“The big whining” or the wall-philosophy of how everything is wrong

signs-381046_1280I recently had some free time (well, not really, but whatever) so I decided to write something different for a change. It’s a “blog” after all, so it’s time I use it as such. So a couple of weeks ago I was at an event in a cute little bakery (yeah, an event in a bakery) and on the wall I saw one of those plates (or whatever you call them) with “wise” thoughts on them that we all love. This one was a bit longer than most and had the following quote from Dalai Lama:

 

 

 

THE PARADOX OF OUR TIMES

Is that we have taller buildings, but shorter tempers

Wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints

We spend more, but we have less.

We have bigger houses, but smaller families

More conveniences, but less time.

We have more degrees, but less sense

More knowledge, but less judgment

More experts, but more problems

More medicines, but less wellness.

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values.

We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often

We have learnt how to make a living, but not a life.

We have added years to life, but not life to years.

We’ve been all the way to the moon and back

But have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor.

We have conquered outer space, but not inner space.

We’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted our soul.

We’ve split the atom, but not our prejudice.

We’ve higher incomes, but lower morals.

We’ve become long on quantity but short on quality.

These are the times of tall men, and short character;

Steep profits, and shallow relationships.

These are the times of world peace, but domestic warfare,

More leisure, but less fun; more kinds of food, but less nutrition.

These are the days of two incomes, but more divorces;

Of fancier houses, but broken homes.

It is a time when there is much in the show window, and nothing in the stockroom.

A time when technology can bring this letter to you,

And a time when you can choose,

Either to make a difference …. or just hit, delete.

 

So. Before you knife me to death I want to point out that Buddhism is actually one of the few modern religions that I still respect at least a little bit – both for their pacifism and for their more or less adequate moral paradigms. So what I’m about to say now is not so much a critique towards Buddhism or Dalai Lama – I fully understand the metaphorical nature of most of the things said in the quote. What I don’t agree with is the way this and other such “wall philosophies” are interpreted by people and lead to the acceptance of certain convictions that I don’t agree with.

So I decided to go through the quote piece by piece and list my objections to it.

 

The paradox of our times is that we have taller buildings, but shorter tempers.

Well I disagree. The buildings may be taller but why are the tempers shorter compared to before? Which is the last war someone started for no other reason but because of adultery with an Elena?

Wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints

We live in a time when at least in the western society we’ve reached a moderate (I stress “moderate”) gender and racial equality (again – moderate). Now think about a century ago when African-Americans/Europeans weren’t considered “human beings” and women had a bit higher status in the house than the dog and the kitchen appliances. So what’s the “narrower” part referring to?

We spend more, but we have less.

My grand-grand-grand(etc)-father (not that I know him, but some of my granddads) had all in all: a hut, a plough, two mattocks, a bucket and a shovel. And I “have less”? Well, no – both materially and metaphorically.

We have bigger houses, but smaller families.

Ah, that last one that is actually true. But so what? We are 7 000 000 000 people on this little rock we call “home”, so I see nothing bad about smaller families. “Hurray!” for smaller families actually.

More conveniences, but less time.

Mmm, nope. I’m relatively certain that 1000 years ago one day still had 24 hours. I’m also relatively certain that a normal work week then wasn’t 40 hours but instead 112 (7×16), so – no. Our life today is very dynamic and hasty, we have a lot of alternatives, a lot of things we can and therefore do do. But that’s in no way, shape or form a minus.

We have more degrees, but less sense.

How much sense would you say Nero had? In the last several decades a bunch of people have had their fingers on top of some big red buttons with the potential to make the whole world burn. One “Neronian” among them was all we needed for me to not be able to write this thing at the moment and yet – here I am. Are there still some idiots floating around? Of course. Are they more than before percentage-wise? Don’t think so.

More knowledge, but less judgment.

Same thing.

More experts, but more problems.

More problems? Damn it guys, open a history text book or an encyclopedia every once in a while and see the horrors that people have been going through several centuries ago. Of course we have problems today as well, but get some perspective, please!

More medicines, but less wellness.

