This morning I was browsing Reddit and came across this 80’s movie called They Live by John Carpenter. Although one would assume it would be a relatively dated film, it contains an age old message that is surprisingly relevant to today’s modern society.
I had never heard of the film up until today, so I suppose this was not some culturally significant or aesthetically outstanding movie, albeit with a slight cult following.
Or maybe people just don’t want to be woke.
There is a famous scene in the film where the protagonist first puts on a pair of sunglasses that allows him to see the subliminal messaging that is prevalent in all our media, with luridly straightforward messages like Obey and Reproduce!
I found it rather apt and timely considering our modern generation still has a screen addiction, albeit a slightly smaller, more compact one. We take comfort in anonymity and virtual validation, find pleasure in mind-numbing experiences through our eyes and ears in the safety of our homes.
And so we should all stay home and remain the obedient, conforming consumers, rendering our service for the good of society and reproducing to continue contributing cogs to the machine.
Do you consider yourself a modern citizen in a modern world?
Enlightened and elevated above the base thoughts and needs of our carnal progenitors? No longer slaves to our lowly instincts and vices and shortfalls of our ancestors?
Were you brought up to believe that you could do anything, achieve anything in life, as long as you put all your heart and soul into it? You could live your childhood dreams, be whoever you choose to be, do what you love for the rest of your life?
And then you wake up twenty years later, groggy, alone, an electronic device dictating your life, your every waking and sleeping moment. Having spent the majority of your life lying on your sides or studying something you were only mildly interested in. And then your basic instincts kick in, creep into the back of your mind – you need to eat, you need to drink, you need to get laid.
Those around you do not see your plight. Day after day your parents and relatives inquire about your marital status, or if you’ve had the good fortune to shack up with someone permanently then when the 贵子 are going to arrive.
Your friends are “moving on” with their lives, most pairing up into units to continue on the evolutionary necessities and satisfy some societal requirement, signing the contract everyone craves, ticking off the big box of life, preparing to tick the next big item.
When will you tick off the big box of life?
Which one, you ask?
Are there that many to choose from?
And so we toil and slave, and if we’re lucky not so hard because our parents or predecessors saved up some for us. And we continue our hunt – our hunt for meaning, for purpose, for life.
We put our hearts and souls into our careers, into creating things of value, of meaning, into keeping our bodies healthy and fit. All by our own choice, our own cleverness, staving away the primal instincts that gnaw at our minds, either from sheer will or fear of rejection.
But at the end of it, we always come back to the same things: continuing on the family name, the bloodline, under the guise of finding happiness, achieving success.
Of course one cannot deny that happiness is intimately tied to interpersonal relationships of some spread or depth, being the deeply social creatures that we are.
But we have overcome that, have we not?
We are intelligent, able to control our urges, our innermost instincts with rational, logical reasoning!
We can overcome widescale devastation, largely initiated by our own hands, but still avert physical crises through reasoning and communication. We avoid nuclear annihilation, natural disasters, global pandemics with the power of logic and science!
And it’s true, we have adapted and conquered and overcome. And in the madness and chaos, we have sought out our clarity; in our desperate isolation, we have learned the meaning of togetherness; in the darkness we have learned to treasure the light.
And yet, as adversity unites us, as we fight illness and loss with logic, we realise that we are but base animals. When all is said and done, it is the same driving force and motivations that drove our forefathers thousands of years ago.
Are we that different from our ancestors? Have we changed?
Is it hardwired into us?
Making babies. Do people still need to do it?
I mean the process is great and all, but is it still necessary in this day and age?
Well, yes of course, otherwise who is going to take over once the elders pass? Who will care for the aging population of our broken world?
Perhaps procreating has been painted in a negative light with all the recent talk of climate change and overpopulation, of unsustainable living and dwindling resources.
While reproduction is evolutionarily obligatory, and to be fair it is the entire purpose of evolution, where exactly do we see ourselves in the evolutionary scale of things?
What is the point of continuing to spawn and evolve exactly? To populate the earth? Colonise beyond our borders, beyond our planet?
For what exactly?
Are we not akin to drops of bacteria in a petri dish full of nutrients? Akin to a virus let loose within a thriving, healthy host? The world is our oyster, and we will take all we can, multiply as far as we can reach.
Until our resources run out? Then let’s find some more!
Is there an end? Should there be an end?
Like a creeper plant stretching its limbs into the sun, across the soil, growing and growing until it reaches the boundaries? And then…going up, and up, like a beanstalk to the sky?
In the end, is it not all just a circlejerk, a fun little game to keep ourselves busy as our cells reproduce and rupture and return to dust?
So shall we get back to making babies?
So let’s talk about babies.
Say we yield to the fundamental cause of our species, of being alive, our supposed purpose and destiny – of making the babies and keeping the wheels turning. Say we decide we’re DTF and churn out a good one, we lock ourselves in with a bundle of joy with no refunds, no takebacksies.
Congratulations! Now what?
I can honestly say that evolution has not been kind to us sapiens. Seriously, how difficult can babies be?
Ask any parent – they’ll be happy to share with you their processes and their experiences of bringing up a child. Yes, I’m sure the whole thing is fun and full of fulfillment and satisfaction and new lessons in life. But it’s a fucking full time job, mate.
Evolution/intelligent design/the one true deity has not been kind to us humankind. Think about it – have you seen a new parent that is well-rested? Then they’ve clearly got lots of help.
Most new parents do not make a good case for having babies. It is a costly, cumbersome, challenging thing to bring up a baby.
