Yesterday was one of those typical personal Sundays when I spend an hour or so in introspection. Earlier, I had just enjoyed a few minutes of phone conversation with my young friend Jonathan. He asked for some advice regarding maintenance service and restoration for the old Seiko mechanical wristwatch he recently inherited from his grandfather.
I said that sending a lower tier model in for service would cost more than the watch is worth. It would be cheaper to replace it. However, if the watch has deep sentimental value, my watchmaker friend, Charlie, might be willing to service the old Seiko.
The conversation drifted into regular friend topics before we ended the phone call. That’s when the introspection began. I considered my acquaintance with Jonathan, our wide age gap, and that it had become a long distance friendship.
My young friend is typical of many millennials in that he has a certain idealism about how to improve society and ways he can integrate his mindset with civilization as a whole. You might say that he identifies himself as a rather holistic man.
Jonathan and I are very much alike in many ways. Both of us have managed to bridge the generation gap between millenials and boomers. We both strive to learn more about our personal lives by investigating philosophy and introspection. As friends, we bounce ideas off one another and find value in advice and criticism we share about each other.
My introspective monkey-mind shifted towards wondering about the current Zeitgeist. Is there a current, overarching mode of thought or characteristic of this early stage of the 21st century? Do modern men have a particularly unique way of thinking and acting in the world that men of earlier times rarely if ever did? It’s hard to determine what, if any Zeitgeist is present in today’s highly fragmented society.
More people today, even men, are increasingly aware of how we are detached from nature. Some of us try to compensate by adopting survivalist mindsets; others of us devote time towards environmental causes; others appear to deny the human/environment dysfunction altogether. So, our relationship with the natural world is one aspect of modern thinking.
Another important part of our lives is our obsession with digital gadgetry and machines. These artifacts have the ability to help us connect more deeply with nature and each other. They also make escape from reality very tempting. In this sense, modern man can deeply connect with each other; or get caught up in fantasy-centered, magical thinking escapes from reality.
The technological obsession can bring out mankind’s most hubristic notions. We increasingly identify as a super-dominant species that is very narcissistic in our species’ self-identity. We have great control over whether or not our biosphere will survive or collapse. We have made our species’ choice as to whether or not to preserve our viability into yet another political stance. Overall, contemporary humans seem to be aware of how tentative our existence upon this planet really is.
There seems to be an overall trend towards simplicity. Minimalism is still a popular trend in today’s society. There is also an increasing number of people who favor simple spirituality over complex religious institutions. Fundamentalism remains in many demographics, but as a whole, humanity is downsizing dogma and material stuff. We’re more likely to be discerning and careful about where we place our personal funds and faith.
Skepticism about our social institutions is on the upswing. Despite our more secular attitudes, there remains a sizable segment of the population that favors theocratic authoritarianism. This opinion has increased its footprint with the aid of modern media. This trend has revealed a troubling social divide. The concepts of freedom and liberty are borrowing from systems of restriction and control. Orwellian methods of mind control are more influential than ever before.
I’m not sure how precisely Jonathan and I fit into whatever today’s Zeitgeist is. Both of us are somewhat fashion conscious, but not obsessively so. We like to think of ourselves as open-minded–we’re both in favor of full equality regardless of gender, racial, sexuality, and ethnicity. We like to think that our levels of narcissism are healthy and non-intrusive into other people’s space. We both self-identify as moderate liberals politically and socially.
As far as being men of our times, both of us believe we were born into the correct place in history. At least we feel mostly comfortable with our place along the time-line of human progress. How we interact with society seems about right.
Meantime, how I view the challenges of the world are hopefully with the appropriate amount of concern. Whether or not I can play a small part in resolving some of them is up in the air, but I do want to help rather than hinder progress. I hope the trend to increase the spread of knowledge and wisdom will continue. I hope that I’m a man of the times in helpful ways.
The Blue Jay of Happiness ponders something from television actor, Cole Sprouse. “I think the truth about male friendship is often left out of the media, and it’s that it has a million different shades, because masculinity has a million different forms.”