The lure of giving up seems irresistible
for so many in this arguably most educated and comfortable of all cultures.
I realized that I never got to the fundamental reason that I so liked the film Tomorrowland in a recent post. And decided that it had to do with giving up, or rather the lure of giving up.
Due to some recent conversations with a dear friend, I began to think about the reality my friend lives in, one which persuades him that he can do nothing about his deteriorating health except take more and more pills, spend increasing time waiting in doctors offices for a new prescription and results of new tests, of waiting to die. My friend has given up the notion of being healthy, even happy and certainly writing the book he once dreamed of writing.
The lure of giving up has become too powerful to resist.
And he got me thinking again about this movie. The fundamental point of the film was the ease with which giving up in the 21st century seems to be the only thing we can do. We are barraged with the hugeness of everything:
- Glacial melting on a catastrophic scale,
- famine of devastating proportion,
- drought of calamitous consequence,
- epidemics of obesity
- and risks of world-wide infectious epidemics are only a few of the mind boggling reasons to give in to the proposition that we are doomed.
It’s only a matter of time until it’s over. What difference can one person make?
The character I liked so much in the movie- David Nix – the antagonist to our two geniuses with the capabilities to save the world expresses the horror he felt when he first began broadcasting the imminence of mass destruction to the world if current ways of doing, being and thinking continue. He was horrified due to the joy with which the news was received. “They embraced the idea of their own destruction” he cries out to our hero and heroine.
I know this malady in an up close and personal way.
My mother was not yet sixty when she was told she had atherosclerosis. At the time, I was working on my textbook about cardiac physiology and pathophysiology and was expert in both.
Laughingly, I told her that the process of atherosclerosis began in early life. Doctors had found atherosclerosis in the arteries of dead Viet Nam soldiers on autopsy. But Mom saw no humor in my statement. In fact, my mother decided that she was a cardiac cripple. For fifteen years, she lived that lifestyle; basically waiting to die from the final heart attack.
Terrified but certain that she would. It took her fifteen years to do it. During the last week of her life in the hospital, I read in her chart what I expected to see: There was no cardiac damage, there never had been. Her heart was healthy. For her, the lure of giving up became too powerful to resist.
We see what we expect to see and we become what we think about.
These are not new concepts; any student of the Talmud, Koran, Bible, Confucius or Marcus Aurelius knows these truths. Perhaps when we repackage them in an apocalyptic package, they are easier to dismiss as trivial and sentimental, as ‘brainless optimism’. But David Nix’s character was right on when he diagnosed so many of us. Rather than make changes in the way we think, the way we eat, the way we live, we’ll simply accept the inevitable. The secondary gains to this way of thinking are humongous: We are relieved of all responsibility.