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Posts Tagged ‘capitalism’

The Doomed Religion of Self-Improvement

In Motivation, true enlightenment on August 30, 2020 at 19:24

Between cold showers and ‘hot yoga’ pretty much everything that can be done with the mind and body has been explored, branded and debunked. Yet happiness remains just as elusive. And the difference between self-love and narcissism grower thinner with every new commercial.

Even the most privileged learning curves go from ignorance to socialism to capitalism to indifference. From wanting to change the world to at least wanting to change one’s eating habits, life is an ongoing process of realizing our own futility. The resulting frustration manifests in conflicts personal and national. The lucky ones can channel it through art, others stumble through all of life’s pit stops contributing to credit card debt and global warming.

The western world, which also includes the metros of the east has largely overcome most physical chores leaving man more and more alone with his thoughts with very little knowledge of how to deal with them. The myths that could comfort us cannot survive in cities. And the echoes of the sub-conscious can barely be heard above the hum of electricity. All that is left is you staring at yourself in the mirror with a month’s worth of disposable income. Life has always been under Lockdown. Just that now it is more apparent.

This is where self-improvement enters, as a new form of decadence. Diet, exercise, grooming, motivation, spirituality, therapy, detox, recycling – a boot camp for the soul without ever knowing what a soul could actually mean. From sharing FitBit scores to comparing meditation sessions on Headspace, nothing can escape packaging. To be sure, this is still progress, if it makes us look inward, away from cast, creed and religion. But after the tenth School of Life video, everything starts repeating itself. The most kooky ideas are passed off as ‘New Age’, rebirth is explained as thermodynamics and free will is explained as some quantum inevitability. But none of it can make you less restive.

It merely becomes a new kind of hobby and even a vocation for some. It starts with ‘ I AM IN A RACE WITH MYSELF’ memes and and ends in crippling pressure because a mortal body can only do so much. As long as this race doesn’t harm others one should be free to pursue any self-made obstacle course. But never mistake a penchant for self-improvement as immediate transcendence. Historically, such indulgence has been directly proportional to degree of opulence. Kings and aristocrats always indulged in rare bath salts and exotic fruits. We indulge in paraben free shampoos and avocados. All snake-oils eventually get discredited and all that is left is a hollower version of you looking for the next trend. A true Yogi can survive without an internet connection, even in 2020.

The same market system that sells drugs also sells detox. So it should not be very difficult to see through marketing gimmicks. Now we are being told that fats was not bad after all. Soon, we will hear the same about sugar and a new invisible target will be manufactured. The body needs about 8 hours of sleep a day, about 2,000 calories (lesser from processed food the better), 30 mins of mildly strenuous exercise and 30 mins of honest contemplation. Anything above and beyond that is mostly hubris. And even after doing all of it in balance, old age still catches up with you. Everyone who smokes does not get cancer and every gym enthusiast does not live longer. We seldom get to see sportsmen reeling from steroids after retirement and we never see older movie stars without their make-up and surgeries. To the point that any kind of weakness or sign of old age is perceived as a major failure of personality. Even after following all two thousand episodes of the Joe Rogan Experience, life can become very complicated and no one is immune to heartbreak. Self-improvement is still a worthy goal but only if it leads to more humility.
– Punit Pania