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Our Stressful Lives

October 16, 2010

            Since the start of the industrial revolution, the life of the average American was changed forever.  This was a direct effect of the use of the clock in the workplace.  The implementation of the clock in the workplace completely revolutionized the lives of the common man. Work started to be measured in terms of minutes and seconds and not the termination of a task.  Due to the extreme change in the life of the common man, people became extremely stressed and stopped interacting with their fellow man.

            Living in a society, such as the U.S. where it seems that your work is never truly finished, we will continue to be stressed.  Due to the fact that we lead such stressful lives, we rarely take the time to genuinely interact with our neighbors.  Therefore, Rebecca Solnit argues that natural disasters are the only true way for us to leave from this stressful world, entering the state of nature in which we realize the truly important things in life, such as bonding with your community.  In her essay, The Uses of Natural Disaster, talking about the effects of natural disasters, she says, “They [commoners] enjoy the disruption not only of the barriers that normally separate them from their neighbors but also of their own grinding self absorption.” (2)  In our current lives we are so self-absorbed; we consistently feel stressed, forgetting to spend time with the people in our lives.  Additionally she goes on to explain that the immediate aftermath society created after a natural disaster is one of the few instances in which we are actually capable of enjoying life, relaxing and cooperating with our fellow man to create a better society. Which raises the question; if we are so discontent in our current situation, filled with stress, why do we not simply change the way in which live, instead of relying on natural disasters to teach us to value the little things in life?

            I think the answer is that we have been trained to focus so much on the materialistic things in life, that it is impossible to revert back to our old ways.  People would love to stop working so hard and take a second to enjoy the little things, but then there would be no one to pay for their designer clothes or cell phone bill.  Solnit notes that, “Americans work more hours now than anyone else in the industrialized world…the production of civil society is a work of love, indeed the work that many of us desire most.” (7)  However, I would argue that this is not the world most of us desire.  Looking at my own life, I am constantly faced with the pressure of completing assignments, applying for jobs and making sure I am constantly working to ensure a better future for myself.  In talking to many of my peers, they also experience this same type of life, one they are constantly complaining of. Solnit says, “Disaster makes it clear that our interdependence is not only an inescapable fact but a fact worth celebrating.” (7)  As a society, we will most likely never return to a time when we simply enjoy life without looking to how it will affect our futures, but hopefully we can at least realize the importance of spending time our fellow man without the occurrence of a natural disaster.

4 Comments
  1. crorey permalink
    October 17, 2010 1:39 PM

    You certainly bring up a good point about US citizens not spending time with our fellow man. We definitely have more on our plates to handle and we rarely ever finish everything that needs to be done. Since college has started, I don’t think I’ve actually had a time where I didn’t have something I needed to do (homework, laundry, workout, send mail, respond to e-mails, etc). I’m not saying I don’t take breaks, but I definitely don’t stop thinking about what needs to be done next. I don’t however, agree with Solnit when she says natural disasters are the only way for us to enjoy the little things in life. I go to dinner with new friends from my hall and I sit with new people when my friends are busy. You can definitely enjoy the little things in life and connections with other people if you just put in some sort of effort. I think that the real problem is that we are scared to connect with others because we fear we aren’t good enough. We figure that it’s not worth the effort to make a simple relationship with those around us and it’s easier to just live in solitude. Natural disasters force us to get out of our self-indulging ways, but just a simple change of attitude can change that too.

    • darriensherman permalink
      October 18, 2010 2:00 PM

      I think you bring up an excellent point as well. In today’s society, Americans are stressed out because they work excruciatingly hard to maintain a successful life which often leaves them in solitude. I’d like to argue that Americans today are in a kind of state of nature.We have become self-interested in being head of our corporation, top of our class, earning lots of money and we will go to any length to ensure our success in society. Our society has measured our self-worth in the amount of success we have. Many times have we heard the statement, “it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there.” Is this statement just another way of saying in Hobbe’s words, “…and such a war, as if of every man against every man.” So is Solnit wrong by saying that after a natural disaster we are coming into a state of nature because we are already in one? Although we do not live in fear from one another, in today’s world we may not feel secure from one another. Americans will sometimes do whatever they can even if that means they have to step on other people to secure their job, position, or success in society.

  2. Samantha Eisler permalink
    November 8, 2010 11:33 AM

    I completely agree with the point you made in this post. Even this morning, I woke up and was immediately overwhelmed with all the tasks i need to complete today. I find that since entering college, I spend more time working worrying about how Im going to get an A in my class, rather than actually doing stuff that will help me clear my head and allow me to be more productive in the future. (i.e. sleeping, working out, eating etc.) It is questionable whether the occurrence of a natural disaster will allow the me time that i have been longing for, however, I definitely agree that it would invoke a sort of self reflection on the more important things in life.

  3. ann900 permalink
    November 9, 2010 10:39 PM

    I think that everyone in a way wants to have the togetherness that is felt after a disaster, but we feel that if we slowed down to feel that sensation when no disaster had occurred that we would fall behind. Someone who didn’t desire this togetherness feeling would slip in and take your spot. In a perfect world, we would all be caring, selfless, and helpful all the time. But as a community, we have forgotten what that feels like. And for fear of losing their place in the “new world”, we may never have someone who steps up to help us return to that.

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