Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Culture: What We Can Do About It

Now, let us briefly turn our attention back to the culture around us again. After all, the culture around us affects all of us in an important way, and we have concluded before that it currently has the harmful effect of forcing people into premature aging.

Can the culture change? Yes and no. The reality is that the entertainment industry operates based on profit, like any other industry. If the market situation does not change, the marketing strategies of that industry is not likely to change either. If we want its message to be inclusive of everyone, then we must get more 20-somethings, 30-somethings and 40-somethings to attend concerts and buy related stuff. Here we have a vicious cycle situation. Most of the very visible popular cultural icons out there today do not appeal much to people over 25, as a result of the industry's current focus on the ultra young end of the market. Who are they going to rally around, whose concerts will they be going to then, even if we can get enough over 25s to realise that it is in their cultural interest to increase their participation in the entertainment industry's market? I guess this will take a while to sort out, unfortunately. Therefore, don't expect things to suddenly change next year, for example.

Meanwhile, even if the culture 'out there' cannot be changed, you can change the culture 'around you'. After all, we are not generally affected by culture 'out there', we are affected by culture 'around us'. Culture that is 'out there' but not that much 'around us' may as well be like the culture in Thailand or Japan to us - it may enter our consciousness and lives in some ways, but in the end it is distant and foreign, and does not have much of an effect on our lives.

So how do we change the culture around us? Firstly, we have to realise that that whilst the entertainment industry does affect the most visible parts of our popular culture to a very great degree, it does not control ALL culture. Even if some of the currently most visible stuff does not sit well with us, there is plenty more to choose from. We retain the right to choose what comes into our lives, and dismiss what is irrelevant. If the most visible parts of popular culture send the message that we are too old to be cool, or that it's time to give up and 'settle down', then so what? It's not MY culture. Just like we do not choose to be around frenemies who harm us more than they do good, we can choose not to be indoctrinated by a culture that sends out harmful messages. That doesn't mean you need to start 'living under a rock'. It just means that you need a balance of messages in your life. You are inevitably going to be affected by the distorted 'you are old' message out there, so make sure you have enough of the 'you can dream big and there's more than enough time to make it' messages in your life. It's like how you need enough healthy food in your life to balance out the junk food you inevitably eat over the course of your days, or how you need enough days of relaxation to balance out the inevitably stressful ones.

Speaking about the part of culture that is not backed up by the entertainment industry, here's something for you to think about? How about that favourite artist of yours from 10 years ago? Haven't heard of them for the past 5 of so years? It's likely that they are still making music somewhere out there, but have been forced to go independent. Seek them out and you are likely to find that they are still actively making new stuff. The culture of 'the past' actually lives on, you see, even if it's been forced into premature irrelevancy from an industry point of view.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Essence of Youth, and How To Regain It if you have Lost It

Many people around the world have tried to capture the essence of being young, and in the case of those who believe they are growing old before their time, to regain the essence of being young. People have done all sort of paradoxical things, like trying to catch up with the current fashions even if they don't like it, whilst indulging in the music from decades ago, just to regain that spirit of being young. Some have even opted to have lots of plastic surgery - but that just made them look very plastic.

Make no mistake: the essence of youth is not in any fashion, music or the way you look physically. An old fashioned and unattractive young person is not less young because of the way they are, after all. The essence of youth is in the way one views the world, their own life, their place in the world, and their own future in it. The essence of youth is seeing and believing in a vista where there is a lot of time and space to dream in front of you. The essence of youth is being unafraid to dream, being unafraid of failure and instability. The essence of youth is, above all, having the freedom, the confidence and the energy to dream big.

The key to regaining the essence of youth is to regain the capacity to dream big. This capacity may have been eroded by encountering and realising the difficult aspects of life, and the many injustices and limitations this world has. We need to regain this capacity if we are to enjoy the spirit of being young again.

Some people believe that if you have lost the essence of youth, it is difficult, if not impossible, to regain it. They generally come from the point of view that once you have lost your innocence about this world, it becomes very difficult to regain the hope and optimism associated with youth. They generally come from the point of view that young people only have that great capacity to dream because they have an overly rosy view of the world, that innocence is bliss.