Oh, yeah, categorically. The percentage of sick people is rising every year. Why tho? Because more and more of us don’t die at 3 or 30 from the common cold and live to be 60-70-80 and get sick from one thing or another!

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values.

Of course he means that metaphorically but still – today’s life offers an astonishing amount of ways to give or receive value. Much more than those presented to the average villager from the middle ages, certainly.

We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.

I love my girlfriend, my cat, my relatives and I’m one of the biggest pacifists I know personally. One of the few things I hate is statistically inaccurate statements.

We have learnt how to make a living, but not a life.

Same thing as the previous ones – yes, there are many people today, still lacking the philosophical backing to make “a life” but they are in no way, shape or form more numerous than before. If anything, such “wise thoughts” today can and do reach the far corners of the world, while in the past they were constrained to the village of their authors.

We have added years to life, but not life to years.

Here we go again.

We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor.

I beg to differ (shocking, I know) – firstly, that’s not true (not the one about the moon landing, calm down). Not only do I know some of my neighbors, but I’m even keeping in touch with some of them after we stopped being neighbors. But even when it’s true – so what? I may not know some of my neighbors, but I know more than enough other people. I go out with friends and acquaintances several times a week and I even personally know people from across the globe – and I say that as hardcore introvert.

We have conquered outer space, but not inner space.

And we still don’t know how to “make a life”, yeah, yeah …

We’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted our soul.

Oh, yeah, we cleaned up the air so hard that we can’t even breath it anymore *cough* *cough*. And I already talked enough about the soul.

We’ve split the atom, but not our prejudice.

What you’ve been saying so far is nothing more than prejudice too by the way.

We’ve higher incomes, but lower morals.

Lower compared to when? Compared to two millennia ago when a religion saying “at least don’t kill your own countrymen” and “if someone rapes your daughter you should sell her to him” was considered “moral”?

We’ve become long on quantity but short on quality.

More and more empty and unsupported prejudice.

These are the times of tall men, and short character.

I’m having the strong urge to start skipping those but then someone will come and say “You skipped this and that! You can’t argue with that, can you!” Anyway, short characters have existed before, exist now and will exist in the future so there’s no reason to say that now “is a time of men with short characters”. And yes – us, tall men are becoming more and more and that’s pretty cool.

Steep profits, and shallow relationships.

I don’t know about you, but my relationships are quite deep and pretty much awesome. If today was a time for shallow relationships, then prostitution was going to be the newest profession, not the oldest one.

These are the times of world peace, but domestic warfare.

Compared to yesterday when it was a time for world wars AND domestic warfare. (Not that we have an abundance of “world peace” today, but that’s another question)

More leisure, but less fun; more kinds of food, but less nutrition.

Less fun, yes – the cinemas are empty, today, eeemptyyy! And do you remember how full they used to be when Socrates was still around, huh?

These are the days of two incomes, but more divorces.

Yes, divorces – the whip of the modern society. Because it’s so much better to spend your entire life with someone you’ve grown to hate on your second anniversary.

Of fancier houses, but broken homes.

And just a 100 years ago such thing as “an unhappy family” didn’t exist! Not at all!

It is a time when there is much in the show window, and nothing in the stockroom.

Emptier than before?

A time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose, either to make a difference …. or just hit, delete.

I’m not saying that you should hit delete, but it’s certainly nice to have it as an option.

 

Pff, that’s a big wall of text! Sorry about that – I should have picked a shorter quote. And why did I go through all that trouble … ah, yes – not because I don’t agree that we should strive to be more moral, more loving, healthier, kinder, more accepting and so on – of course we should! But I’m getting tired of listening how “things are worse than before!” I’m tired of listening how today’s life sucks, today’s society is crap, how everything was so much better “before”. And those are prejudices that a lot of people have and nurture precisely because they read them on such “wise” plates. And improving today’s society and life with the mentality of “Pfff, you all suck so bad, we ain’t ever getting better!” is as productive as raising a child with remarks such as “You are so bad at this and that, won’t you ever learn?!”

Or in short – “Stop whining and get your sh1t together!”

If someone wants to print that and put it on a wall – you have my blessing.

 

-YZ                                                                                                                                                                                                                 23.05.2015