As much as we may complain about a multitude of things going wrong in the world, I suspect that many of us have a nagging impression—in a seldom-visited but persistent corner of our minds—that we’re living through desperately boring times.
These are very loud times, of course, but that doesn’t make them less boring.
An endless stream of bad news passes over our screens every day, accompanied by the best flashing images that the entertainment corps can come up with… yet somehow we know that it’s all an empty set of distractions.
And our instincts are right. Aside from the Internet, the past 20 years have been a snore, filled with sameness and conformity. They have featured no goals save bodily comfort and no aspirations save existence and status. Underlying it all has been a palette of manufactured fears that can only be salved by buying the right products or electing the right politicians. It’s been an age that rewarded neuters and punished vigorous individuals.
It all reminds me of a phrase from the late ‘50s:
In the US, you have to be a deviant or die of boredom.
Certainly a few people have had exciting and meaningful lives during these years, but they were definitely not people who followed mainstream paths; they were, in the proper sense of the word, deviants.
“Where There Is No Vision, the People Perish”
The phrase above comes from the Bible’s book of Proverbs, and it expresses an important truth: Humans, in order to live effectively and happily, need a goal—a vision—to pursue.
This is known as “teleological motivation” (or simply “teleology”), and it shows up in areas ranging from small to large. For example, when you decide to walk across a room, you don’t plan the contractions of your muscles, you just define the goal and activate your will; subconscious systems take over from there. From top to bottom, that’s just how we work.
So, with no goal, with no vision, we languish. And that’s been the problem for a long time now.
Are status and sex really all we have to grasp for? Are we no more than clever apes, chasing the same prizes they do, albeit more elegantly?
If you ask people “Where are we all going?,” you’ll get empty looks in response. And that’s because we have nowhere to go. There is no vision in our times, and the only quasi-visions we have are “elect Senator X” or “win the big game.” These are hardly appropriate goals for an actualized human life.
Not Long Ago, There Was a Vision
50 years ago, a billion of us were shocked to realize that we could go to the stars. After untold centuries of looking to the heavens, of wondering, dreaming, and mourning the impossibility, we saw that we could go out into the heavens. And for 10 years we took our first steps, successfully!
Those of us who are old enough remember the time well… because we had a goal to stretch toward: we were headed into space!
This wasn’t science fiction; it was real. I’ve been fortunate enough to have seen, with my own eyes, a manned spacecraft leave Earth, to have known people who worked at NASA, and even to have met one of the men who walked on the moon. And I can tell you that the missions to the moon were accomplished by normal human beings, just like you and me.
Heading into space was not fiction during my youth—it was a present fact… and it stood to change nearly everything.
That real and present goal is lost to us now. A few probes leave Earth’s gravity, but no more men and women.
What We’ve Lost
What we’ve lost can only be measured in the billions of unactivated lives.
After our first few steps out of our cribs, we were thrown back and surrounded with double-height rails. Since then, we’ve stagnated, and human culture has undergone a deep rot.
Now, we may watch sci-fi dramas about going to space, living in space, and even fighting in space, but we have given up all hope of going ourselves… even though it was done just one generation ago.
Humanity—having recently discovered the ability to expand without limit—wanders aimlessly, with no challenging goal, no elevated purpose, and no path of escape. Space travel was real just a few decades ago, and now it is lost to us.
And what became of the years since our vision was removed? There has been no striving, no searching, no becoming.
When we lost space, we lost our future.
Ever since then, we’ve had no brave goal to strive for, no magnificent vision to pursue. Several decades on, we remain in a kind of stasis, mollified with streaming vanities and base satisfactions.
Humanity’s future has been stolen and replaced with flashing pictures, cravings for “stuff,” and endless politics. It would be a joke, if it weren’t so pitiful.
Could space be replaced as a goal by something else? Sure, but it hasn’t been. And even if it were, we’d always know that the greatest adventure of all was once in our hands and is available no more. And unavailable is what it will stay, unless and until we decide to take it back, whether boss-men like it or not.
This article was originally published by Casey Research.