Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
August 28, 2000
Pondering life's great mysteries
While you were on holidays you might have let your thoughts wander. As your mind browsed the universe you might have stumbled on the eternal questions: "Who am I? What am I doing here? What is this all about?"
Our four-year-old grandson startled his mother the other day with the observation: "God makes you and then he dies you." When invited to discuss this mystery, he declined.
Our own musings are of less theological profundity and concern the more mundane mysteries of life. Why is it that we have less time in spite of time-saving devices? Why are we so busy operating all these labour-saving gadgets? And how come we use 10 times the amount of paper since the introduction of the paperless society? It's enough to make a person hug a tree.
In this year of electronic communication, over 1,000 new magazines were launched in North America alone. There are no statistics available for the paper blitz of unwanted material that descends upon us daily.
With all this reading material you would think our vocabulary has increased, but today's average child has a written vocabulary of 10,000 words (many of them brand new), compared to a child in 1945 with an average of 25,000 words. Wow! Like awesome, man!
Perhaps our children are more familiar with icons, logos and symbols than with words. Still, the Nike swoosh does little to convey why Canadians pay $200 for shoes made by barefoot children in Indonesia.
And why is it, one wonders, why so many youngsters and grownups become willing walking unpaid billboards, advertising transnational corporations on their T-shirts and other apparel? Don't they know what a corporation pays for a 30-second TV commercial?
Talking about signs of our time and the demise of literacy, as you crisscrossed this country on your holidays, trying to keep within the speed limit, you might have been greeted with the one finger salute. Why have our highways become wider and our minds narrower? Why are our buildings taller and our tempers shorter? Road rage is a word that did not exist in 1945.
It has been estimated that last year a million people were killed in the Third World as a result of the greenhouse effect. In 1992, the Union of Concerned Scientists, including 104 Nobel Laureates, stated that human beings and the natural world are on a collision course. According to their prognosis, we have little time left to change our consumptive habits.
Then why do so many of us fiddle away this precious time
e-mailing each other long-winded jokes?
Why are our houses bigger and our families smaller? Is there a correlation between the increased number of billionaires and the number of homeless? Why, in a knowledge-based economy, do we commit such destructive stupidities? And why is there more knowledge but less wisdom?
Why do we spend more on combating obesity than on eliminating hunger? And why is there excitement about a fresh face in politics when the policies are the same as those espoused by Reagan and Thatcher?
As you drive back to work after your holidays, have you ever wondered what mystical power exists in the universe to make people get out of bed before they are awake, day after day, to jostle their weary way through early morning rush hour?
Is it mass hypnosis? Are we anxious to read the jokes in the e-mail? Or do we do it so we can afford a two-week vacation and an opportunity to contemplate what life is all about?
Ah, it is a mystery. By comparison, death is a pretty straightforward event.
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