Thursday 22 September 2011

The wasteland - post maturity, pre-marriage


I am not talking about having 'fun' or feeling happy on a day to day basis; but in terms of life being significant in retrospect.

From that perspective, life was significant until I had 'grown-up' - which seemed to finish about aged 21.

Then, in retrospect, I was filling-in time for more than a decade until I got married - and the longer this gap extended, the more obvious was the fact that nothing I did to amuse myself really mattered.

Of course, this was the time of all the 'action' in my life as far as the world outside was concerned, all the stuff that is supposed to be important - academic success, career progress, travel, high living...

It's just that - both at the time, and even more in retrospect - well, it amounts to a big effort at keeping myself distracted.

This is not an expression of regret - not a matter of saying that I wish I had done something different (because then I would not have married my wife, had my children) but that from experience it seems that people are meant to get married and start families in their early twenties or thereabouts.

That is real life - and all the lifestyle stuff is nothing, really.

The wasteland.

And a society which apparently values that twentysomething/ thirtysomething stuff such that it is organized strategically to defer and defer marriage and families to make way for it, and self-propagandizes relentlessly in favour of lifestyle and against the real business of living - well, that is a sick society.



The Crow said...

Maybe everyone needs to experience living in that wasteland, to be able to recognize it as a wasteland.
When you're young, nobody can tell you "you shouldn't waste time on such things".
Only as time starts to visibly run out, does one count and recount the lost hours, days, weeks and years.
That's fine though, really.
Do you notice how much more slowly time passes when you're really living in each moment?

The Continental Op said...

We have had too much prosperity, have not handled it well.

Does anyone take a vow of poverty any more? It's unthinkable these days.

The Crow said...

A vow of poverty? There's an interesting concept. I think it would be a good thing.
I've been as poor as anyone in history. I enjoyed it. Life was immeasurably simpler than it is now.

I could return to that, although I would rather not, having the knowledge of how to survive it.
The trick to poverty is accepting it, and resisting the urge to cast blame elsewhere.

Uland said...

I couldn't agree more. I resisted having children for fear that it would interfere with my plans of being a writer. I struggled throughout my twenties, wondering why my attempts rang hollow.It was after "giving in" that I realized I essentially didn't have anything worth writing about before children— before the reality of life and death and time was made known through them.

The comedian Louis C.K said something in an interview I took note of: (paraphrase) ' I wasn't funny in my twenties. Sure, people laughed, but it wasn't really funny because nothing was at stake.'

Nothing is at stake in the wasteland.

Wurmbrand said...

I was much more given to irony in my twenties than I became in my forties and fifties, as a father of children who are now adults. A cheap irony.

Catherine said...

Maybe everyone needs to experience living in that wasteland, to be able to recognize it as a wasteland.

I would subscribe to this viewpoint more if a woman's fertility didn't peak at 24. What's the point of a learning experience if you've missed your chance to do much with the lesson?

Bruce Charlton said...

@Catherine - I agree. The problem is that the wasteland is addictive, and (as you say) time is limited.

One group of modern people who have deleted the wasteland era from their lives are devout Mormons; who marry and start families in the early twenties (despite the period of time spent on a mission). They end up with higher than average education, income and fertility - so apparently this strategy is successful.

Gabe Ruth said...

I didn't spend that long in the wasteland, but you're right about its being addictive. Even if you don't give yourself over to hedonism, having time to yourself can be very enjoyable and giving that up unpleasant.
I remember teetering on the brink, clinging to selfishness and telling myself some day I would do something significant that I wouldn't be able to do if I were married. And then the euphoria after I decided to let that go. To say that decision was selfless wouldn't be quite right, and would be very unfair to my wife, but being married has led to more selfless actions than I would have otherwise done, and the effect on my habits is striking whenever I consider my wasteland days.

Brett Stevens said...

One of the great awakenings of maturation is to realize that "lifestyle" is a product sold by media for the convenience of those who need granular labor and distracted consumers.