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The “Noise” of Modern Life

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“Future shock [is] the shattering stress and disorientation that we induce in individuals by subjecting them to too much change in too short a time.”Alvin Toffler, ‘Future Shock’

I first read Future Shock (published in 1970) as an elementary school student in the mid 1980’s.  In a nutshell, my adult life (or at least my aspirations) was that kind of life that we hear so much about: The American Dream. You could make it in America based on hard work and to a large extent on super human willpower.  Simply by wishing for something to happen, then it will happen. The ethos of the blue collar worker, business man and woman, farmer, rags to riches stories that have been used by the past several generations as a motto for themselves and future generations.

There is a part of me however while still acknowledging that working hard is important, it should not be treated as absolute gospel or that the math always equals out.  I had career aspirations to become a movie or TV producer.  But no matter how many resumes I sent out over the years (I have loss count), or how much education a person gets (how many people today have college degrees and yet can’t get find a job parking cars?)  Yet the result did not equal the effort and it was mostly due to factors beyond my control such as the miserable economic conditions and an industry that is on life support.  Or maybe my resume wasn’t sexy enough.  Quite frankly, I wouldn’t care to be associated with the stuff coming out today.  They don’t hold a candle to the movies, TV shows and music that was experienced in the 20th century.  It is mostly “noise”.  The creative arts should be about individualistic expression that also reaches its audience on an internal level and do something that leaves some kind of impression.  But it mostly has that empty feeling as if someone had taken olestra or laxatives.  It is as of I was chronologically misplaced to a large extent. Even in childhood there was a part of me that connected with the 18th, 19th and most of the 20th century.

Taking this “noise” and applying it to American life today, the principle still holds.  We live in a society that in many ways has already exceeded the frontiers in terms of the arts, lifestyle, technology and many other areas.  This same society has the expectation that each future generation is supposed to exceed the accomplishments of the previous generations.  That logic rang true for people of the 18th, 19th and 20th century.  But the 21st century so far has this sense of either going too fast in terms of technology leading to information overload and downhill in many other areas.

This overload has lead to stress and disorientation that is toxic.  To apply the analogy to sports: It used to be you just read the sports pages and looked forward to the upcoming game.  Now it is too easy to just spend all day around the radio or TV 24/7, nitpicking over every little detail about people (people take an interest in another person eating a sandwich? Really!) Or consider people scream for football coaches to be fired because of one missed play that potentially could have won the game (never mind that a team could run 60-70 plays per game) and it is constantly analyzed on radio and TV.  The funny thing is that Tom Landry, Don Shula and Chuck Noll wouldn’t have lasted very long either. Not when your first year is o-14 or 1-13.  Yet any person in any area is constantly compared to the greats and if you don’t hit at least 714 home runs, you are considered a failure.  Or consider the daily press conference.  In the 1980’s and 90’s, I don’t recall having to turn on TV and watching Shula having to explain why the Dolphins are having practice at 7 a.m. as opposed to 2 p.m. Oh maybe because in South Florida in August, there is this thing call heat and humidity.

Politics is another example.  The theory goes that Democrats watch CNN and MSNBC, Republicans watch Fox News and all of them swear that their source is fair and balanced or always truthful or whatever.  As an independent, I guess that puts me at odds with both news sources a good bit of the time.  At least by watching the nightly news at 6:30 back in the day, the banter was limited to around 22 minutes as opposed to 22 hours (factoring in commercials).  Go to work doing what you love using your degree that you went to college for (and tuition could be paid mostly by having a part-time job and working during the summer), come home at 5, settle down for a nice dinner, and look forward to watching the Dukes of Hazzard, Miami Vice or countless other shows from the time.  Nowadays, I can’t find a single network show that interests me.  So it is mostly RTV or TV Land.  I would have even loved being a child watching I Love Lucy or Gunsmoke.

We are too wired for our own good.  Ever have that experience of calling people, leave a message like they ask so they will call you back. Instead, you get put on hold for an hour listening to elevator music and if you do leave a message, you may hear back from them.  Maybe.  What’s the point of asking people to leave a message (with you specifically asking for them to call you back) if they aren’t going to return phone calls? It only takes two minutes.  How did people ever get things done in the day before phones, email, even telegraph?  The biggest problem is in their haste to always be busy in order to keep up with society’s expectations of you or your own expectations, people don’t appreciate the simpler things in life.

People today and especially the younger people, we will have to reduce our expectations.  So focus on taking life one day at a time and not being too fixated on having it all by age 30 (who can afford a $250,000 house on $8 an hour and dealing with the miserable economy of the past ten years?) That same house cost around $25,000 just 30 years ago.  Certainly affordable.  Making a career change could work, but how does one pay off student loans that these days go around close to $100,000 and IF you find employment doing anything using the method that you were told to use (network, resumes, keep learning, etc…), it doesn’t yield the results. It usually takes a good 5-10 years to really get going with a new career.  Easier to do at age 22 than being 40, 50 or what have you.

Life back then had its challenges and problems.  That is life.  But one thing is clear to me: just as the methods of the 19th century didn’t work in the 20th century, the 20th century way won’t work today.  In a culture of high expectations and high achievements yet dealing with human limitations and aspects of life that we have no direct control over, the best thing to do is to reduce our expectations in certain ways and appreciate the smaller things in life.  Besides, having it all is still temporary.

Written by chrisforliberty

September 13, 2012 at 4:35 pm

Posted in General, Movies