The Telegraph recently ran an article talking about the “toxic climate of stress” and the “mental health time-bomb” young people are now living under. I walk around my campus alone in a sea of apathy. I see a government and a world order obsessed with production and consumption and growth and I wonder how much longer we, let alone the earth, can take it.
We need a world where we can explore what we want to explore and be what we want to be. We need a world where work is a joy and not a chore- life is an adventure but not a struggle, where sunrise brings hope and not exhaustion. I don’t want to work hard at a job I hate, I don’t want to always be useful, and I don’t want to fight my way to the top. We are becoming constricted to such narrowly defined identities and roles, we’re becoming so obsessed with efficiency and utility we’re losing the very thing that makes us great, the very thing that made us the species we are today. We’re losing our curiosity.
We live in a universe of intense mystery and splendour and yet we’re increasingly switched off from it. The system tells us that it’s not useful, it doesn’t matter, it’s not going to pay the rent or feed the dog. So many of us are struggling to stay afloat in a system of competition and strife that we’re failing to see the beauty of the stars above, or be in awe of the seabed below. Increasingly we turn to reality TV shows and celebrity gossip instead of engaging with the politics that affects us or the science that made us, more and more I see a world forego passion and curiosity for comfort and apathy.
When talking with a group of friends at university once about whether there is a God or not, one of our number asked “Who cares? Why does it matter to me?” Of course it matters! How could anything matter more? People ask me why I take an interest in politics, or why as a psychology undergrad I choose to read a book on quantum physics- why on earth wouldn’t I?! How can you be a resident of such a beautiful and varied world, full of such mystery and majesty and not want to hurl yourself into it all? Why would you be content with Take Me Out instead of Aristotle?
There’s so much in this world I don’t know or understand, but that doesn’t scare or confuse me, it excites and intrigues me. I don’t really know the rules or how to play the game that is life, I don’t have all the pieces to solve the mystery, and I don’t know the ending (or the beginning or most of the middle bits) to the story- and instead of sitting down in despair from all this, this is what makes me get up in the morning. Psychology is my food, politics my work, and philosophy my rest. Art and music are my leisure, and literature my guide. History is my teacher, sociology my friend, and physics my play. Knowledge is power, but it’s also everything else. Turn off Jeremy Kyle and see the interweaving threads of knowledge that make the beautiful tapestry in front of you, the ebb and flow of the tides of life, the lofty heights of Aquinas and the murky depths of Freud. See a world where it’s not how many units you produce or what quotas you meet that matter, but your intrigue, your searching, your yearning. Be bold and learn something just for the hell of it. Be a revolutionary in this ever-useful world and do something that expends energy and doesn’t yield a visible reward.
Sure, we all have hobbies, sure not all of us hate our jobs- some of us might even quite like them. We might get to read that book or see that film we really wanted to read/see- but how many of us live a life where we pursue our deepest passion? How many of us really search for the answers to the questions that burn in our hearts? A system that doesn’t leave time for that, a system that doesn’t nourish the soul and release the intellect isn’t a system at all- it’s a prison. I want a life where I can explore the deepest recesses of my own soul and the furtherest reaches of the cosmos- but I’m terrified I won’t get it, that the system won’t allow it. But the real question here is- will you?