Change is in the air. Can you feel it? I can. I can’t avoid it. It’s everywhere.
Every age probably thinks that it’s in a time of big changes. Or at least most people likely do. They compare their lives with their parents and cannot comprehend life back then. We have the telegraph and newspapers now. We have the radio and telephone now. We have TV now. We have the internet now. Technology is a big part of these changes and on the surface, often the most obvious. But I’m talking about a cultural change that is impossible to define precisely. Its related to a change that’s happening in humanity and within each of us. Both these changes drive the other and technology helps to drive and facilitate them all. For hundreds and thousands of years, life didn’t change that much. Living a poor existence on a farm or urban space meant life for you, much like for your parents. But that’s changed in the last few hundred years and for the last century even more, and is accelerating. I can see that, in many ways, my life as a kid was not nearly as different from my parents, as my kids’ lives have been compared to mine.
For much of life, up to the past hundred years or so, the biggest questions were discussed in churches or universities and most people were only vaguely aware of these deep discussions. Modern living, in the last fifty years especially, has brought greater wealth to so many people that they have the time to ponder the bigger questions. Modern technology – cheap books, magazines, television and now the internet, has made the spread of ideas so much easier. More people are more highly educated, formally and self-taught, and exposed to these big ideas.
One of the greatest and most misunderstood philosophers, who steeped his life in facing these big questions of our existence, was Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche. He was largely ignored during his life, but has had a profound influence on modern thought in philosophy and Jung recognized his genius in psychology as well. Philosophy and psychology are intimately related and Jung completely appreciated this. Both Nietzsche and Jung lived that union of those two big “P’s”. Jung added the third big “P” – physics.
This is not going to be a discussion of Nietzsche – that will come later. He is a fascinating thinker, who is often misrepresented in popular culture, and in scholarly areas as well. My point is that Nietzsche is infinitely more well known and discussed now than he ever was and I expect his influence will only grow as more people are exposed to his ideas. In spite of the fact that he’s often misunderstood and even vilified, at least more people are aware of him and the opportunity exists for them to find out the truth, to come to their own opinion. That’s a lot more important than simply swallowing whatever shallow interpretation of Nietzsche you come across. Nietzsche is much too deep and complex to be dismissed without making a real attempt to know the real Nietzsche.
But as Oscar Wilde said: ” There is only one thing in life that is worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”
Nietzsche, and deep ideas generally, are being talked about and exposed more than ever in popular culture. For me this is both a sign and a driver of the evolution of our human consciousness, which is taking off.
I’m just going to talk about two examples, but they are legion. I’ll start with Rick and Morty. Rick is an alcoholic, mad scientist, who travels around in science fiction adventures with his grandson Morty. Here Rick has just constructed a sentient robot, disappointed that its purpose in life is not up to the possibilities that its questioning mind is capable of developing. He asks his creator for guidance and is crushed by the answer. Hmmm. Does that sound like any other species you might be familiar with, according to a materialistic world view? Pass butter – make money – more similar than different.
But there is much more to Rick and Morty. Interestingly, and perhaps not coincidentally, Nietzsche is referenced. Rick and Morty explore some big ideas and present them to a world that is hungry for meaning and purpose.
Rick and Morty is not a show that can be taken lightly. It explores some pretty important questions of existence. Not everyone is going to fully appreciate all the references and questions posed. I certainly appreciate Nietzsche, but haven’t studied him enough to get anywhere near everything he has to offer – I still have time. My point is that popular culture, like Rick and Morty, have exploded onto the scene to expose many more people, and often younger people, to some really big and deep ideas. This is a major development for our species and is not to be dismissed or ignored.
My second example comes from music – a new video by the band, MGMT. They’re an American band that isn’t afraid to make uncomfortable art posing some big questions and opening up some big issues. Here they explore death and the shadow world within, using both beautiful and disturbing images. Its a compelling and provocative video. I can’t watch it without being taken to that world within. No piece of film making can do justice to dreams, but for me, this comes the closest I’ve seen. It’s quite the trip.
I’ll end this with another great MGMT video – short and sweet – “Your Life is a Lie”. Pop culture poses a possibility.
No. Wait. I’m not saying your life is a lie. That’s for you to say. I don’t think MGMT is saying your life is a lie. Or maybe they are. Who cares what they think? What do you think? Like any good piece of art, they’re posing a question that only you can answer. But your life, or parts of it, could be a lie. Who would you be lying to? Your soul. And your soul might be pissed. It could be worth considering. And remember, if you come to the idea that your life is a lie, that’s not a conclusion, but only a beginning. Art is nothing, if not hope-filled, but it’s really so much more. And art can be found in popular culture – now more than ever.