Sunday, June 3, 2012

the glamour of the unknown

I almost wrote a post about the "problem" of advertising influencing children, the availability of proscribed substances to them (AND to adults), and the place of the parents in all this brouhaha....  It's hard to discourage the immature mind from pursuing deleterious substances and behaviors, especially when they may be looked on as something of a rite-of-passage into an autonomous style of existence.  The young long for adulthood, because they see all of these shiny "toys" they aren't allowed to play with (yet), and suppose that attainment will mean happiness ... or at least a less limited life.

We seem to be hard-wired to want to push boundaries, even into the realm of ugliness and degradation.  The bad boy/girl is an attractive image in our culture -- someone who breaks free and goes after what they want, no matter who gets trampled in the rush.  I believe the appeal lies in novelty, escaping routines and seeing enticing possibilities.  In actual experience, after the initial excitement is past, new routines will assert themselves and the limitations will be just as great as before.  It may be "different" but it can also be mighty uncomfortable.

When we grow up, all of the "toys" become less of a joy and more of a responsibility.  Now that we are allowed to stay up as late as we want, eat and drink what we will, buy anything we can afford -- essentially, do whatever we please -- we learn to see the downside, and why limiting our pleasures increases our enjoyment of them.  The grass IS green ... but there's a bunch of dandelions in it, and it needs mowing regularly.  We can shirk the responsibilities that come our way, but there are repercussions ... some of them nasty.

We see the hypnotic effect of this "glamour of the unknown" VERY often in living history.  A huge number of people are enamoured of the past; i'm very curious about how they think their personal lives would really be different, had they been born 100, 200, 500 years before.  DETAILS would be different, but you get up in the morning, do your allotment of work, interact with your family, eat, sleep and wear clothing, don't get everything you want, have experiences you'd rather avoid, and get your heart broken just the same as nowadays.  Without internet.  New reenactors dash out and get fancy clothes and equipment, but the ladies lace their corsets less tightly with every passing year....

This may be the reason why a good fantasy never goes out of style:  being "impossible" to experience, the bloom can never be lost from it.  But it isn't just the fancy trappings that create the appeal of those "far-away places with strange-sounding names" -- is a palm tree better than an oak, a rum cocktail better than a glass of wine, 100-degree heat better than 20-degree chill?  What we really want when we make a cultural escape is to start over, and maybe get it right this time.  We carry our problems with us, though -- inside our heads and hearts.  A different locale, more toys, prettier clothes, A THINNER BODY, etc. is not going to improve things a bit without a mental adjustment as well.

Wanting things we don't have, because an advertiser convinces us to think THINGS will make us happy, is a cycle of frustration.  This includes "things" like vacations, taste experiences, new lovers, almost anything!  Thumb your nose at them, and teach your kids to do the same.

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