Category Archives: Modern Life

Let’s ban plastic and styrofoam, it’s 2013 – time for real change!

Yesterday, something small happened that brought into the light just how big the problems are. I was walking back to my apartment when a gust of wind came through the street. It knocked down a garbage pail right at my feet and its contents – namely a one-off plastic bag filled with remnants of someone’s lunch – went tumbling down the street. This is unfortunately a normal occurrence, but how do we abolish the root of the problem?

Living in a major city, the pollution really is out of control and it’s sad to see how little people really care. There’s been such a big movement toward using reusable bags and it’s good to see how much that’s picked up, but what about the people that simply don’t care? What about the people that stopped at a bodega for a sandwich and the cashier wastefully put it in a bag? The solution really should be to ban plastic bags (and for that matter, plastic in general). How is it 2013 and we’re still using all these horrible materials? I would have thought we would have a solution to this by now.

When I was in Europe, you had to pay if you wanted a bag, this would be a very easy way to help, if we could have an alternative to plastic bags that were biodegradable, that would be even better. You’re simply not going to convince everyone that this is a problem, so we have to think bigger. I know there are alternatives, but it seems to be inhibited by cost. How do we make things like this a priority? How do we make something like this a national or even better, world-wide change?

Getting past the distraction of modern life

distraction of modern life

My grandmother, Mom and Aunt (twins) in the Bronx circa 1940′s. One of my favorite pictures ever.

Looking through old photographs of my mom and grandparents living in New York City in the 1950’s and beyond, I always become mesmerized by them. I like to imagine a time when life was so much more raw, simple and in-the-moment. Their neighborhood was clean, brick walls, with maybe a tasteful hand-painted advertisement on the side of one building per block–you wouldn’t even recognize that it was a city according to today’s standards.

I try to imagine being in those photographs; things were very hard then in a lot of ways, but they weren’t as complicated. People were so much more engaged, with family and friends integrated into their lives, they didn’t have therapists to talk to, they were surrounded by a support system–the way things really should be. Now, as I live in a building where I don’t even know any of my neighbors, it’s such a strange new dynamic.

distraction of modern life

Grandpa with pet horses (In the Bronx!)

The older generation left the house knowing where to go and when to meet someone, there was a commitment to be upfront. Today you leave the house with your head half screwed on and realizing that it’s ok, you can figure out where you’re going on your phone and text the person with up-to-the-minute details of how late you’re going to be.

Our lives now are all distraction from the life in front of us, we’re rarely in the moment; it’s actually difficult to be in the moment. Even if you were to take a day off of technology, the distraction finds a way. Notice the advertisements in front of you–visual pollution–everything is competing for your attention. I’ve noticed there are advertisements even on the bars of subway turnstiles.

distraction of modern life

My mom and aunt (twins). Who would know that they’re in NYC?

Now a simple walk in the street is even a distraction, we’re updating our Facebooks and Twitters with our findings, if we have people over the house, we’re sure to broadcast it onto the internet instead of just enjoying our company.

It’s so easy to become distracted, our whole lives can easily be given up to distraction if we let them. The challenge is to catch yourself in the act and keep life in moderation.

The Internet has put us in The Age of Truth, pros and cons

Because of technology and the Internet, we’re living in the age of truth. With technology, everything is exposed; the Internet is a resource where anything we want to know about is literally at our fingertips. We’re now seeing every aspect of almost any given subject in its entirety. Nothing much is a secret anymore, all it takes is a statement on a high-traffic blog or a social networking site and it can easily and casually become common knowledge. A politician is running for office, all it can take is someone to drudge up a video of him in a not-so-nice light and his career is potentially diminished.

Some classify this time as The Age of Aquarius, which means an awakening in humanity when things are exposed for what they really are. I link this as a result of the Internet. It’s hard not to notice how different life is now as opposed to what it was even 15 years ago and how this new way of life isn’t going anywhere (and even if it was, our lives are changed for good).

We live in a time that’s completely different from any other age in history. Kids are being born using technology and having it so engrained in their lives, they don’t know any other way. This is good as it is bad. It’s bringing us together and it’s isolating us at the same time. People are finding what they need but are engaging less in the lives in front of them. Through blogging, social media and Internet dating, people are finding other people they wouldn’t necessarily meet in their own lives, which is good but we’re becoming dependent on it. We’re pinpointing specifics and requiring more specific things instead of accepting the whole.

As I’ve stated before, the Internet is a very powerful tool, we must learn to use it as one and not abuse its power. It’s never been easier to impact so many people at once, we need to take advantage of that.

