Even though my book, Illusions? Maybe is set in 1991, there is a part in the book where the all-powerful character of Mick takes Glenn on a brief trip to a not-so-distant future, a shopping mall. It is here where Glenn sees people walking in and out of shops, nearly all of them using devices he has never seen before, smartphones. There are neon billboards and posters everywhere advertising the latest products or latest shows on TV. It is here where he learns how commercialisation has come to rule the lives of each and every one of us, how people have defined the meaning of life by shopping, watching TV, going to the movies, amusement arcades etc.
I do recall one time I was in Manila, in the Philippines at one of their biggest shopping malls. The place was rife with shoppers all going in and out of shops, some of them coming out of with bags of items, others engrossed with their smartphones, most probably on social media checking their messages. I was sat on a bench, watching scores of these shoppers pass me by, whole families dragging along their children in what probably was a day out for them. This particular mall had four floors, each floor probably a mile long in length. Not only that, but this particular mall connected to another one. So it’s not surprising that one could spend all day just browsing shops. You would need a whole wad of cash or a credit card with a spending power of thousands, not to mention a big shopping cart.
I am a philosophical person most of the time, and I always think deeply on matters. But on this occasion, as I sat there on that bench watching people go about their activities, I realised there and then just how far gone we were as a human race.
Unless you happen to be rich or an entrepreneur who has made lots of money, the great majority of us have to spend a great deal of our time working for our money.
But what do we do with most of that hard-earned money?
Do we put it aside for when we really need it in the future?
Do we invest it in ourselves for our advancement and education?
The great majority of us go out and spend it all on junk that we most probably don’t need. It’s the very money we need for freedom. The items we buy are never built to last and yet we are constantly pursuing the next big purchase be it the latest smartphone, car or designer clothes.
No matter where you look or turn, commercialism has taken over our entire world It rules every aspect of our lives. It’s a machine that we spend all our lives working for, working to make its cogs and wheels turn. It’s a machine that survives only by taking what natural resources it needs from the planet-to turn into new things-to be sold on-to be thrown away and then it begins again, all in the name of profit. This same machine that is polluting our planet and turning it into waste disposal dump. The machine I am talking about is the global economy, and economic growth is the god of the modern world.
It has saturated and proliferated our society with every means of entertainment possible, from TV, films, amusement arcades, bars, sports, video gaming, sex, shopping malls. Every form of entertainment and distraction to keep us entertained and distracted and what’s more, it all fits in our back pocket from compact devices we call smartphones. There is absolutely no limit to what we can do with devices like these, the information we can access, people we can communicate with through social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. The online shopping we can do from ECommerce stores like Amazon (and there are thousands growing online) and the movies we can watch and games we can play all from these little devices that fit in our back pocket so that we don’t even have to leave our couch.
The divine equation to our modern world is shopping and entertainment. Instead of pursuing our own greatness and potential, we simply go to the mall, the sports stadium or sit at home in front of a square box, though most of them now are flat squares, watching endless channels of drivel. Or even worse, spending countless hours on our mobile devices like tablets and yes, smartphones checking whether we have mail. The God of our world is economic growth, the shopping malls and sports stadiums have become our cathedrals, our wardrobes and cars our tabernacles, the shop assistants and celebrities the high priests preaching the glories of buying crap, the tanoy voice is the voice of the divine, our smartphones are our Bible and money is the sacred blood of the holy spirit.
If reality truly is an illusion, one that we created, then our problems are our addictions to the illusions we created because we believe them to be real. Society has become a basin of artificiality, and humans are sowing the seeds of their own destruction. If humans ever worked together, making full use of their talents and abilities, we would be living in a different age by now, the kind of age that Gene Rodenberry envisioned in Star Trek. We would have been no longer reaching for the stars, but in the heavens amongst the gods. Instead, we are like insects, shuffling around on a rock, ruled by a silly banking and economic system that is like a fat, overgrown and bloated tapeworm that is gorging itself on the Earth.
In my book, Illusions? Maybe, there was another part where the characters, Glenn and Mick arrive in a far distant future where the Earth is barren, the sky, seas and ground polluted. There is a great divide between the rich and poor. The rich live in large, fortified cities, islands and space stations orbiting the Earth. They are altered by technology. Where once humans wore or carried their technology, it is now inside them and taken away a great majority of what once made them human. The poor people live outside the cities, scavenging huge rubbish dumps of junk from generations long past. Some of them work for the rich, creating the technology to maintain their luxurious lives.
This is what I see coming. Humankinds fate is going to the rubbish dump. I find it a waste and I somehow feel there will be a tipping point at sometime in the future where humankind will need to take a good long look at itself, at what it’s doing. They say it is only at the precipice, the point where one is facing oblivion, that change is possible. I found that out in my own life experience when I was facing debts that I could no longer manage. The banks and debt agencies were closing in on me and it was only at then that I realised the consequences of spending more money than you can earn, living beyond your means and spending money you don’t have on junk you don’t need. I went to my family, my head bowed down and confessed to them what had happened. I felt like a failure but I received the help I needed and paid off the majority of what I owed. I came back from the presipice of oblivion a changed man, more wiser when it comes to financial matters.
I see money as something we work for to gain freedom. It is sacred to me because it will give me the time I need to spend it with the people who matter the most, for helping others and living life to the full. The reality is that everything we horde and consume is not owned by us. Nothing in life is ours. We are just participants to an experience called life. What we have is not owned by us or anyone. It’s just borrowed. Like all board games like Monopoly, all the stuff we win eventually has to go back into the box.
Should the true purpose of our lives be to discover our own greatness and expression and share it with the world?
The lives many of us live are as artificial as the illusion that is reality and we are simply wasting time by chasing our illusions. You obviously cannot hold water physically from your hand in a flowing stream, but you can experience that flow if you surrender to it. Maybe, just maybe that is the key….