Daily our algorithm-frazzled synapses are bombarded with self-help memes, cat videos and outraged politically correct protest (anti-) propaganda, all surely designed to infotain our Kardashian-raped, Cowell-infested sensibilities.
Whilst bemoaning the fact that anything consumptively enjoyable will either bankrupt or kill you, we are also unremittingly told that either Iceland or Denmark for the 16th year in a row enjoys the highest standard of living in the world–with countries like Ebola-ridden Sierra Leone or corruption-addled Turkey languishing in the Hades/purgatory lowlands of the list.
These quality of life or happiness indices invariably seem to be gleaned from fairly small public polls (there’s a deadline to meet, right? Can’t ask everyone), and revolve around standards such as number of TVs per household, number of foreign holidays per year, number of naked saunas on the 2nd floor etc.
None of these standards ever seem to apply to a more mature appreciation of contentedness (happiness is a far more subjective term). Contentedness would mean a more rational quantification of acceptance of reality, adult realisation of expectations, and essentially an understanding of the value of things beyond materialism or capitalism.
With that last word, your brain may begin to glaze over with ‘oh here we go, tedious neo-Marxist rant approaching’. Understandable with as many conflicting and contradicting online articles out there as viruses. But not the case here, because this doesn’t come from politics, old or new. It comes from a question as to what defines the term ‘happiness’ as some kind of secular catch-all, and a further realisation of the fact that that end clearly isn’t enough.
Spirituality is alive and kicking, and pouring like Dove-scented sweat from the online pores of nearly every single one of your post-marriage ‘friends’, whichever sex they may be (though the heterosexual blokes in that bracket do still tend to go on about Nigel Farage/Alex Ferguson/Jeremy sodding Clarkson a bit more.)
This new online spirituality-spreading is the teenies version of Jehova’s Witnesses, tugging Prince along behind them in a hessian sack while they trouble the hard-working folk of south Yorkshire during their cosy fireside evenings. The thing is, this vague spirituality – I like that it’s vague, by the way – represents as much clutching as just about, tantalisingly out of reach straws as any of the other religions, including (especially?) the Abrahamic ones.
No one will ever get where they want to be by wanting anything – but that doesn’t rock too well in the desperate straits our late-capitalism finds itself in. More Danes (could be any number of Scandinavian countries to be honest, judging by the polls) choose to cut their life expectancy short due to the fact that comfort is reasonably worked for, expected, and then – then what?
Conflate that with a chronically sensitive disposition and access to anything else you might need/want, and psycho-spiritual trouble awaits. Your regular Turk, living his or her life through perpetual generations of struggle and low expectations, compounded by the actuality of a divine being who (reassuringly enough) does not appreciate questioning, rarely has the luxury of suicide. Getting though the day is hard enough, let alone allowing for the bored, existential angst of self-imposed oblivion.
Column by Sean Bw Parker