut as a kid, and now I’d love to be a painter; but I know none of this will happen. Hooray for a failed life].

  6. I found myself nodding the whole time while reading this post. I feel the exact same way. I used to have gaining wisdom (starting with knowledge) as my one goal in life, but the more I learn the more alienated I get. Once you see through all the bullshit you can't go back, and when you have noone else to relate and talk to about these things (I don't) you just end up a misanthropic recluse (or atleast I did).

  7. "Children don't want to be astronauts or painters anymore. They want cash monies, bitches, and material goods." Aint that the truth. I feel I was born too late to explore the earth and too early to explore the stars...sigh.

    And what stigmata said, I have 1 friend i can truly have an intelligent conversation with. I feel more alienated here and now in college than I ever did in high school. I'm yet to make a true friend, I've just got acquaintances I'll hang out with once in a while...when will it be my turn for satisfaction...damn our human needs for companionship.

  8. I love a good Bob Dylan sesh; knockin' on heavens doors -- ooooh yeah.