I cannot disagree more here.

Whilst I do agree that innocence is lost it cannot be regained, the same cannot be said about one's capacity to dream, and to turn these dreams into reality. Whilst by their mid-20s most people would already know that the world is quite imperfect, and the playing field is far from level in many areas, it doesn't mean one cannot still dream big. After all, things like gender equality were largely dreamt up and then put into practice by people who were mature and realistic in their thinking.

Knowing the difficult aspects of reality should not stop you from dreaming big, it should just mean that the contents of your dreams and the plan you follow to turn them into reality needs to take into account these aspects of life. For example, one difficult reality we have to live with in this era is that dreams tend to take longer than before to be achieved in one's life. Another is that multi billion dollar industries run almost every part of this world, and the preferences, culture and actions of many people are under the control of economic interests. They are not easy things to accept, but we just have accept these facts. What we can do is to 'train' our minds to be able to dream big even as we are very aware of the limitations of this world.
For example, knowing that dreams take long to achieve in the present era means that you have to adjust your timeframe in your game plan accordingly. However it doesn't take away from the fact that you can still have similar dreams compared with if you didn't know this fact.

In fact, only those who can dream big whilst being aware of the pitfalls of reality can turn their dreams into reality. Being aware of the difficulties and limitations you will encounter means that you have a much more solid game plan in life. Isn't that a good thing?

Some Related Musical Inspiration:

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Dreams are Essential for Youth Culture

When you were younger, why were you happier?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

When you were younger, why were you happier?

If you wish to achieve a goal, you need to be very clear about what it is first. Therefore, if our goal is to maintain the spirit of youth in ourselves and in our culture, firstly we have to pin down what that spirit really is.

Many 20-somethings and 30-somethings have reported that they feel LESS happy than when they were younger. Which is kind of surprising, because they now have an income to spend, don't have to deal with the bullying and other crappy aspects of high school anymore, and they may even have a stable relationship and a family. Back in high school, many of them just wished that they could get out of that place as soon as possible, and get some money of their own to spend. Now that they have all that and more, even if things are a bit stressful sometimes (paying bills, difficult bosses and clients at work, etc), shouldn't they be at least a bit happy? For many people, the answer is no. In fact, they have become nostalgic about high school, that place they once wanted to leave behind forever.

It's not like life was any easier back then, either. Sure, you had your parents looking after your every need, you didn't have to deal with exorbitant bills that threaten to put you into debt all the time, you probably got away with working less hard than you do now, but then there were bullies and the cool groups vs outcasts problem everywhere, your finances were controlled by your parents and you basically had no freedom at all. Some of you also had to deal with teachers you didn't like, who may be no less difficult than the boss you have now.

So what was different? What made back then more tolerable than right now? I've tried to answer this question for many years, and the one thing it comes down to is what I call the vista of youth. The vista of youth is endless hope, endless possibilities, and a space wide enough to hold the wildest dreams. Whilst being in high school was no fun for many people, the vista of hope kept them alive. Sadly, this vista has often been eroded quite badly by the time people reach their late-20s or their 30s. By this time, they have seen other people get ahead whilst they are languishing in failure land, chalking up failure after failure. By this time, the media driven culture has effectively made it clear that they are too old to be cool. All this combines to make that dream seem all that more impossible than it once seemed.

But as we have concluded from previous sections, all those things are illusions. The truth is that in your 20s and 30s, you are still on your way down the long road to chase down your dreams. If at this time you lose the vista of youth, and therefore lose the youthful spirit it brings to your life, you lose the will to travel on and fight on, like a soldier who loses their will to carry on in a battlefield, who just falls to the ground and die right there. Isn't that sad? If you don't want that to happen to you, you must fight to keep your vista of youth fresh all the time until you reach your destination in life. Next we will talk about how to do just that.

Some Related Musical Inspiration:

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Dreams are Essential for Youth Culture