Stop Shopping and Start Thinking.
The Writing on The Wall
This got my attention since we are now approaching the season to shop… and shop and shop and shop. It also made me wonder what he was suggesting we actually think about. And perhaps more importantly, what we were doing instead of thinking.
So, more than half-way across the country, I went into town and I spent a day watching people. I observed them on the street, in stores, in restaurants, on television, at gas stations.
What I noticed overall was that the more intense the environmental stimuli the less genuine interaction there was between people. Many walked about with glazed eyes and slightly open mouths. People appeared to be in deep trance. I am not aware of any research to validate or refute this observation, but it is what I saw.
The Impact of Too Much Information
It’s no secret that telecommunications have changed the world in which we live. There’s more information, more excitement, more scandal, more sensory overload and more crisis than ever before. Seventy-five years ago in a small town, you could spend a whole week without knowing much more than the week before.
The important items– like the assassination of a president, the illness of a neighbor or the arrival of the new preacher – made themselves known quickly enough. And people responded as necessary. . But there were long periods of time that were left, well, unfilled and simple. Not that there was nothing to do. There was always plenty to do. But it was plenty of one thing or maybe two, like getting the field plowed or fixing the roof, or going to work and coming home, not lists of twenty, thirty or forty things to do. Our ancestors were different in many ways, but perhaps the most significant distinction is that they had a lot less information to manage in one bite and a lot less to worry about. Crises happened, but they happened rarely. Now, crisis is constant. The critical state is the nominal one.
Viral Fear As Part of American Culture
Speed is only one part of a world that is spinning us out of control. On top of being pounded through all five senses, we are increasingly pressured on a psychological level: pseudo-intimacy, over-exposure (both physical and emotional), intensity, frustration, pressure to complete multiple tasks simultaneously, complexity and confusion of social expectations, and fluidity of family roles.
Fear has become so embedded in our culture we no longer notice it as fear. We see it as thrill. One Walt Disney theme park – a place that was created as a small paradise for children and an escape for the young at heart – not boasts a ride called The Tower of Terror. Can you imagine? “Daddy, after we see Mickey Mouse can we go on the terror ride?” How do you fit those two things together? I don’t think they were made to go together, especially in children. So, then, what happens to us when we force it?
The Addicted American
Americans have always been a brave, brazen group. While most of us are religious or at least spiritual and the vast majority are incredibly generous, we are also a culture of iconoclasts and take some delight in upsetting the old order of things, splitting open the delicately jeweled egg just to see what’s inside, racing across a forbidden continent to see who can get to the rocky coastline first.
Consider the sort of person, the individual that has those qualities. Now consider that individual over time as there are fewer and fewer old orders to overthrow, fewer and fewer gods to shatter against temple walls. The energy of that person, the forces at work in him have not been changed and as a result they must find some other outlet.
When we run out of continent, we must conquer space. When we run out of new fun, we must generate danger. We have become a nation of thrill addicts unable to be still or just be. So what do we do? I think we do what our graffiti artist said. We stop thinking and we shop.