I’m a citizen of the modern world.

And as a modern-day citizen, it sometimes seems challenging to live in this world of seeming inanity at my fingertips.

I know that sounds like a bit of a judgment, but I am definitely not alone in thinking that most modern cultures perpetuate the silliness of conforming to stereotypes while discouraging free, independent thoughts and actions. At the same time, thoughts that could become revolutionary are suppressed when we distract ourselves with “things”.

And the “things” in our modern culture are a-plenty.

Why is this?

A large part is because we’re conditioned from a young age to behave in a “culturally appropriate” manner. The rules of society are the rules we base our moral and governmental laws upon, and anything other than strict adherence to them is deemed reprehensible, either silently or openly (depending on the situation).

It’s frustrating to behave in such a manner and to feel constrained by these roles if they feel unnatural to us as individuals. We start to gradually lose the relationship we have to our own uniqueness.

We then become addicted to things that ease whatever sense of suffering this brings.

In general, as a global culture:

  • We favor cyber connectivity over physical connectivity.
  • We favor fashion over character.
  • We favor immediacy over persistence.

When we do these things, we slowly lose touch with the pristine nature of ourselves as interconnected parts of the whole. We fall into a deeper sense of anthropocentricity, self-centeredness, and a lack of regard for all things “other”.

This more complacent, more sensible path feels easy because of the confirmation received from everyone around us.

We think, “If this is what everyone else is doing, then it must be right.”

From the outside, it looks great, but somewhere inside, very often, not many people are content following the status quo.

1. Learn To Ask “Why?”

We each have a set of values and beliefs that propel us toward our choices and ultimate goals in life.

One of the best ways of examining those concepts is to ask yourself why you behave in such a way. What is it about your relationship to the world that gets you to think in the way that you do?  How is your past shaping your future?

This is the Buddhist idea of “Karma”.

Your way of thinking is a habit pattern that, for many people, goes unnoticed. It keeps bringing in what it’s looking for, and if the thought’s habit is a tendency toward un-pleasurable things, that thought’s habit will perpetuate itself and keep producing un-pleasurable things, and more un-pleasurable thoughts will become a persistent reality.

This becomes the cycle, and the more it happens, the more it reinforces itself, and the harder it becomes to stop. This is usually referred to as an “addiction”.

2. Examine The Addictions

The word “addiction” should not be reserved for criminals and drug users; we are all addicted to something in our lives, and in varying degrees. In trying to reframe this word, I implore you to examine your own addictions with absolute, brutal honesty.

You may not think that your 8am cup of coffee is an addiction, but what would happen if you didn’t get it? Could you not drink that cup of coffee (or tea, or other caffeinated beverage) for a month? For a year?

Or maybe you are hip to all the latest fashion trends; what would happen if you stopped buying clothes for a few months? For a few years?

Or maybe you are in a long-term relationship and are never far away from your partner. What would it feel like to be alone? Are you infatuated with the person, or are you dependent on the relationship? What would happen if you two were just friends and there was no sense of sexual partnership holding you together?

You could be addicted to money, to sugar, to arguing, to skateboarding, to playing guitar, to whatever. I obviously don’t know what your addictions are, but I assure you, you have them.

life addiction

mmm… addiction…

We hear often in our culture about “breaking addictions”, but I don’t feel like this is useful. The phrase should really be “working with addictions”.

It needs to be noted that some addictions are very beneficial to our health and well-being.

For example, the typical westerner has an addiction to cleanliness. Many bathe themselves at least once a day. Is that “bad”? Most people would argue that it’s actually very “good”. I would certainly argue that you don’t need to bathe every day, but that doesn’t really make it “bad”.

And what about our cultural addiction to technology? You wouldn’t be reading this and I wouldn’t have a platform to write this without it. Is this cultural addiction a particularly “bad” thing?

The important part here is that you recognize the addiction. What would happen if you didn’t bathe for a month? What would happen if you gave up the internet for a month?

Could you do it?

If you’re shaking your head vigorously, then you, yes you, have an addiction.

But the addictions themselves may not be “bad”. Your addictions are unique expressions and reflections of who you are and why you do the things you do.

They’re only “bad” if you think they’re getting in the way of you living a “healthy” life.

And if they are, you should really try and “work with” them.

The problems start to really pile up when you don’t recognize that you are addicted to virtually everything that you do. This kind of delusion forms the basis for animosity, hatred, and war. Simply acknowledging, examining, and “working with” your addictions will help you overcome a lot of unnecessary tension.

When doing this kind of inner work, be honest and accept everything you find out about yourself with love and compassion.

3. Practice Trial & Error

I don’t know if this fledgling blog is going to have any readership, but I’m still writing with inspiration and intent. I didn’t know I wanted to write a blog three years ago; I’m not even sure I still do now.

I didn’t know I was going to forgo a complacent life in the Rocky Mountains and try and foster an acting career in LA.

I didn’t know I was going to forgo that life and try and build another complacent life in Portland, Oregon.

I didn’t know I was going to forgo that life and try to learn Chinese in Beijing (where life is anything but complacent).

Every day, I sit and I question the direction I’m going, and I continue on the internal path regardless of outside circumstance.

The best advice I’ve ever received regarding this process:

“No decision is still a decision.  Either way, you’re doing something.”

Trial and error

“Let’s take both paths!”

The point is that there is no possible way of knowing anything.

Even if you did somehow know, the journey is still callously uncompromising and draining.

The only way to gain knowledge and life experience is to courageously step into the world and live with an ideal, or concept, or lack of concept, or confusing thought pattern, or hardship, or carefree attitude, or whatever else you want to try for a little bit.


  • Trial and error is just another practice.

But it gets easier over time as the practice of displaying courage and confidence becomes stronger. Eventually, failing at something isn’t a big deal anymore, because even if there are many failures along the way, the successes tend to overshadow the less pleasurable situations.

And it’s important to always remind yourself that you can’t know if you don’t try.

I never would’ve known I enjoy scented candles if I didn’t courageously challenge my own views of masculinity. I never would’ve known I don’t like drinking alcohol if I didn’t courageously face my addiction to social validation. I never would be writing this if I didn’t decide to try out writing a blog (…for a third time).

Keep trying; the more you try, the more you know.

Managing Life In The Modern Era

We all have very specific and unique experiences that shape and define our ways of life.

Until we examine them, we won’t know if they are in our best interests, or if they are in someone else’s best interest that we’ve accidentally inherited. 

Within these storehouses of our beliefs, we find things like our deep-seated habits, our values, and our core sense of purpose.

So dig around and look. And when you find those things, test them out and see if they still ring true.

Often, in this world of gadgets and stimulation, we forget to examine how we got here. The journey gets hindered by the goal. 

Taking a moment to stop and explore ourselves in relation to the world is the most effective way to manage the stress of living in a modern world, and finding your truth as a modern living being.

What are some things that you do to navigate through life’s inherent nonsense? Let me hear your tips and tricks in the comments below!

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About The Author

Eric Michelson is a writer, blogger, philosopher, activist, artist, Buddhist, and mindfulness enthusiast. He is the founder of and editor-in-chief for Perspective Earth - an online discussion space for revolutionaries and thinkers. His lifelong mission is to serve and serve he will. You can follow him and PVEarth on Facebook and Twitter.

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