While most people tend to associate suffering with scarcity and deprivation there is a very different kind of suffering that’s caused by plenitude. Plenitude is (American) culture’s perverse burden. Most have everything they could possibly want and they still dont think it is nearly enough. When everything is at hand nothing is ever hard won and when nothing is hard-won nothing ever satisfies. Without satisfaction, our lives become shallow and meaningless. In this era of gigantism – we embrace the value of More to compensate for lives that seem somehow, Less. Eat the instant you are hungry and as the Buddhist master put it, “You will never find out what your hunger is for”. Plenitude feeds malaise as it fills the stomach.
In an effort to top that, Chris self-diagnoses a plenitude of reading about plenitude:
Yes!! I’m finding it increasingly difficult to stay “on task” with all this stuff, and as Lasn points out with his own analysis of first-order plenitude, many people are experiencing higher-highs and lower-lows – “We soar the skies one moment, then feel slack and depressed the next” – I know what he means, and I am not afraid to admit it. It feels like someone is holding a magnet to my inner compass – pulling me constantly towards consuming more stuff about consuming more stuff…
So hats off to Chris for being honest. I certainly recognise in myself the higher-high, lower-low syndrome. It’s a result of overstimulation…
The amount of media overload we’re offered is incredible. 24 hour news is one example that bugs me, with its steady supply of instant anxiety. The Soham trial coverage was an example of vast overstimulation. Our society is overstimulated, and trys to deal with stress by taking more stimulants. Worn out out by overwork? Come home and watch TV. Worn out by TV? Drink coffee. Over-caffeinated? Have a beer to relax. (Not that this is a new thing; my dad used to drink coffee as a bedtime drink, and then take sleeping pills to get some shut-eye.)
Those Buddhists are definitely on to something. They say we need to use the mind, not let the mind use us. Meditation is about observing the inner dialogue and we need to take responsibility for the outer dialogue too – we can turn Sky News off, we can stop reading all those books!
There is so much real pleasure and satisfaction to be had in the simple act of human contact without the need for an orgy of consumption.
And I keep coming back to my own mantra: let’s put relationships before ideas. Blogging at its worst becomes a diet of too many ideas and not enough real contact. We tend to think of innovation as inherently good, but an awful lot of grief is caused by the championing of an abstract idea in a way that trashes relationships. It’s a mistake I catch myself making, or about-to-make, quite often.