Monday, January 10, 2011

The Future, You Say?

Most people are capable of time travel. In fact, most people are incapable of not traveling time. I’m not referring to getting older, which is a voyage through time and space, but of repeating our actions in such a habitual way that yesterday is tomorrow and vice versa. It’s what the French poetically call the culture of métro-boulot-mégot-restau-dodo.The rhyming may not challenge Verlaine, but the meaning is clear. Commute, work, cigarette, food, sleep.  Repeat five days a week. We largely repeat our actions on our free days too. Dry clean, vacuum and dust, shop, bills, sex, friends and relations. In fact, a modern poet from New Jersey wrote it best: GTL—Gym Tan Laundry.

For most of us, our present is our future, and there aren’t that many surprises. Random events can alter this slightly—new job, new geographical location, new relationship, new car—but then the patterns repeat themselves, though perhaps—if we’re lucky—in different places and different colors. There isn’t much of an escape for the majority. Few of us go bungee jumping or compete in extreme anything, and even fewer attempt to express themselves using means outside of their immediate identity, so we end up living up to Einstein’s contention that madness is doing the same thing over and over again while hoping for different results.

I have a pet theory that this endless repetition is partially responsible for addiction. The addict, by definition, unhappy and uncomfortable where he or she is, wants to exit the squirrel cage, unaware that he or she is trading a large cage for a desperately small one that will even further restrict the potential for a future.  But it’s a different cage, and for the nonce, that’s what’s important. When one feels so disengaged from and at odds with a repetitive future, any offering of change is a gift.

But of course nothing is more rote than an addict’s life, dominated as it is by a single, irresistible and unsustainable force. Addiction offers not even small surprises and the cosmic joke among addicts is that by trying to escape, they’ve become even greater prisoners.

So the next time you think the future beckons, think again…

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