Though he was known to many as a stand-up comedian, George Carlin (1937 -2008) was also a philosopher whose words, forget his lifestyle, aptly capture the reality of our today’s world. He might have had the American society primarily in mind when he said his inspiring words that aptly capture the ironies and contradictions of modern life, the issues he raised are of potent relevance to us all.
As we are engaged in the rat race of running after money and other vain embellishments of this fleeting life, resulting in crass corruption and insecurity that typify the nation, at the expense of what really matters, it is good we pause and reflect on the call of Carlin. The call is nothing more than a reflection of what we have become: people without souls.
This is especially important as we keep bumbling from blunder to blunder and as our quest for success drives us further and farther from the soul. We have leaders who are dealers (in corruption) and teachers who cheat their students as well as thieves that are decorated chiefs. The outcome is the sorry state of the world where we live in, the microcosm of which is Nigeria. What is the paradox of our time in history? Mr. Carlin provided the answer and I take liberty to quote him at length:
“The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses but smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge but less judgement, more experts but more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.
“We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.
“We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.
“We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life. We’ve added years to life but not life to years. We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbour. We conquered the outer space but not inner space. We’ve done larger things, but not better things.
“We’ve cleaned up the air but polluted the soul. We’ve conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We’ve learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever but we communicate less and less.
“These are times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days for two incomes and more divorce, fancier houses but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills do everything from cheer, to queit, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the showroom and nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to hit delete…
“Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment because for someday that person will not be there again.
“Give time to love, give time to speak! And give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind. And always remember: Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”
The path to recovery begins from us being wired accordingly as we strive to address the paradoxes that ruin our lives.