Generally speaking, we in the West have it so easy these days. Yet people complain a lot, become bitter and cynical. It is easy to become cynical when we forget how good things really are. This is an age where people are safer, healthier, happier and more educated than we have ever been before. We have opportunities to explore life and ourselves and become our true potential. This is not something that we have had much of in days gone by. Yet many of us aspire to go backwards to 'the way things were'. What is it that we are wanting to go back to? And why can't we see the blessings and opportunities we have right now?
I remember when I was younger, I was really into history in a romantic sense. Historical fiction and fantasy was very appealing. It still is, to some degree, but I have realized how quickly I was to be cynical about the present time, to become disillusioned and pine for a 'fantasy' of days gone by.
When 'Lord of the Rings' came out in film I was tantalized by the romantic feel of ancient times. We may think of such times in a poetic way - even up to several hundred years ago. When things were simple and 'natural', when we believed and we fought for family, king and country and the glory of our belief systems. These belief systems were often quite simplistic and ignorance was what ruled the day.
Have you ever thought that, perhaps, many of us are disillusioned these days because we have broken many of our illusions and ignorant beliefs and customs? Perhaps we are in a twilight zone of coming to grips with the Greater Reality and learning how to live in true accordance with it, when all the ignorant spin doctorings have been extracted. I am not suggesting that life is not wonderful and even magickal in its unknown and secret properties. I believe that there are still quests and wonderfully brave deeds to aspire to, conquer and tell tales about around the fire. There are still romances and swooning pleasures to enjoy. There are still many things to learn about the world, each other and ourselves.
Many of us think that the world is a corrupt wasteland, where all the meaning and joy has been taken away. Many people believe that corrupt governments led by corrupt corporations control their hearts and minds and bank accounts. I am not necessarily saying that such people are completely wrong, but what I am saying is that we are losing sight of the wood for the trees. The world, as we know it and enjoy it today in the West, is a fantastically wonderful place to be. The world today is a very beautiful thing. Yes there will always be disturbing horrors that arise from time to time, and that would always be the case. If we see beyond such things, which are rarer than you think if you were to realize that our experience of mass media at the moment makes small and seldom event seem so much worse, more prolific and common than they actually are. This is simply because we have greater coverage of such events with stories and images at our finger tips and gracing across our eyeballs where ever we turn to a screen of some sort.
Things are actually much better than you think. Many of our so called fears are in our own minds. These fears were more or less true until recently -but now we have more of a reprieve from our fears than we would think. We have become conditioned to be afraid because of ancient and recent history, and we are still cynical and afraid even if we need not be, because we have become used to it. If we were to look back at the middle ages or dark ages, times beset in such tales as 'Lord of the Rings' (though it be a fantasy parallel world of 'Middle Earth') as one historian named it: 'Life was nasty, brutish and short'.We may look at paganism and druidism of England and Europe as peaceful, natural and egalitarian, yet we forget the savagery of human sacrifice and ignorance that defined such religions and ways of life.
We forget how bad things once were. How enslaved men were to their 'owners' or employers alike. How enslaved women were to their 'owners' and men alike. How enslaved children were to all the above. And this enslavement was far more common than you would think. Most people were enslaved to extremely rigid, ignorant and violent belief systems. The church in those days was wildly corrupt and utterly intolerant. In the dark ages millions of people died because of disagreements in their beliefs about the exact nature of God; whether they believed or not, and whether they were good people was more inconsequential than their rigid adherence to a dominating cult belief system. Whether God was 'one or three'. People were so insecure that if you did not 100% give over to what you were told and eat it completely until it possessed you in mind and body, then you would either burn in hell or burn at the altar of a witch trial! Even in England in the 1400's, there was a northern town that boasted of burning more than 180 women per day as witches until there were no women left, and men were taken to barbarism and 'shagging of swine'. The irony does not do the event justice. Kangaroo courts of deranged judges ruled the day, corrupt and defiled bishops and monarchies treated people as their play things. We were herded like cattle! Might made right and there were no 'checks and balances', no freedom of speech, no understanding of relativism and acceptance of differences that we take very much for granted nowadays.
Diseases spread like wildfire. Nutrition was extremely poor. Salad was not even heard of! Water was thought of as dirty and disease ridden (because they did not understand that sewerage ought to be separated from drinking water!). LIfe expectancy was extremely short. Wars were constantly fought, and only the very rich or powerfully elite were taught how to read, write and do mathematics. For well over a thousand years, even the Bible itself could only be read by the clergy, and even then in Latin! One was not even allowed to understand what someone else was reading, and thus one was not allowed to make up their true mind about what one believed. We were cannon fodder, and thrown onto pitch and lance, arrow and sword like it was going out of fashion. We lived in dread and fear. Even last century, we were herded over trenches to face gattling guns and machine guns with only a heroic scream as our shield. This was how life was. To even get through it to old age was miraculous.
Think of the Black Death that decimated Europe and left about 20% alive after its scourge in the middle ages. Think of how husbands were allowed or even encouraged to beat their wives with the 'rule of thumb' - so long as you used a beating rod no thicker than the man's thumb it was acceptable. That children were completely oppressed, seen and not heard to say the least, and treated as sub-human until they came of age. Even the Emperor of Rome, Caligula, was a child sex slave before he became the mightiest man on earth. Brutality, ignorance and vileness did not discriminate any class, and this has been repeated across history until very recently.
And look now at what we have. The systems, the checks and balances, the health care system and legal system at our disposal, the freedoms to be whoever we want to be and do pretty much what we like. Yes there are some flaws, and let us not forget that it is up to us to correct these flaws - not just whine and bitch and complain. We can make things even better. So perhaps - might I suggest - we should focus on what we have, how far we've come and what we've still left to do to make things even better. Let us relax as well and enjoy the relative safety, freedom, education and health; the wonders and pleasures and triumphs of this splendid New Age - because my friends it is already well afoot.