From a business perspective, the ROI on these things is astoundingly low. They’re expensive, they’re time-consuming, they’re fragile, they’re high risk. They require a lot of attention, a lot of training; you don’t get to interview them beforehand, and you certainly can’t fire them from the position.
People tell you kids are an investment, a priceless asset. Well okay, what’s the appreciate rate on kids? You have to sink in at least two decades to get these starving sponges up to speed, not to mention countless dollars and sense, all while maintaining a happy facade lest the darn things develop a sour disposition or take on your bad values.
And once they’ve matured, what do you get? Some may pay you back in cash, buy you some nice things, or sometimes just in gratitude. But can they ever actually repay you for all you’ve done for them, all the sacrifices you’ve made?
Perhaps I’m missing the entire point of parenthood. Yes, parenthood is about pouring yourself into your offspring, so that they may have a better life than you ever did, so they can gain grander, greater things, surpassing all you’ve ever achieved. You shouldn’t care about getting anything in return, because the return is seeing them healthy and happy, right?
You will give your all, expend your time and energy, disburse your dividends all to them, because they deserve the very best, right?
Well what about you? Is it selfish to consider, to think about yourself for even one second? Our genes are selfish, are they not?
Oh, so our genes are alright with us giving all without any expectation for anything in return? Unconditional love, as they call it? That was a pretty clever marketing campaign. Generations of filial piety set in stone.
Well, even if our genes are gladsome and full of glee at the prospect of us popping out a few new ones, what about our logical selves? Our thoughts and feelings? Are we really alright with going through physical and social transformation and turmoil just for the privilege of hearing a little genetic mishmash of ourselves squeak out the words “mama” or “dada”?
What about spiritual children? What about having non-genetically related progeny? Pets? People love pets!
I’m not saying we should all get pets and forego having children. I’m just curious if there are people out there who have found a greater purpose in life than spawning children.
Yes, I’m sure creating pieces of art or music, or an app or software that changes our virtual landscape, or a business that benefits billions is a worthy cause, a righteous reason to fight and live on. But can it truly replace that evolutionary call, that urge deep within our souls, to replace something that we can biologically call our own?
Do I have an answer for you?
There are many, many answers out there, and in this day and age there are many voices and stories vying to be heard and adored.
All I have to offer are questions. Simple questions that you and I will have to answer for ourselves.
Once in your life (or perhaps twice, if you are fortunate) you will meet someone amazing, someone who will make you nervous, someone who will shock you and surprise you, someone who will turn your world upside down, who will challenge your world view and share your world. Who will make you see things from a new perspective, make you realise there are so many other beautiful things out in the world.
You will meet someone who will make your heart flutter, your brain freeze, who will make you want to sing out loud, will make you see the music, and hear the colours of the rainbow. Someone who will laugh at you and with you, who will tell it to you like it is, who isn’t afraid to take your shit (no, not literally, ew). Someone who gives a damn about you and who you are, who you really are.
And suddenly, you’re not alone anymore. Your time is no longer just your own. You are swept up in a grand adventure, a wild journey drifting through time and space. For once, your life has a sparkling new direction, you have found a new muse, a new joy; your very being has renewed meaning, your life has a new purpose. You may not know what exactly it is, but you know it will never be the same again.
And you know deep down, somehow, that this, all this, will come to an end.
Not the feelings and fanciful experiences that you had, the conversations and chagrin that you shared. The little moments and memories you had together. Those quiet intervals between adventures where you could just be, where you were comfortable knowing there was someone else there who wasn’t trying to steal your shit or cause you harm. The cozy feeling in your inner being of warmth and contentment. No, not those. Those memories will haunt you forever.
There will come a time when your togetherness will cease, when you will have to be apart. Whether it be long or short, voluntary or not by choice, one thing will remain the same: the pain.
And yes, even the pain will end. Eventually, someday. And everything will be alright.
Yes, everything will be alright. Your lips quiver and your chest falls away in slow motion, like a cold rock spiraling downward toward the void, the all-embracing darkness. As you come to accept the inevitable future, a future now devoid of purpose, of joy, of hope, of warmth, you can’t help but wonder – what the fuck were they thinking when they wrote those fucking fairy tales?
Those lies built up over generations of propaganda and brain washing, that there is a happy ending, that there is a hope of redemption, a hope of peace and retribution. A hope that happiness can last for a lifetime. That there is hope. Lies.
Human existence is messy and convoluted and disappointing. It is a world full of rejection and indifference and hate. It is pain.
And you cling to the pain, the fleeting flashes of emotions that you find in your bleak existence, living on with the hope in your heart. The hope of impending doom. The hope that maybe you will be reunited with those who have left, those who have gone from your life, even if it is for that brief split second before your soul leaves your body.
And in your despair you recall those fleeting feelings, those moments when you glimpsed happiness. At least you had that, no matter how short-lived. And you will always have that, those happy memories and bittersweet moments of peace and serenity without a care in the world.
And that is why you must soldier on.
Because these are but feelings and thoughts. Like people, they will come and go. Life is unfair, life will have its ups and downs. You will not always be happy, and you will not always be sad, and you may no longer be that innocent, carefree, shiny-eyed little rascal, but what you are now is a fighter. What you now have is a will to go on, a will to live and breathe and take what this world has to give and roll with the punches.
As cliched as it sounds: what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. Your belief in yourself becomes stronger; your belief in better days becomes stronger. Pain makes you stronger.
You begin to realise that at the end of it all, everything will be alright. And even if it isn’t alright, who’s going to be around to care?
And perhaps there is the hope that one day, you will meet someone amazing, someone who will make you nervous again. Maybe it will be that same someone. Maybe it won’t. But it matters not, because you will be alright. Because you are that amazing someone.