He fully comprehended it … when he had seated with an old friend at a table in a bar. His friend talked and talked … about the schedule of his fast-paced life and about the gods of modern society … like many others. He was peeved and was not listening to his friend because he could not care less of what his friend was saying … deep down he knew the truth … something was making him change. He wasn’t him anymore … and he was restless but he couldn’t explain the reason … He kept telling himself … I sound happy … I have everything I want but I’m not happy at all.
He didn’t recognize himself anymore … and that’s when he started asking himself a lot of questions …
What happened to me??? How did I become like this??? My friend was talking about things that were at the top of the agenda of my life … and now I don’t give a shit about these things??? What’s the matter with me? I’m turning into another person and I feel I can’t take this lifestyle anymore.
Then he realized … I got used to going after money and bullshit … and in order to do that, I tolerate everything. All this did go to my head. I’m getting used to a way of living that is exactly the opposite of who I am. That’s why I’m not happy. I should be … according to these-days standards … but I’m not.
How did this happen? Is it me who’s so twisted about things or it is this society that is full of fake values and is tearing me up inside?
There was something hatching in his mind for a while. Finally, he thought to himself: I won’t be a perfect beast of burden … sired to phony ideal. I’m no longer happy with what I’m doing. I feel suffocated, and I want my own space in which I can do what I am.
After a while, he left.
After about a year, I received a letter from him. Forgive me, if I omit to write the pleasantries and the names … but the point here is what this letter is really all about.
… “In recent years I have developed an increasingly harsh position against the “system” – As you know, my reaction was to “drop everything and go”, as a personal search for happiness. I told you several times, do you remember? that I do not consider this “giving up” the only way to address the issue because we all have different ways of dealing with unhappiness. That’s fine … By the way, there’s something curious I want to tell you … something that helped me understand people better.
I’ll tell you.
When I tell my story, there is always someone who tells me: “well okay but if everyone did as you did, who makes things then? Society would collapse.” – These words made me think and also led me to write to you, because I know you can understand me. I’m not just someone who “gave up everything and left”, this is just the effect of so many things. In essence, I am one who in the last few years has devoted himself more to the search for his own serenity than to career or money. I knew you knew it, too.
If everyone did what I did myself, would society collapse? You know what? No, society would change, and it’s a good reason to insist, in my view. Society is not an abstract and immutable entity, a box that contains us all and determines our borders. We are the society, each of us is, and if we all move in the same direction, it would follow accordingly.
If everyone did like me, or something like that, society would do the same, putting people’s well-being before pure materialism. The economic, productive and governmental systems would evolve to interpret the new values. It would no longer be useful to “give up everything and leave” to seek happiness. I wouldn’t have needed it.
Utopia? Oh yes sure … no doubt! But if I remember well … a person much better than me once said: “be the change you want to see in the world”. You understand? Don’t you? In my small way and with all my limitations I have taken a step in this direction.
You know me, I don’t preach anarchy or armed crusades … and I don’t want to dismantle democratic institutions … far be it from me … I believe in the society of human beings, in law, albeit an imperfect one, in cooperation and in friendship between peoples, but I want to tell you something very clearly: what we have created now with western society is wrong. I’ll tell you what I saw and lived … there are unacceptable aspects because our society is based on fake values that go against the serenity of the individual … look around … you are on the edge of a nervous breakdown all the time … you are on the edge between poverty and dreams all the time … especially the dream of the end of the month … for peanuts. Profit is rewarded rather than real progress; consumerism wins over sustainability; the wealth of a few is more important than the well-being of all.
I know you, you are one who always says the things to the face … tell me I’m wrong! Say I’m lying!
Believe me, I’ve wondered many times … How can such a wrong system stand up? Then I understood why: the endurance capacity of the average man. The world is full of average people … that’s why the foundations of the system are solid.
Average people can stand the idea of exchanging most of their best years for money, – money that, at the best, they don’t need, and at worst it is not enough for them.
The average man endures stress for eleven months a year, then he spends the money he earns to recover the health he lost to earn it.
The average man endures Monday mornings, even if he hates them. Then he looks forward to the weekend in which he gets bored waiting for another week to come.
The average man tolerates giving the keys of his own life to a bank, and puts up with working thirty years to buy a house in which he spends less time than in the workplace.
The average man bears the increase in energy costs, new taxes, cuts in education and health, systematic bullshit of politicians, reality shows, manipulated information, manipulation of history, useless news about VIPs in vacation and alarms on the annual flu.
The average man also bears pollution, wars for dirty interests, deforestation, huge bloodshed of cruel massacres, religious fundamentalisms and racial hatred.
But here’s the crazy thing … that’s why I understood people better … Average people are used to put up with a lot of bullshit … but if there is one thing they just can’t stand in the least, is knowing that one of them is no longer willing to tolerate all this crap.
It’s like an insult … if someone says: “Now it is enough!” is an affront … to rebel is a slap in the face of everyone. It’s a slap in the face of the so-called “normality” and routine, which is something that everyone accepts as inevitable and natural. It’s like screaming at people to wake up from their numbness and face up reality, with a critical eye … and reality is that all the years you spent putting up with a thing or another … will never come back. While you were busy playing the role of a beast of burden for someone else, your time just slipped away … your children have grown up and left home, and your dreams have faded, forgotten in some drawer of your soul. You know what? I’m the one who feels insulted by these people, in a way.
But I understand … Reality can get really scary … and fear is unbearable. People pretend it’s nothing … it’s like an armor … because people know very well there’s stuff out there to be scared of.
Alright … I’ll tell you what. Even though I know you already figured it out.
Not everyone is the same. We are the same in the macrocosm, but not in the microcosm of ourselves. Not everyone has the strength, the sensitivity, the necessary qualities and skills to get out of the system, whoever they are and whatever their job. There will always be someone who will never ask questions or try to find alternatives to a monotonous life, I know loads of them, like that. These people are perhaps happy because they have no other parameters to understand what happiness is, maybe they are”necessarily” satisfied … because life has put them in such a condition that they have no inner resources that can help them improve. To stand up you need bull balls, hunger for life, hunger for inner freedom and strong personality.
Yeah … happiness … but happiness is not like joy … that’s what I regretted most … not having joy made me really unhappy. That’s why I left. You know, happiness always has an object … a target … it depends on external things. Joy… has no object. It seizes you for no apparent reason, it’s like the sun, its burning is fueled by its own heart. It’s like Love. Well … I have it now. Love for myself and love for everything. Now I can be myself”.
This letter is a sign … a sign of a deep sense of unease and an inner turmoil. Unfortunately, this is how the world works … it’s messed up, but … that’s how it is.
It looks like our social conditioning marries each human organism’s primal instinct for Group self-preservation with what societal institutions claim is the greater good of the whole, even though it is blatantly only the good of a privileged few. And maybe not even theirs, after all.
Do you want to know what I think? I said this before, in another article. I can’t shake the feeling that we really should recover the courage and the utopianism to commit the sin we never had the heart of doing: to create a world with a better quality of life, a better quality of life for everyone. A world which it won’t be any need to run away from. Maybe today we are in real need of doing it.
I kind of went away, too … in my own way … for the same reasons … I found my real self … I found Love for everything and for an extraordinary woman.
Well … do you know where this guy is now? Do you remember the last scene of “Shawshank Redemption”? Imagine him like that … I will say no more.