Tag Archives: soma

Facebook = Soma

It is remarkable the clutter one’s mind can hold; how quickly it can fall upon you, invade, stretch its legs out, and then make its self so comfortable it’s as though you never existed without it. The experience of separating myself from THE social network has been an amazing journey I’m not quite done with yet. Within a few days of not posting I felt… liberated. The compulsion to comment and respond, the drive to participate in debates, to clarify my position, to rail against the logic fails I would take as a personal affront wasn’t present. My smart phone was left in my back pack in the trunk during outings. A quest for approval I had inadvertently embarked upon when signing up for facebook seemed to run out of steam.

Every night I was besieged by the news on my feed; article after article presented to me and threads to which I felt compelled to respond. And with all this time during which the kids slept I never felt rested, replenished, or even relaxed or productive. It was frustration and hostility – feeding mostly the negative things that reside within.  The absolute, in the doldrums, intensely negative self outlook.  There was always someone who was accomplishing more than me, certainly more of the things viewed by society as valuable and as actual achievements, and this sent me on a bit of a downward spiral.   I even mis-attributed some of that to being burnt out; that being the primary care giver of my two children, one teething and crawling while the other has extraordinary dietary restrictions, time while my husband worked his ass off in getting a new business launched while furthering the success of the existing one. A few days of no posting, a few painful days of cringing every time I had the thought “this is what I should post as my status”, was all I needed to realize how easy it was to let the single most precious thing in life slip through my fingers. Time.

Facebook, or so it seems to me, is the new soma. It lures you in with the promising glitter of “keeping in touch”, then of being “better than” those people from high school/co-workers/family members, and then it suddenly switches this thing that simply keeps you busy. That whiling away hours upon it “keeping up” with people or “sharing ideas” life was simply disappearing like water down a clean as a whistle drain even as the sensation of beautiful and precious moments became the noise and interruptions of my cyber drug. My anesthetization to them had been complete. But reversible.

The communications I had on facebook were, upon occasion, very meaningful to me. Some even made me feel powerful. But by and large the vicarious nature of the network its self left me with less power, less words, through the perpetuation of a myth of productivity. My writing, even my desire to do it, left me for a time. It was EASIER to fill my head and expend my energy on the false premise my arguing with someone would change their belief when I knew damn well that certainly wasn’t going to be the case in the reverse. There’s always that hope of those with strong beliefs, myself certainly not an exception to this, that a person might become converted to my way of thinking, of seeing things. It is not acceptance. It is not peace. It is not playing with my children. It is not a hug. It is not even tending to a relationship of value. I would contend that if people assert this to be the case (again – myself as recent as a month ago is counted in this) then what is worth valuing has been missed.

A hand written letter is what I crave doing most for my friends these days. A phone conversation or text. Even an email. Something that is quieter and allows for the more tender and subtle emotions to be spoken without the violent screams of so many others to clutter up the works. And so I write again. Articles, essays, and a break through on a manuscript I still hold so very dear in addition to the letters and emails to those I’m grateful to call friends.

The blog… I think I’m coming back to it as well.

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Review: Brave New World

Behold!  The first book I’ve read as part of my self-imposed challenge!  A friend of mine is doing this with me also and, if you are interested in doing so as well, then please speak up and friend me on facebook where we decide what comes next!  [In this particular instance the next up is Lady Chatterley’s Lover – already started, tyvm.]

This book, should you not be familiar with it, is a futuristic tale in which people are created based upon the optimum measurements of what society needs for people to be happy.  The caste system is engineered for certain degrees of intellect through genetic controls resulting in these types (I’m only mentioning a few): Alpha plus, Alphas, Beta minuses, Gammas and the ever low men on the totem pole the Epsilons.  The most supreme intellects are, of course, the Alphas (pluses and double pluses, etc) and these only occur in a certain minority.  Each caste is raised to fill certain needs in society – there is no choice.  Each child is formed without parents, the upbringing is solely based upon group conditioning and a ritual of subconscious hypnotic suggestion.  This goes to understanding that as an individual your worth is nothing, you belong not to yourself, but to everyone; the suggestions talk about being materialistically compliant in the manner that most benefits society (get the newest and the best, discard the rest); if you ever feel down for any reason simply take your government provided soma (you get a daily ration of it).

