Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I should be so lucky

I'm an incredibly lucky man. Pretty much everyone I know to talk to is also blessed - with a lifestyle that didn't exist even a hundred years ago. Talking a few days ago with a friend, we discussed how human societies for the last few millenia have strived, fought and died aiming for the simple goal of trying to be the very people we are today.

Technologically, this is strongly evident. Even if we begin to take what we have today for granted, there is always something new on the horizon that jolts us out of our perceptions of what is possible - who could have believed even 20 years ago that I would be able to hold a realtime conversation with friends three thousand miles away as though we were in the same room, essentially for free? Who could believe that we would see videos of events on the other side of the world captured by ordinary citisens broadcast minutes later to anyone who cares to watch? Who would have believed that we would be able to look at the roof of our house, see our car in the driveway, all through a computer screen?

All of these things have been imagined by authors, of course. Most science facts are proposed in science fiction well before they occur in reality. That doesn't detract from the fact that we really can do all of the things in the list above - and they're not even strange to contemplate now, they're actually comfortable parts of our lives. Undoubtedly there will be advances in the near and far future that bring more of people's imagination to life, that change our capabilies as humans even further than we have already gone.

When you look outside technology, it seems less obvious, but it's no less stunning just how incredibly good we have it. I can walk to the shops, right now, and buy - well, just about anything. A new TV? no problem. Fruit that isn't even grown in this country? check. A pair of shoes, or the latest movie? Batteries? check, check, check. I have the library of the world's media at my fingertips, the produce from every corner of the world at my whim. We are the ultimate in opportunistic consumers, and we take it completely for granted.

What do we do with this incredible opportunity we have available to us? Do we use our time to good ends? Do we appreciate the fantastic opportunity that the entire rest of human civilisation has killed itself to give us? I can only answer that question for myself, as everyone in this world really is different, and I know there's some pretty solid yes and no answers out there, but stepping away from the black and white, I think this is the thing that defines whether you really are a good person or not.

We have time, love, thought and motion, all in limited quantities. Are you making the best of them? I know i'm not, but i'm beginning to think that if there is a point to our existence, it has to be putting them to the most use you can get out of them. Humanity, from the start till right now, has been about nothing else other than delivering you and me to this time, and giving us just about every conceivable tool, toy and list of instructions that any human before us could have dreamed of.

Time is something you can keep for yourself, or give to someone else. Both are valuable, if you make them - helping a friend decorate, teaching a new skill to your child, Learning a language - these seem like pretty good uses of time to me. Watching the "news" with the same recycled stories about interchangeable celebrities that i've never met, or the 100th in a series of celebrity cook-offs - these are starting to look like bad investments to me. I read a really interesting post about dedicating time to work and time to improve yourself recently, where the author thought that 40 hours working and 20 hours improving your skills was something to strive for, and I have to agree with him. I may disagree about the focus of the 20 hours, but the important lesson, I feel, is that you should be doing something useful with it not wasting it.

Love is free to give, and done the right way it's what makes being a human feel worthwhile. Something special happened to me this April that has made me begin to appreciate the loves in my life, and I can only hope that I give it back to the people who deserve it (and more) as I get older and wiser.

Thought and motion have been discussed endlessly by men and women far brighter than I could ever hope to be, but I like to do them both. I doubt it would hurt for me to put a bit more effort into the motion part of the equation, especially given that I aim to live forever - Maybe it's time to bring out the Wii fit again.

I had intended to write something about how obsessive i'm becoming about my time, and how some other concerns are starting to fade (power, money, celebrity). I had intended to post a diatribe about how most people seem caught up in the rat race, too busy killing themselves and each other stiving for what we've already got - but then, on the face of it, life is too bloody brilliant to waste it worrying about that. I think instead, i'm going to finish this post and go learn something that will make my wife smile. <3 to you all.

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