The Cost of Progress

We speed ourselves up- our lifestyles, our demanding jobs, and our high-intensity interval training workouts raise our heart rates, shorten our breath, and quicken the blood flowing through our veins. We then slow ourselves down- with booze, with weed, and (if we try to make healthy choices) yoga or meditation practices. We live in such a way that each vice into which we give, however damaging, serves a purpose.

We crave the “highs,” because our bodies will naturally rebound to the “lows” we don’t otherwise allow ourselves to feel in this results-driven culture of the United States (particularly Silicon Valley and other booming cities). If we don’t have access to “downers,” we can simply overtire our bodies with “uppers,” as the natural response to too many uppers is a nervous system collapse (which feels a lot like “rest”). In some cases, that can also be considered an overdose.

In Silicon Valley, we hear all the time that we move too fast, take not enough rest, and work ourselves sick. But, we’re all in the same ecosystem here. Our ears and our eyes don’t witness anything different. Our sensory awareness is limited, blinded by the fact that this is the only lifestyle we know to be “successful.” We’re all doing the same thing, and for that main reason it can be extremely challenging to see how we’re making ourselves sick.

When we meet people functioning on slower wavelengths than ourselves, we are startled, taken aback. We assume that person is on drugs and, many times, they are. Why do you think marijuana is so rapidly becoming legalized in the states? We’ve created a demand for it. Citizens can work longer hours in more hyperactive states if they can return home to smoke a bowl (that was delivered to them like pizza) and rest up a bit before supercharging on adrenaline the next morning to start the workday. Our country has an increasing percentage of its citizens abusing prescription opioids to induce quicker “come downs” from the high-stress lives we live. And, when substance abuse and addiction start to challenge our very existence, our therapists and doctors tell us it’s an individual problem, a disease of the mind to be cured by (you guessed it), more drugs. And yes, there are undoubtedly individuals more prone to addictive tendencies than are some others. But, are any of us open to the possibility that perhaps the system in which we find ourselves can bear some of the blame?

Every morning we start with a high amount of stress. We push-push-push through workouts, our workdays, and our errands that support these workouts and workdays, only to come home and leave little time or energy to devote to the things and people we love. How often do we read for pleasure anymore? When was the last time you listened to a music album from start to finish, without doing anything else at the same time? When was the last time you sat on a park bench with somebody you love, no phones or distractions around? Do you even have hobbies, anymore?

Our bodies, brains, and spirits need rest. Nothing that exists in nature is in a constant state of work. There are seasons for work and seasons for rest. There are more active times of day and more restful times of day. Our physical bodies are programmed with inherent circadian rhythms matching these daily cycles, but we’ve disconnected ourselves from our true nature. We’re driving ourselves mad.

We’ve become too accustomed to burning the wick at both ends. Perhaps addiction isn’t so much an individual problem as it is a cultural one (Russell Brand is certainly purporting this theory in his new book, Recovery). Many cultures have far lower rates of crime and addiction than ours in the US. These populations are human, just like us, but they have different values than we do. That’s not to say that one culture is better than another, but a culture that values results and deadlines and work could stand to learn from other cultures who prioritize family, health, and environmental protection.

Perhaps the stressful environments of New York, London, and Silicon Valley create a unique kind of human, one with a vastly different neural network than its peers from a lesser-stressed environment. Perhaps this is evolution creating a new kind of Homosapien.

But perhaps the group of lesser-stressed beings are, in fact, more evolutionarily adept than we are. They refuse to work like rats in a cage. They’ve chosen (and voted for) lives filled with stability and physiological harmony. Perhaps we, the rat-racing Americans, constantly wanting more, more, more, are actually in the evolutionary process of getting weaned out. We are always stressed, we get sick from the stress, and we force ourselves to consume dangerous amounts of drugs or other substances to attempt to gain control over the equilibrium for which our bodies yearn.

Perhaps this feeling of stress, pressure, and internal combustion is the same vibrational frequency felt by the species of animals going extinct at this time in our history- dying off only to be left behind (survived, rather) by a species wiser and more evolved than its counterparts. Perhaps the humans living slower lives are the turtles, and we in the “Silicon Valleys” of the world are the hares, hurriedly trying to get nowhere fast. The turtle is wise and knows that the hare will run out of gas before he even gets half way to his destination. What’s more, the turtle gets to enjoy the journey, the scenery, and the world around him all while he continues to slowly and steadily progress forward.

Perhaps we, the hares, are going extinct in our attempt to progress.

September 29, 2017
© 2017 Shawna Marie Rodgers
All Rights Reserved.