 

“These kids these days” and “that Internet”

I’m by no means an old timer, but I keep finding myself thinking like one seeing the transition of my generation (early Gen Y) to the youth of today. Seeing “these kids” on the streets mades me really have no desire to have kids of my own (among other reasons). As you can figure out from my last statement, I don’t have children. I do, however, have lots of friends and family who do and I see what’s different about raising them now as opposed to my generation and beyond.

Kids are growing up with the Internet and technology so engrained in their lives, they don’t know any different way. They’re fully accustomed to being over-stimulated and their brains constantly on overdrive, that they’re just geared different than any other generation. Remember high school and how overwhelming it was? Well, now add a smart phone and social media–that’s the life of a current teen (and younger!). Remember the cliques in high school? Now imagine it more defined by who is Facebook friends with whom and how much you can see and tell about a classmate online before even having to talk to them. Parents who care, have to really keep on what their kids are doing, they don’t even have full control unless they’re over their shoulder every step of the way. I’ve heard mind-blowing stories from teacher-friends who have to deal with it daily.

The Internet affects every part of our lives, even things we don’t consider. Life is more complex than it ever was and it’s exponentially getting more so. The generations before the Internet boom had cliques, but they were simpler, things were more centralized. If, for example, music split a group, there was a group that listened to heavy metal, there was a group that listened to rap, and another that were into jazz. Everything has become so branched out, there are so many subcategories within subcategories that once again, it’s leading to isolation. We are–and especially kids are–faced with too many options.

I feel fortunate to be born in a time to see life before the Internet through the transition of what it is today. My generation is technically the last generation that wasn’t born and raised as being totally dependent on technology. It’s an overwhelming time we live in; we’re bombarded with information everywhere we go.

We don’t realize how powerful of a tool this is and since it’s such a casual part of our lives, its power is abused.

The Prescription Pill Epidemic: Why we are taking pills for everything and anything

“These days, you need a pill for everything: a pill to sleep, a pill to wake, a pill to eat, a pill to crap. What the hell is it all about!?”
– My 93 year old Grandma (who’s been saying this for years)

prescription pillsRight on, Grandma! Let me take a stab at why I believe this to be true. Society is in a state where we have never been so far removed from nature. If 95% of us were just dropped off into the wilderness, there’s no chance in hell we would live a week. We know how to sit at a desk and work and make money to keep living, but our raw survival skills are completely diminished.

Although what’s in front of us seems normal–or it’s become what’s normal to us–it’s not normal. We rarely know where our food comes from, most of it’s ridden with chemicals, pesticides, processed beyond the point of recognition and then served in plastic–a hideous material as well as a carcinogenic. Lets break down Grandma’s colorful words a bit more, shall we?

A pill to sleep
We’re on technology all day long, whether it be the TV, computer, tablet, smart phone, etc, etc, etc, we don’t even realize how casually we’re on these things. We’re bombarded with bad news, visual stimulation, violence, we’re having rough days at work, and interacting less with other people, staying up late and not getting enough sleep.

These machines are stimulating our eyes and minds and we’re using them right up to the point we sleep. How are you going to get a good night sleep after cramming all that into a day? And don’t get me started on energy drinks and caffeine!

A pill to wake
After a bad night’s sleep (as noted above), we’re then setting our alarm clock to make sure we don’t sleep in (when that’s all we need is sleep), we force ourselves awake, we’re groggy from not getting enough sleep OR ALSO from taking a pill to sleep, we get up, don’t eat when our body’s starving, start loading up the caffeine to amounts that aren’t normal for human consumption and wonder why we’re constantly in a state of tired and over-stimulated. Now, what’s easier? Adjusting all the mal-aligned patterns? Or taking a pill?

A pill to eat
Although under-eating is seemingly not much of an epidemic in this country, as a society, we’re overworked, don’t have time to eat and stressed out beyond comprehension. Our bodies are very resilient, they really adjust to a lot of torture we put them through. Sometimes we don’t even realize we’re hungry when our bodies are, we get in the habit of depriving ourselves of food and then do end up needing supplements to resume basic living functions.

A pill to crap
People don’t understand what a well-balanced diet means. We always hear “eat your veggies” growing up, but we never learned the incentive. Well, there are a ton of diseases and disorders that come from complications of not eating a well balanced diet. I know plenty of people that simply eat meat and potatoes, some are lucky enough to be thin (which may be prone to stroke) and most I would say are overweight (prone to heart attack). I know there are a lot of people who have conditions intestinal disorders, but I feel like it’s a change of intake or lifestyle that has to at least be tried before reaching for that pill box.

