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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Knowing Too Much

It struck me yesterday at some point, I don't know when, that the more we learn about the world, the more anxiety we potentially build for ourselves.  With scientists, researchers, analysts, and whatnot continuing to discover connections and learn about even the smallest particles that are the building blocks of our world and humanity, perhaps we are learning too much.  Just look back 50 years ago (way back before I was born) and you will see there was no way of knowing what we know now about the world.   Back then, there was seemingly no need to worry about pesticides or other chemicals in our food, no need to worry about lead in paint and gas, no need to worry about aerosols and global warming.  Now, we know that pesticides, lead, and aerosols are bad.  That's only the tip of the iceberg as we all know.  There are dangers lurking everywhere around us that can potentially cause us harm and shorten our lives.  Were we better off 50 years ago when we were living in relative naivete about the world around us?  Was the stress level less because we didn't have to worry about how anything we touched, bought, or breathed could harm us?  Maybe, but then again, maybe there were less of these dangerous substances floating around the atmosphere and lurking in our foods.  While our life expectancy has gone up, so has the rate of chronic illness.  Are these chronic illnesses a product of our extended lives or merely a side effect of something we did when we were younger?  There always seem to be more questions than answers. 

While we may not have known about all the potential dangers lurking in the world around us 50 years ago, we also didn't have the fear inspiring media that we have today.  Any new discovery that scientists make about links between certain diseases or cancers and the substance or negligence that causes them brings about a 24/7 media campaign to alert us about what we can do to save ourselves.  We have to watch out for A B, and C because it will cause X Y, and Z.  Better be careful about D, E, and F too because those are just too frightening to talk about.  For those in the know, our society is built around fear and the dangers around us.  We have to wash our hands 5 times a day minimum or we could contract the deadly cold from a stranger.  And you better watch out for that breeze blowing from the west that may contain deadly pathogens hell bent on shortening our life or at least making it miserable.  If one listened to all the warnings out there, we wouldn't leave the house without a hazmat suit on, we would have HEPA filters in every room to suck every horrible nugget out of the air, and we would only eat sterilized organic food that didn't touch a single surface since leaving the ground.  With all this "knowledge" about the world and its dangers, how is one not supposed to worry about what they are potentially doing to themselves.  Stress and anxiety are just as crippling as heart disease.  If we live with stress and anxiety in our lives, we are shortening our lives just as much as if we ate McDonald's every day.  Neither is good for us, yet neither will go away.  It seems the only remedy is to tune out the world and its warning about a doomsday virus and simply live. 

Fifty years ago, people simply lived.  They had stress and anxiety, yes, but I don't believe it was felt to the degree that it is felt now.  From my perspective at least, the stresses that people were under 50 years ago were all related to normal every day life.  People worried about work, money, and family.  They didn't necessarily worry about Johnny next door who touched a dog that was seen walking through a puddle on the side of a street and could now be a walking petri dish.  Don't get me wrong, many of the things we have learned about are valuable, but how are we supposed to keep track of all the noxious substances that permeate our lives and try and eradicate them?  I don't think we can, to be honest, and if we try, stress and anxiety will beset us like a bad case of the bedbugs.  Sometimes I wish I were a little more naive about the world and its dangers.  If I was, I wouldn't have all this information floating through my head making me question every single thing I buy or every action I take and how it could affect my life in the future.  Granted, trying to live a healthy and long life is a noble cause, but if it builds stress and anxiety in our lives, then perhaps it really isn't worth it.  I want to live a long life, but I don't want to worry about everything around me that could shorten my life.  The answer isn't simple, in fact, its more of a Catch 22 than anything else.  No matter what we do, nature will run its course and we will perish when we are supposed to, perhaps sooner, perhaps later, but the end is inevitable.  I just want life to be simple (I know, I know, it isn't and it never will be) and free of too much worry.  And yes, I also know that worrying is within my control, but sometimes it is hard to keep all the excess worry away when all you hear is warnings and more warnings about the world around you.  For my part, I will continue to live as I have and only pay heed to the worst of the worst.  The rest of those noxious, horrible substances that reside somewhere in the middle will simply not get my attention.  I want to live a long life, but I want to live one without excess stress and anxiety.  Probably won't happen, but I can dream. 

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