The market is tanking, we're treading water in expensive wars, unemployment is high, people are eating garbage, school is failing us, our government is dysfunctional, pollution is rampant, kids are hooked on drugs, and our prisons are packed. Many things are going horribly wrong with this world, and I'd even say that some metrics we might judge ourselves by are at an all-time low.
If you focus on these things, and by that I mean "watch the news", you might reminisce about a better time. You might think of the booming markets of the 1980s, the relatively peaceful 2000s, or even the pollution-free 1500s. You could yearn for the fifties when kids listened to their parents, ate their vegetables, and could count on a solid career right out of college.
But that's just one side of the coin, and a one-sided coin isn't worth much of anything.
We have technology that would have passed for magic during our great-grandparents' lifetimes. Life expectancy is near an all time high. For a nominal fee, I can talk to someone on the other side of the globe in real-time.
For the same amount of money the average American makes in just a few days, it's possible to travel in a few hours a distance that previously would have taken weeks. And you don't have to worry about getting cholera on the way anymore.
Unlimited knowledge about our world, our past, and ourselves is available for free. More people than ever have access to it. As a group, humanity knows more about our world than any generation ever has.
It's unrealistic to expect that every single category of life will continuously be at an all-time high. That's just not how things work. Some areas will lag, or even falter. Others will shoot ahead, but we'll adapt so quickly we don't even notice (how impressed are you that you have color screens on things?). Like so many things in life, our appreciation of what we have is left squarely in our own hands. The world is a horrible place if we only focus on the bad. If we focus on the positive, it's nothing short of heavenly. And if we take a balanced and objective view, it's still spectacular.
We have problems, but they offer us the opportunity to struggle for progress, which is perhaps the most satisfying human experience. Like every other "impossible" problem we've solved, we'll conquer most of what seems so horrible today. Along with that will come deterioration in other areas, but overall the tide rises with time.
We are unbelievably lucky, even though we lose sight of this fact sometimes. The only better time than now is the future, so let's be thankful for this amazing world we have, and be justifiably optimistic about what's coming next.
regardless of the economy or what not, there has been no better time in the world for people to do something and start something. Before you needed a couple of insanely strong, obsessed leaders who were willing to dedicate their entire lives to change (Martin luther King, Ghandi, etc). Nowadays anyone with a bit of time can start a blog or use social media to start a following and get something started.
Everyone's comments are just proving how ridiculous life really is. Everyone will always bicker back and forth about who has it worse and why, but really, it all doesn't matter. Even if our entire economy collapses, and the world ends, and people live off the land, and you're forced to live off of squirrels for the rest of your days... is it REALLY that bad? You're ALIVE. I think that's something everyone could use a little reminding of.
A ton of you are quick to point out 'it isn't that simple', but you're all really part of the problem. If you're one of those people who complain 24/7 about the economy being bad, with no suggestions for solutions, seriously, you're showering everyone around you with pointless negativity and you're bringing your own life down. There's nothing more annoying than 'that guy' who brings it up every night and in every conversation. Either stop complaining and annoying everyone around you, or go complain so damn much that you're gonna do something about it. I cannot stand the middle. Complainers who don't act.
We've been granted an incredible chance at living in this wonderful world. I think no matter if you have faith in science, or religion, or nothing at all, that the most important thing is to not lose sight of the fact that in EACH and every scenario you're still incredibly lucky to even have the chance to be able to think, see, act, breathe, live. A bundle of trillions and trillions of atoms, sitting and thinking in front of a computer screen, seeing/processing/reading this sentence. Mindblowing. Be thankful! You're alive, go live.
It's great to see a positive perspective on thigns because that's exactly what we should have. Instead of just looking at the negatives we should look at the positives and instead of saying we can't change things we should look at how we can change things. Just like your website my website focuses on helping others improve themselves and their lives.
Not to nitpick... but the markets went haywire in the 80's with the savings and loan crisis. Wall Street was full of scandal. We were stuck in a recession for both the beginning and the end of the decade.
The 2000's weren't exactly peaceful with three wars, and 9/11.
And just to be an ornery prick, in the 1500's people burned wood and manure for fuel, horribly inefficient and even more unhealthy and poisonous than fossil fuels. There's a reason people didn't live past 40 back then.
Stuff has always been amazing and horrible at every point in history. At any point in time, people were more advanced than ever before with more opportunity than ever before. Also at any moment in time, people faced difficult problems and unprecedented challenges. Hindsight is 20/20.
So basically you're just saying: stay positive.