It’s taken me almost a whole day to figure out how I feel about this book.  The structure is pretty simple, the language only a bit strange at times, and the world is artfully constructed.  Those who “grow up” [there are techniques for forced and rapidly completed maturation process, can’t recall if the main characters went through it] in this advanced society do so with the knowledge that they as individuals mean nothing.  Identities are communist (the overarching political system, while present, is not the focus) and therefor joint property in all people’s minds; something in order to be maintained is demonstrated in actions such as no long term and exclusive relationships promoting a sort of promiscuity  [Note:  In order for promiscuity to be an applicable word here there needs to be a notion of monogamy, a limitation in the sexual relationships between people, but since that is not the case in this world the word only acts to demonstrate something to us who aren’t a part of it.]; and possessions are revered and sought after.

It’s an interesting and unique notion, to be sure.  Personalities, bodies and minds, are not limited to the confines of the self; alone time is so sneered upon and was sure to link you with Bernard Marx in discussions of the masses – someone must have put alcohol in your test tube during your development.  Physical property is not really addressed beyond the fact that everyone is encouraged to be a consumer of the highest order, therefor the notion of self is present in relation to that role in society whereas in every other capacity it is shunned.  Children even go through death conditioning so it is no big deal when exposed to it and, in combination of the societal shunning of even the hint of a committed relationship, there is no grieving.  For grief to occur a person has to be acknowledged as unique and meaningful which goes against the indoctrination of the masses.

The first time this truly gets brought home to us is when we meet a man born and raised in a place called “The Savage Reservation”.  John [Savage] has a mother (this is a thing of horror to those in new world London)  with whom, despite all the atrocities of their disturbing relationship, feels an emotional bond.  Although he is an outcast in his own home due to his ethnic heritage (he’s Caucasian, the reservation is comprised of native Americans) it is the only home he’s ever known.  For him, each person matters, one has to work for their food, deal with the miseries of life as well as prove one’s self if there is a woman you’re interested in marrying.  The notion of communal partners is something he abhors just as much as the notion of chemical dependency his former- soma-taking- now- mescal- imbibing- mother so championed. But this is the world he finds himself in now thanks to an Alpha male outcast psychologist named Bernard Marx who marketed this new place as better.  His mother also wanted to “go back home”.  And so they went.

There are so many facets of this relatively short work that warrants conversation (about 230 pages).  The first that came to mind for me was the issues that arise when one feels unique.  In a society where everyone is a certain class, prejudices being hard wired within each person, every little abnormality stands out.  Certainly with the lack of parenting and the group conditioning that occurs there are few examples we see of this occurring.  Bernard, for example, stands out because he looks different than all other Alphas; short and thin instead of tall and well-built.  This difference makes him a pariah of sorts thus changing how he interacts with his environment and how he actually wants to do something different.  He fluctuates as many people in our society now do – a flux between wanting/needing approval and viewing the society from whom he wants acceptance with derision.  And still there’s that crutch available, even to him, that if he doesn’t feel well, if he feels too different, he partakes of soma.  This is a government issue medication that just makes one feel good and, while it might shorten life, it’s viewed as a wonderful thing.

Soma, the drug one can take when you’re feeling awkward or insecure, is what I liken to as self anesthetization and annihilation.  These aren’t terms used in Brave New World of course as they require an identification of the self.  There are no coping mechanisms as, well, there’s nothing really to cope with.  You don’t like something you take soma (turn the TV on), you feel weird you take soma (have a drink/do a line, take a puff), if you are confronted by anything you take soma (turn the TV/computer/internet on).  And if you feel outcast you take soma and do your best to join in any of the activities you’re supposed to in order to be considered a good citizen.  If you don’t you’re still outcast and treated with derision.

This book speaks to me on so many levels and all of them feel uncomfortably akin to now.  Soma is the easiest link, I think, to grasp but the one that still resonates the most is the black sheep situation.  As a piece of literature it feels strangely sterile.  Emotions are not felt in the story which is unsettling on its own, but when the opportunity presents itself via John to communicate feelings Huxley opts to not do so.  Overall it’s a very cerebral work that lends itself to thoughts, philosphical analysis as well as an emotional experience that just might sneak up on you long after you set the book down.  I hope you have the opportunity to check this one out if you have not done so yet.

So, what say you?  Have you read it?  Interested in reading it?