I think it is safe to say that modern society looks and feels nothing like what homo sapiens and their closest ancestors were accustomed to during the course of their evolution. A key element of the current status quo is that for the vast majority of people, their lives are defined by the boxes in which they live inside. Just stop and think about it for a minute.
- When you are born, you are placed inside of a box (crib).
- When you come home, you live inside of another box (house/apartment), and eventually get to have your own smaller box inside of that box in which to sleep (bedroom).
- When you wake up in the morning, you probably eat or drink some kind of food that came out of a box.
- When you go off to work or school, you probably get there by traveling inside of a box (car/bus/train).
- The place where you spend the majority of your days is a box (school/office building) and you and your co-workers will undoubtedly be segregated by a farm of little boxes in which to do work (cubicles).
- When you get tired of sitting in one place all day, you might go to another box to exercise and do a workout (gym).
- We seem to like boxes so much, that we pluck wild animals from their natural habitats and put them into boxes so we can share our lifestyle with them (zoos).
- And at last, after a long productive life, when our health and strength wanes, we are returned to the earth from whence we came, nestled securely inside of our final box (coffin).
Why do we like boxes so much?
Ergonomics certainly plays a part in this, as we need structure and foundation to provide a mechanism to contain the things which make up our lives. But from a broader sense, it is about control. We use boxes to control the things that we use and where we live. Indeed, the march of technological progress which began with the agricultural revolution has been primarily concerned with this kind of control. The more control we perceive to have over our lives and the things which effect our lives, the more happy or safe we supposedly feel.
I say “supposedly” because I think attempting to impose this kind of control has ultimately been a huge failure. If you pause to read of the news stories regarding the state of the mentality of modern society, it quickly becomes obvious that few people are truly happy.
- narcotic addiction
- drug dependency
- mid-life crises
- divorces, familial abandonment
- civil unrest
It’s sobering to think about.
The evidence is continuously mounting that the current paradigm does not work. It doesn’t make people happier, and even though it is built upon the attempt to maintain a sense of control, that kind of control is really just an illusion. Paradoxically, the control I speak of is probably subconsciously (maybe even overtly) an attempt to control us, human beings, so that we may more effectively contribute to the society we were born into.
It’s easy to point a finger and indicate where things have gone bad. That sad truth is that for most of us, making broad-sweeping changes to our lives which might right some of these wrongs are simply impossible. We can’t simply walk off of the grid and attempt to live off the land, like some kind of neo-hunter-gatherers, since most of the land is owned by other people. The “commons” as an idea of resources open and available to all is essentially non-existent.
However, each of us can take small steps and make changes in our lives to keep from permanently closing ourselves inside of this box of despair. Although mankind has taken control of roughly 1/2 of the land on this planet, there are still wild places and beautiful country to explore. Do you want to feel for a moment that you aren’t smothered by walls and constraints?
- take a walk on a beach
- hike through the hills
- paddle a kayak out on the lake
- go camping in the woods
- run like your life depends on it
- sail a boat out on the ocean
- climb a tree
- climb a mountain
- meet a wild animal on it’s turf
- for a brief time, explore what it might feel like to be a wild human
Those experiences are what our minds, bodies, and spirits are longing for. I suspect that addictions, pathologies, and other illnesses of the mind and body are ultimately in some way connected to this truth. You can take the lion out of the jungle, but you can’t take the jungle out of the lion. This is what we’ve collectively tried to do with ourselves over the course of the millennia, but it is obvious now that we still haven’t completely succeeded in taking the “jungle” out of the human. Hope still remains.
Don’t let yourself get boxed in.