Google Productivity Pad: The dangers of consumption

Monday, November 3, 2014

The dangers of consumption

Once Tuberculosis was one of the most deadly killers in the world, and during that time it was commonly referred to by a different name: Consumption. This was because it would decimate the infected person's body weight while it was destroying their lungs. In essence it would "consume" them.

Now we live in a time when, at least here the U.S. where I live, Tuberculosis is fairly well under control. In some parts of the world it is still deadly. But here in the U.S. we now have a different kind of "consumption" disease, one that attacks the mind instead of the lungs, and which tends to increase rather than decrease the person's body weight. And there is a real danger to how quickly this infection is spreading. 

Let me explain: there are primarily two kinds of actions we can take as human beings, actions of consumption and actions of creation. Whenever we eat, read, watch, or view something we are acting in consumption. Whenever we grow, cook, write, draw, film, edit, speak, design, program, build, invent, or think something we are acting in creation. 

Of all the animals in the world we are the only ones that have moved from consumption to creation. I personally believe this is because we are not animals but children of a divine creator. But, whatever you believe you cannot deny that this is the case, no other species creates on the level of humans.

The symptoms
But even though we are the only creative species on the planet we have come to a point where we value consumption above all else. Let me share a few examples:

The streaming giant has built an empire out of consumption. Now don't get me wrong I like Netflix as much as the next guy, and no corporation or technology can be held responsible for our own personal actions, but I have gotten concerned with the introduction of the auto play feature. What this introduces is the rampant consumption of one T.V. show after another (which yes I know people were doing before anyway).

Here is the concern, this symptom points to an underlying problem that people consume without thought anymore, they are seeking the stimulus above all else, and have to seek more and more of that stimulus. People no longer think about what they are taking in, they don't analyze the work that has been put before them, in essence they don't create anything with what they have consumed. Like little Pacmen they go through life with their mouths wide open, constantly seeking to consume more and more of whatever stimulates.

Movie Theaters:
Go to movies sometime, and stay in the theater until the credits have finished rolling, then look around you. If there happens by some lucky chance to be somebody left you should make friends with that person. Why? Because they value creation. They have stayed around long enough to give a little bit of respect as a consumer to the people who create.

Besides respect there is another good reason to stay through the credit roll, it gives you a chance for contemplation of the film you have just seen. This gives you a chance to make meaning from it, the opportunity to become a creator. The soundtrack of the film and the concept art that often accompanies the credit roll help to facilitate thoughtful remembrance of it. If you came with someone you could even talk with them about what they thought; because guess what, there is nobody else in the theater.

So often our consumption of movies and other entertainment never goes beyond the superficial question of : "did you like that?" we never get to the more important question of why? A question that invites creation. In fact being a thoughtful consumer of media these days can often make people annoyed. They do not want to actually think about anything. They have already moved on to seeking the next stimulus and if you are still contemplating the last one they find that frustrating because it requires something of them, something they are not prepared to deal with.

In addition to movie theaters we could talk about live theaters. I have been to broadway shows that I know people have paid hundreds of dollars to attend only to see people get up a leave before the curtain call, sometimes before the last scene because they think the last scene has happened. Far more than at movie theaters this is a sign of complete and utter disrespect for the creators who have just put so much work into providing you with entertainment. But you don't have time to stay because you need to move on to the next stimulus, probably your smartphone.

We are like a culture of addicts, constantly looking for the next hit, never satisfied by what we have just consumed.

Throw-away culture
Let's turn away from entertainment for a moment to look at physical objects. When was the last time you repaired something or paid to have something repaired? Probably not recently. See repairing is an act of sub-creation, and we don't value that in our society. The only things we repair are those that we still consider major expenses: cars and houses. What do we value? The ability to consume rapidly. If my toaster or my television is broken that endangers my ability to consume so it has to go and be replaced by a new one. A snazzier one that will probably break twice as quickly.

I am not going to deal with this in depth, it is just another manifestation of the throwaway culture of rapid consumption we live in. We don't fix things, we throw them away and get new ones, whether that be toasters or spouses. Marriage is act of creation at its very core, it is no wonder then that it cannot survive when viewed merely as an activity of consumption. When the stimulus is gone or ceases to be easy, we move on to the next hit.

You were created for more

The truth of the matter is that you were meant to be a creator. It is creation that actually drives the human mind to joy. It is creation that advances society. It is creation that brings us closer to that divine Creator who created us.

What can be done?
Well, we won't change the whole world with one blog post, but you can change, and you can do it now. If you recognize symptoms of rampant consumption in your own life, then stop being that way and start being a creator.

They first step I believe is to stop taking in without putting out. So the next time you go to a movie, or watch a show on Netflix or Youtube, begin with analysis. Go deeper than a superficial "did you like it." Ask why you liked it? Ask what the major theme was? Ask how you feel about the characters moral choices? Ask what the symbols were and what they represented?

If know one will talk to you because this behavior of creation is too radical for them, then do it yourself, you could write it down to make it more real.

Here is the point, stop going to consume things and brining nothing to them. Everyone can at least bring thinking to everything that they do. So don't take anything in without making something of it. If your body did that it would die, your mind is the same way.

Analysis will actually cause you to start seeking higher quality content, because you will know that whatever you consume you are going to be thinking about a good while to follow. This is the same with food, once you start thinking about what you are eating you start eating better.

The Internet
The internet has enabled massive mindless consumption of worthless low quality content on a global scale. But it has enabled every person with access to it to become a creator of something. It has enabled both the acts of creation, and learning how to do them. It has also facilitated conversation and analysis on a large scale.

So decide that the internet will become more than a tool of consumption for you. Decide to do something with what you find there. And not just anything, but something meaningful.

I know this has been a long post, but I think it is important. Please share this post. There is danger here and so I hope this post will inspire at least one person to think, remember, and live better.

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