“As addicts we deny the addictive power of our narcotics while we exaggerate our ability to resist them. So it is with our meta-addiction to all things media and all things digital.” - Jeff Einstein
CHEMICAL DESTINY minus MEANINGFUL RITUAL = addiction.
Over the past two decades I have come to believe that addiction is chemical destiny by virtue of the simple fact that our brains are wired to pursue pleasure and avoid pain. Couple that with the quasi-sober understanding that we now live a time when the supply of affordable (and legitimate) narcotics — analog and digital alike — is suddenly universal and utterly relentless.
We now live in a Brave New Digital World, a world where addiction is the default condition, the rule rather than exception. In the world of default addiction, meaningful rituals (those that improve the quality of our spiritual, physical, social and emotional lives) have been replaced in large measure by self-serving rituals of convenience (those designed to protect and promote the interests of our many addictions), and those who profit from them.
To sum things up: we live in a society with functionally limitless access to a bottomless supply of affordable narcotics at a time when we’ve already lost or sacrificed our institutional ability to resist. Of course, our actual resistance is rarely as strong in fact as we expect it to be in fantasy. Likewise, the actual narcotics almost always net stronger in fact than we imagined them in fantasy.
Meanwhile, the meaningful rituals (the lifestyle rituals designed and codified our spiritual, physical, social and/or emotional wellbeing) designed specifically to improve the quality of our lives are being crowded out, obliterated by the incessant demands of self-serving rituals (those built to protect and cater to our obsessive compulsive behaviors and addictions).
Each self-serving ritual devoted to our obsessive-compulsive behaviors and addictions is time devoted away from the quality of life.
The quality of life, however, is decided by the quantity and quality of the rituals we invite into our lives. Because ritual is how we manage our lives. Ritual dictates how, where and with whom we spend almost all of our time.
Self-serving rituals are those we devote to our obsessive compulsive behaviors and addictions. They dominate our lives in early 21st century America and consume almost all our time: a 2015 report from the USC Marshall School of Business concludes that the average American now consumes 15.5 hours of media per day.
Meaningful ritual — ritual designed and employed to enhance our spiritual, social, physical and emotional wellbeing — stands between us and wholesale surrender to our chemical destiny as addicts.