Fantasy and Reality – Part II
“I wish I was like you, easily amused.”
“Have you ever stood and stared at it, marvelled at its beauty, its genius? Billions of people just living out their lives, oblivious.” – Agent Smith, The Matrix
Boredom and ignorance, two human states in which fantasy thrives over reality. Monotony breeds monotony. We numb ourselves to the existence we don’t want to live or even acknowledge.
“Boredom is the root of all evil - the despairing refusal to be oneself.” – Soren Kierkegaard
In this instance, I feel we are closer to Huxley’s Brave New World than Orwell’s 1984: Not enjoying the consumerist society leads to boredom, and since people can’t be bored as this leads to evil (according to Kierkegaard), we seek mindless entertainment, sex, drugs, alcohol. All manner of hedonic pleasure seeking arises, we have an opioid crisis, people want to stupefy themselves and become unconscious because consciousness is too much of a burden.
To overcome this self-destructive, turning on itself of consciousness, people can seek some form of transcendence. Whilst some people cannot tolerate or don’t want to be aware of their reality, not everyone seeks transcendence from it, instead choosing a life of consumerism where gratifying desires equals freedom, but life is more than gratifying desires – and this is where we could spin off to a freedom as liberty vs freedom as autonomy discussion, but let us keep on track from the time being.
Vices that will never leave society: Alcohol, gambling, sex, drugs – be careful what you wish for, a veritable Dionysus turns the world into Disneyland.
Boredom, or a more encompassing term, ennui (a feeling of listlessness and dissatisfaction arising from a lack of occupation or excitement) derives from a loss of meaning with no reason to exist. With this thought, people can turn to seeking a life of Epicurean pleasure without realising this is both vacuous and most importantly, terminally boring. Without access to some form of transcendence, those “Epicureans” with three digit IQs, inevitably descend into an intolerable state of terminal boredom, while those with two digit IQs live a bovine existence chewing the cud endlessly until they die – quite the despairing insight from Kierkegaard, yet again.
Put another way, as the front man for Nirvana, Kurt Cobain, wrote in All Apologies, prior to blowing his brains out, “I wish I was like you, easily amused…”. In essence, you could make the case that Kurt Cobain died of boredom.
The average modern day person thinks of myths and mythology as nothing more than fantastical stories – thanks largely to Marvel and DC movies. However, if we skip over the reductionistic entertainment, is it possible for myths and mythology to be more real than reality itself?
The following paragraph is an synthesis of ideas on the importance and how irremovable myth is in navigating human life, articulated by one of my favourite modern day wisdom baskets, Professor Michael Sugrue:
What is the world? Who am I? Who are we? These are the permanent questions of the human condition. Every mythic tradition creates the meaning of human life, which makes the human predicament, poised on the knife’s edge of ephemeral existence, bearable because it is valuable. Pain is assuaged, the changeable is fixed, the uncertain rendered comprehensible, and our destiny is foretold in every cultural narrative, no matter how simple or complex. Myth is cognitive and ineliminable. This thin fabric of ideas is our only insulation against the immensity of nature and the terror of history.
Some people like to postulate (a fantasy they believe will be a reality one day) that we’ll have no need for this narrative instinct in the future when we’re all connected to a supercomputer that has all the knowledge of mankind – probably named V.I.K.I. and reminds us how her logic is undeniable – and as we ourselves have dispensed with logic (or have forgotten or don’t care about it) and continue to stimulate our senses because that’s all that matters. As I have written before, however, given who we are as human beings, a good story will beat great information – we need more than knowledge to live in this sense.
Perhaps “Man as God” is the ultimate fantasy dismissing reality – and many have tried and still try to do this with some completely unaware or in denial that they are doing it. The idea of self-divinisation is a very dangerous game, especially with the amount of unknown, unexpected and unaccounted “evil” out there amongst us of which originates in boredom (Kierkegaard) and ignorance (Plato). Worshipping ourselves will not end well. As Kant puts it, “from such crooked timber as humanity is made, nothing entirely straight can be made.”
Nothing good comes from having your head buried in the sand or your head in the clouds, where possible it is best to have two feet firmly planted on the ground. However, if we always had our feet firmly planted on the ground we would have never made it to the moon – make of that what you will.