In western society, during my lifetime, there haven’t been any big problems. Aside from the obvious – but really, other than a few stories on the news, life has been pretty easy.
I’m talking about the majority of people. In terms of national epidemics, there has been few, if any. No wars destroying our borders or plagues wiping out half the population. Like I said, life has been pretty easy. However, in an odd way this, to some people, is demoralizing. It brings about a lack of meaning. Of course this varies with people but let’s take a step back and look at this from a broader view point.
Depression is on the rise, no question about that. And life has gotten easier (not simpler). I believe there is a strong correlation between these two factors. What was once war, battles, hunting and fighting for survival is now video games, movies and Netflix. Meat and food is at your local grocery store, not somewhere in the woods walking around on four legs. We all know this life of the couch potato and how modern society has created an easy lazy life, but what about this connection between adversity and happiness, or better yet, meaning and war?
With no war comes no meaning. War doesn’t have to be blood, guts and guns. War can be anything in which an opposition is competing for whatever desired goal or personal belongings the defender holds. That could be a business competitor stealing your clients. A nosy neighbor blowing leaves into your yard. A fellow student aiming to be first in their class. Or even an idea of yourself in the future opposing your current self and “habits”. With no one being drafted anymore, the options for war are few and thus, perhaps, they are being self manifested (otherwise life wouldn’t make sense?), like the neighbor blowing leaves into your yard.
Perhaps this need for war is also why the navy seal productive daily warlike attitude has risen in popularity, especially in young males (I write this as I look at Jocko Willink’s New York Times Bestselling book on how US Navy Seals Lead and Win). Not saying that this mindset is bad, as it often helps people out of a rut. Those who don’t have a war to fight – so they choose to battle themselves. They choose to fight their lazy and pleasure indulging selves, with their always having to improve, fight fight fight, selves. Thus giving them direction and meaning in life. This is also perhaps why Jordan B. Peterson has risen in popularity – different than Jocko but they dance on similar beats. As well as masochistic sporting events and even zombie apocalypse fantasizing.
Whether this type of creating meaning is right or wrong I cannot say. There are better ways for people to create meaning in their life that simply do not work for others. However, I think we can agree on that whatever means of creating meaning that helps others versus a selfish seeking war, is advantageous for everyone and humanity as a whole.
Although sometimes good and bad is just a matter of perspective.
Nevertheless, we are very fortunate to be raised in such a safe climate. The wars currently going on are horrible and a tragedy. Most of us have no idea what real war is like, including me. We should appreciate what we have and take full advantage of it (whatever than means). Those overseas are not that lucky. Even though it’s hard to be depressed when you’re fighting for your life.
A great book that relates to this topic of war and meaning is called Tribe by Sebastian Junger.