Surrogate Goals

Terry Brezsny Ballantyne
- Terry Brezsny Ballantyne

Surrogate Goals

I worry that there is a pervasive and wicked sickness threading silently through our society.  I believe it may be born of having too many choices and not enough threat to our physical existence so that we are focused always on minutia.  “I don’t like this or that,”  “he/she was rude to me, ” “how dare they do that”.

Such righteous indignation over minor infractions or slights.   When suddenly Irma swooped in,  all of that was off the table and our best instincts surfaced again. Kindness, selflessness, and an absence of labeling each other. Black, white, Red or Blue, everyone got in the boat that was offered.  No questions asked.   We were back to our better biology.

In our daily lives, how  many of us have set up useless goals merely to feel like we were satisfying some goal?  Like having the best day on an instagram post?   Lots of likes on Facebook?  Learning to use stickers on your smart phone?  Candy Crush?  Video Games? These are all surrogate goals for the things that used to bring us real pleasure or benefits. Time with family sharing oral history, making a meal together, plowing a field, building a car engine.  We have gotten lazy.

If suddenly you were forced to provide food and shelter for your family and found yourself succeeding, would you feel deprived if you couldn’t post on instagram?  Likely not. You would be caught up in natural, human and rich satisfaction of providing a benefit to those you love. And you would be too tired to mess with trivia.

Yet, we are all guilty of filling our days with surrogate distractions that are not enriching or satisfying.  We walk around mildly irritated about the condition of society and yet, seemingly, powerless to control our addiction to useless technology.  Time wasters, mindless distraction,  pointless activities that consume this  precious time we have here on the planet.

Suddenly confronted with only 6 weeks to live, would you really spend it on Instagram? Or would you seek the beach, or a mountaintop, or visit a shrine, or go to Burning Man?Would you invite every friend to dinner or open your heart to strangers?

Those in Olderhood, in the declining arc of time here on this beautiful, precious planet are more keenly aware of where and how we spend our time.  We need to be vocal warriors about alerting people to pleasures of real activities that leave us satisfied. I think this is why Fix it Fairs
are thriving, it’s the desire to share a craft or skill, to be more resourceful, less wasteful and it provides social connection. This drive for meaning and connection is why national park attendance is up, why families are moving closer together,  why big malls are dying. We crave intimacy even as we lose the ability to foster it.

So give some thought to your container of time.  Where will you spend it?  What will be the reward?  Yesterdays full of nothing, or rich memories?




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