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June 13, 2016 / hbrowne4



Ennui in Contemporary Society


I watch as a group of birds alight by the koi pond. Their chirps seemed silent amid a languid drizzle that characterizes the wet season in Thailand.  The gentle breeze slides drafts of cool air over the pond. I watch the koi fish, so peaceful, so content, living a simple life, eating and swimming in the boundaries of the circular pool, all they’ll ever know.

I glance up at the birds. They sing the same songs over and over yet they never cease to be beautiful. They live a simple existence much like the koi fish. However, the birds need to worry about the harsh winds and unforgiving rain.  But still the birds fly to places unexplored.

Sometimes when things get hard, I wish I could be those koi fish. When assignments pile up and it seems like it’s just myself against the world. Why can’t I just escape? Jump on the next train to freedom? Leave the pain and suffering behind?

My mom used to say that life can’t get better than this and she’s sort of right. I live comfortably. I go to school, get the grades I need, come home and then sleep. I go to school, get the grades I need, come home and then sleep. Repeat. Over and over again. Routine is comfortable. Routine feels nice and it doesn’t hurt. But I always feel like there’s something missing. That there is a hole in my life that I can’t seem to fill. There must be something more.

If taken at face value, reality can become profoundly repetitive. The boredom of sedentary life is overbearing.

But we live in age now where technology seems to have no limit in what it can do, where we simply can wish the boredom away. Where the world is at my fingertips, where society can be mesmerized by electronic entertainment for free, forever.

My peers and I belong to a lost generation. Just as Hemingway and his peers belonged to the lost generation after the horrors of World War I. Our generation seems ensnared within its own prison of dark circularity, biting upon itself like a cosmic ouroboros. Wrapped up inside the virtual reality and hyper-connectedness of the modern age.

When I observe people in public, I don’t see anyone talking to each other anymore. Couples sit next to each other, yet their minds are in chains, locked in delusional self-constructed orbits, a thousand miles away from each other. No one is motivated to talk to each other anymore. Instead of talking, they scroll. Instead of listening, they like. Instead of feeling, they consume. People are addicted to technology. I am addicted.

I had dreams. I had aspirations. But when I wished away the boredom, I let the fear pass over and through me. I let it wedge itself between me and reality. The fear is what kills your mind. It’s what kills your dreams and aspirations.

Why do you think that there are so many broken dreams in this world?

We are a generation accustomed to being afraid. If I’m being honest, not just with you but with myself, it’s not only this generation, and it’s not just something we’ve grown used to. It’s the world, and it’s an addiction.

People crave fear. Fear justifies everything. Fear makes it okay to have surrendered freedom after freedom, until our every move is tracked and recorded in a dozen databases that the average man will never have access to. Fear creates, defines, and shapes our world, and without it, most of us would have no idea what to do with ourselves.

Our ancestors dreamed of a world without boundaries, while we dream new boundaries to put around our homes, our children, and ourselves. We limit our potential, day after day, in the name of a level of safety that we refuse to ever achieve. We took a world that was huge with possibility, and we made it as small and as flat as a pancake, squeezing ourselves along with it.

When I’m on my deathbed, a mere fraction of a lifetime from when I wrote this, I will realize nothing is going to save me. My father, who’s Buddhist, taught me at a young age that there are only three universal truths in this world; birth, life and death. You only control one.

You can’t control your birth, who, when, or where you are born, you can only choose to love them or not. You can’t control your death, nobody can die your death for you, and nobody can make you immortal. There is only one thing between birth and death and that is life and thus one could conclude that the only universal truth that you control is life;

I’m not afraid of death. I already see what I’m going to regret in life. I’m going to regret that I didn’t read enough, I didn’t laugh enough, I didn’t talk enough, I didn’t feel enough. I’m going to regret scrolling to the next page instead of talking to my mom. I’m going to regret watching that video instead of watching the sunset. I’m going to regret listening to music when I could have heard the beautiful symphonies of the birds.

I’m going to go through life, in a mere blink of an eye, consumed inside this silent addiction, chained to the screen of the phone.

When the rains drizzles and the birds alight by the koi pond, I like to take a moment and to let my mind wander. Inside the mind’s eye, the fear cannot find refuge. It’s funny what happens when you become bored and you trade the fear for something else.

The gentle breeze brings in a cool draft.

I look down into the depths of the pond and instead of the koi fish, I see myself. Then I look up at the birds and I see the person I could have become. For the koi fish to become the bird, it must have something in itself to fundamentally change. But for the time being, without metamorphosis the koi fish is chained inexorably to its watery home.



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