Ephemera: (plural of ephemeron)
publications that are designed to be short lived
We in the modern West are living inside a giant ephemera machine. Every day we receive more than a thousand messages telling us what to fear, what to identify with, what to compare ourselves to, and of course, what we should buy.
Nearly all of this is ephemera – things that will matter nothing next year, much less in the long run.
I’m especially aware of this because I lived about as free from this ephemera as was possible in the modern West. (At least while still living and working in the larger world.) Beginning in 1977 and lasting into 1990, I chose not to own a television. I listened to just a little bit of radio and read newspapers only occasionally. I still don’t know who shot J.R., though I know it was a big deal to the people I worked with.
Those were the days before the internet and cell phones, of course. The ephemera storm was small, compared to what it is now. Escaping it was easier, though it was still thought to be very weird.
And I’ll tell you the truth about it: I missed almost nothing.
Consider the thousands of hours I didn’t waste on trivialities: which liar got elected to which office, which “leader” was caught doing what to some young person, which local potentate was insulted by which foreign potentate and wanted people to clamor for war.
Instead, I tended to my family and read books. Ignoring the ephemera was a great advantage to me. (And I avoid it pretty well to this day.)
The Great Misdirection
Avoiding the ephemera, however, is about more than wasted time, as massive as that may be. Rather, it’s about learning to appreciate ourselves and to use what’s inside of us.
Ephemera, as you no doubt understand, can consume nearly your entire life nowadays, and for many millions of people, it does consume their lives. TV to wake up with, Facebook during breakfast, Talk Radio on the way to work, Twitter at lunch time, more radio on the way home, Facebook again during dinner, and then TV to fall asleep to. These people seldom have a self-generated thought the whole day. All their thoughts are put there by someone else.
This massive waste has become epidemic in recent years, but even this isn’t the core problem. The deeper issue is this:
People consumed with ephemera never learn to use the magic that’s inside them.
And there is magic inside of us – all of us. Jesus was on to something when he taught that “the kingdom of God is within you.” Finding it and using it, however, takes time and work. Those whose lives are consumed with ephemera will never get there.
If you read about creative people, you’ll find that they all learned to draw beauty and innovation out of themselves. You simply cannot do that while consuming ephemera 24/7. As the great educator, John Taylor Gatto, said:
Growth and mastery come only to those who vigorously self-direct.
Self-direction is essential, and ephemera is its natural enemy.
Now, please consider this passage from Carl Jung’s Psychology and Alchemy:
People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own souls. They will practice Indian yoga and all its exercises, observe a strict regimen of diet… all because they cannot get on with themselves and have not the slightest faith that anything useful could ever come out of their souls.
Sadly, Jung was right. Millions of people have no confidence that a path forward could possibly lie inside themselves… and nearly all those who are plugged into the ephemera machine are that way.
We really are capable of drawing good and great things out of ourselves. And these are the truly satisfying things of life. Once you’ve done this a few times, you come to accept that you are an agent of progress upon Earth – that you are a net positive in the world.
Please believe me that this runs far deeper and is far more solid than any amount of money or fame. This is what we really want out of life, and the ephemera machine is stealing it from millions of us.
So, yes, we should all unplug from the ephemera machine. We need to walk away from the status quo and get busy building a better way of life.
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