Very interesting post, Tynan! I often think about how the way I travel today would be impossible even five or ten years ago--I travel with my small computer, I Skype to relatives, I am able to access the internet almost anywhere I go, and I can do all that plus get from place to place cheaply. Even Couchsurfing and Helpx were just beginning about ten years ago! It's a great time to travel.
Meh - pretty superficial post, Tynan. The situation is much more complicated than you make it out to be. We can't really "progress" if we have a Technology > Environment (or whatever) mindset, can we? As we become more connected through technology, society becomes more complex. As complexity increases, institutions that we have an irrational faith in start to fail systemically, etc... We can't ignore these things and just expect solutions to emerge without shifting our focus and changing our values. We need to stop this "mental-masturbation" and start using these new connections we have to one another to acknowledge legitimate problems and try to come up with solutions, collectively. You may not have to worry about cholera Tynan, but most of the people who do, do so as a result of "industrial progress." Society is much more complex and dynamic than a poker hand, Tynan. It's going to take some work to keep it stable.
When I was ten I went to a Christian summer camp called Camp Calumet. We stayed in cabins with our counselors and a dozen other kids.
By a stroke of luck my best friend Ryan and I ended up in the cabin with the cool counselors. I don't remember either of their names, or even what they looked like, but I remember that one of them had a sticker on his guitar case that asked, "Y B Normal?"
It was a cheesy sticker, of course, but as an impressionable kid it made me think. My counselor was probably the coolest guy I knew at the time, so I instantly equated being not normal with being cool.
Learning a new language can be on of the most difficult yet rewarding things one can do with their time. If done correctly, one will fail numerous times, be able to express themselves in unique ways and have easier access to a new culture. Currently Language-learning has been quite the rage, with services such as Rosetta Stone and Rocket languages selling like hotcakes and blogs such as fluentin3months having massive success. New services, such as duolingo and italki are changing the landscape of language learning business and making language learning ridiculously cheaper, and more accessible to everyone. I’ve undertaken learning 3 different languages, with varying success in each, but with each subsequent one being much easier to learn. I’ve tried to see how fast the human mind can learn a new language, especially ones that are radically different from ones native tongue. Currently I’ve learned a good amount of Japanese, Chinese and German, with my Japanese and German being significantly better than Chinese, but still not good enough to be able to have effortless conversations, which means I must keep pressing on.
I’ve found learning languages to be a very dynamic process. Each language has its own way of expressing itself, Some are very clear, cut and use short, direct words, as I have found to be the case with Chinese. Others are more vague, longwinded, or emphasize particular things, such as Japanese having a verb ending that signals the completion of something. Regardless, learning a new language will definitely bestow you with a new way of looking at the world. Here I want to share 4 things to keep in mind that have radically helped me when learning languages.
1. Spend sometime understanding the aspects of the language you are about to learn. Specifically try to focus on sentence structure and how meaning is added to the sentence. For example, German is very similar to English, it is subject-verb-object (sometimes its gets mumbled up, but for the most part it is), is preposition heavy and is written in the same scripture, which makes it significantly easier to learn than say Japanese or Chinese. But German is also high agglunative, which means it building meaning by joining words together. German also has an emphasis on cases and gender that is not present in English.
This might seem obvious, but it is very rarely done. Before you embark on the journey of learning a language and learning detailed grammar rules for a specific cases focus on things such as how nouns relate in the sentence, where conjugation happens, and how important is it. A good exercise is usually to get sentences with varying structure and translate them into your target language, something tim ferris suggests in the 4-hour-chef. Exercises like this allow you to find the pattern that will most likely hold true in 80%+ of all sentences. This is makes for a very solid foundation that would otherwise take weeks if one were just frantically reviewing, and learning step by step, instead focus on what the majority of sentences look like, dissect the key elements, and apply them.
2. Find and use a handful of excellent resources at a time; get involved in online communities. The most important thing to keep in mind when one is beginning to learn a language is to find high-quality resources. Find online communities for your target language by googling something like “learn german forum” and see what people are saying, which books their recommending etc. Another good way to find solid resources is to go on Amazon see which books in your target language have good reviews/sales. When I started learning my first foreign language, Japanese, I bought 4-5 books on Japanese, enrolled in two podcasts, had various decks in my flash card program, ranging from beginner to advanced, and used 4 different websites. This was a HORRIBLE idea. Not only was grammar, and vocabulary introduced at different times in each book, but managing progress was very hard, with notes in one book, flash cards, on my computer, and trying to juggle which activity I should do next.