Other pills (which Grandma has brought up in other quotes):
Antidepressants
Again, we’re severely over stimulated and overstressed. Times are not simple, we’re constantly on the go and watching our lives so-casually pass us by. We’re on Facebook watching other people living the lives we think we want and our heads are spinning. What we need to do is figure out what is and isn’t working for us and adjust our lives accordingly instead of numbing ourselves up to not deal with anything.

In all these cases, instead of dealing with the problems, we’re just medicating. Quick fixes never work, they just hold the problems at bay, so although times aren’t easy right now, we need to work on what’s not working for us rather than sweep it under the carpet and hope we don’t trip over it.

Video games and violence… notice a correlation?

video games and violenceViolence is becoming the status quo in our lifetime, we turn on The News and it’s all violence. Unfortunately, drama sells. Being that I’m in the last generation to see life before the internet boom, I remember how modest video games started out, and I’ve seen somewhat of the transition to what it is now (although I haven’t played a video game since I was about 12 years old).

A few months ago, I was with some family visiting my oldest brother. He had to run out and asked us to watch the kids a bit. My little nephew, who, in my opinion (and I’m not alone here), naturally has a mean streak, showed me his new video game, which was him with a machine gun in a corporate office gunning down executives, not only that, but each shot a graphic blood bath.

My jaw dropped when I saw this. My sister and I couldn’t believe it. We asked him “Do Mommy and Daddy know you play this game?” and he said yes. Now, I’m not one to tell people how to live their lives or tell them how to parent because I know from past experience who is going to listen to me and who is not. The bigger problem is that this is a microcosm, which is shining light on the macrocosm. These kids are playing these intensely violent video games with not even a reaction as to what’s going on in them. Violence becomes the norm, and especially now, when kids are born with media and endless entertainment intertwined in their lives, this is a major problem. Instead of running around outdoors and getting stuff out of their system, they’re getting wound up and excited while sitting still. Video games are not a release.

‘The News’ is nothing but bad news

“I get the news I need on the weather report.”
– Simon And Garfunkel, The Only Living Boy In New York

The news is bad news: doom and gloomThere is nothing wrong with watching a little TV (in moderation), I personally don’t own or want one, but I know and appreciate that there are plenty of good, clever, captivating and well-done shows out there. With that being said, the problem I mostly find with TV is The News, it’s really morphed into something quite gruesome.

I work in front of a computer, so I try to be away from technology as much as possible. A year ago, after feeling totally stir crazy from working in front of a computer, I decided to join the gym. Much to my demise, I get on an elliptical almost everyday now which faces a full wall of TV screens. I try my best to look out the window as to avoid the doom and gloom–that is–The News, but I can’t help but notice it. The sound is off, but it’s easy to improvise what they’re saying. There are tragedies that happen daily, it’s awful, but how many times can you hear the same tragedies and what are we getting out of it? People sit in front of the TV as it squawks the same news on repeat.

Of course there is no escaping The News. Unless you live in a shack on the mountain, it finds a way. Just after the tragic Sandy Hook shooting, I was at a bodega, waiting in line and news talk was blaring over the speakers. One woman talking said she had been following the Sandy Hook incident closely and at some point, she questioned how much she was thriving on it because at some point, it was all the same news. It was a horrible thing that happened, but it was an event and the news just keeps drudging up the same facts over and over. Why are we escalating these things? When you start seeing something as part of your daily life, it’s just making it the norm.

I took a class by one of my favorite authors, Julia Cameron, a few years ago (if you haven’t read her work, I highly suggest starting with The Artist’s Way). It’s a 12 week class/program and every week we were given a “homework assignment.” This particular assignment was to spend the week of media deprivation: no watching/following any media including reading so that we could see our own path instead of following someone else’s.

The next week when we returned, Julia asked what people’s thoughts were, they ranged all over the place, but one person’s feedback in general stuck with me to this day. The woman in my class said that she was an avid follower of the news and would follow it daily, it was very hard for her to just let go of it for a week but she did it and upon getting back to her routine the following week, she realized not much changed.

I find that so interesting, the news is just reporting what’s selling, it’s a machine that’s there to captivate and get ratings. Reporters really have to try harder and harder to deal not only with their endless competition, but also, their audience who’s attention span is diminishing at alarming rates.

If you want to know about the news, you don’t have to even turn the TV on, we can all sum up what’s happening.