There is little doubt that modern life is unnatural, so many things we do disconnect us from the real world that is all around us.
There is little doubt that we live in the safest, most evolved time of recorded history. And while we don’t need to worry about many of the things that people from the past had to contend with, there are many things about how we live today that don’t feel natural.
If you have ever felt like modern life doesn’t make sense, then check out this list of reasons why that could be.
1) We Live Through Screens
While I type this, I sit in my home office staring at a screen connected to the internet. When I am doing my day job, it is precisely the same; as all day we have group meetings and research sessions. A lot has changed in the last year, but it isn’t like things weren’t mostly this way already.
As a kid, I might have called my friend on the phone to see if he could play, but we would always go outside and play together in the same space. So much of what is considered normal these days involves looking at a screen and connecting with other people digitally.
We can’t see the world as it is; instead, we look at screens and they tell us how to see the the things around us.
We can shop, order food, talk, play and even go on tours with our phones, in a lot of ways, this makes life easier and more comfortable. Yet, at the same time, it has taken us away from the sorts of things that we used to do in person. In a lot of ways, modern life is unnatural because we can now do everything on our phones, and we no longer need to go out and be in the real world.
2) We Have Little Connection With Our Food
The other night, while we were eating dinner, my daughter picked up a piece of meat with her fork and asked, “what animal is this?” Instinctively, I replied, “it’s pork!” Then she asked, “what animal is pork?” It was my mistake for not answering her question correctly when she first asked, but there is something to be said about the words we use to describe the meat we eat that avoids connecting that food with an animal.
Canned beans, bags of vegetables, meat wrapped in saran-wrap and styrofoam, we are so disconnected from where the food we eat comes from. In a lot of ways, this makes life easier, as we don’t need to worry about killing animals to get food.
We don’t associate the food we eat with living things; instead, they are products we buy at a the store.
Last summer, we planted a vegetable garden; it was a lot of fun to take care of and watch everything grow. My daughter enjoyed picking vegetables off the plants and eating them right away. For the first time in a long time, we could see where the food we were eating came from. Modern life is unnatural because it removes us from the food that we eat so much that it is difficult to imagine what we are actually eating.
3) We Control the Temperature Around Us
When I look out the window, there is snow on the ground, and I can hear the wind blowing; it sounds cold. Meanwhile, I sit in a chair wearing shorts and a sweater. Modern life has made our lives so much more manageable; if we didn’t have temperature control, it might not even be possible for people to live where I live right now.
Yet, at the same time, adjusting the temperature disconnects us from the world around us. At times, while we sit in our temperature-controlled homes, we forget what it is like outside. Even worse, if we are forced to go out in an emergency, we might not even be prepared. When I was younger, my mother always told me to bring a jacket with me when I went in the car during the winter. In a way, being warm inside a house during the winter helps us forget about how cold it is outside.
Modern life is unnatural because it enables us to avoid having to experience the world, especially the weather.
While this is helpful and makes living in cold places possible, it also makes us weak because we don’t honestly know how to survive in our environments.
4) We Live in Tall Buildings
When we lived in an apartment in the city, I’d wake up, walk to the window and look outside. There wasn’t much to see; in fact, every direction was filled with buildings and other people just like me. And if I looked down, I might be able to catch a glimpse of the weather.
Living in tall buildings in the city is convenient for working, but our feet never touch real grass.
For thousands of years, humans have lived close to the ground with easy access to the world around them. Only in modern times have tall buildings become a thing, while they are great for high-density living close to work, but when we were forced to stay inside, it quickly became an unreasonable place to live.
Now that we are out of the city, I step outside in the morning and walk on the grass during the summertime. This simple act feels great and is impossible to do while living in an apartment building.
Modern life is unnatural because it encourages us to live up in the sky and far away from the ground outside.
5) Our Landscapes Are Composed of Straight Lines
If you ever go for a hike in a forest, you will quickly realize there are no straight lines. When you look at the horizon on a lake, the surface is flat, but otherwise, it isn’t something you see very often in nature. Trees are curved, the ground and grass are uneven, leaves crinkle and trees sway in the wind.
While almost every thing in the modern world is made up of straight lines, straight lines don’t exist in nature.
If you are going for a hike, it is improbable that the path will be straight; it will likely twist and turn around all sorts of obstacles. Yet when you walk through a city, most of the sidewalks will be straight, as will the shapes of buildings and almost everything else.
There are almost no straight lines in nature, yet in modern life, we are surrounded by them. It likely doesn’t matter much, but the way we perceive the world is unnatural compared to how humans have lived throughout most of history.
6) Science Has Taken Away The Magic
Science is a great tool that has improved the lives of people all around the world. Science is also a great way to discover truths about the world we see, but at the same time, with everything explained, there isn’t much magic left. In the past, people could see things and appreciate them for what they were, but now that we can explain almost everything, it is easy to get caught up in scientific explanation and forget about the thing itself.
Every day we are told about amazing occurrences which can make our everyday moments seem less magical.
When I was a kid, I remember being curious about how things worked, and I always wanted to do experiments to figure out what was going on. Now, if kids want to understand something, they look it up on the internet and get an instant explanation. In the past, they might have needed to figure it out themselves, now everything is available with the touch of a screen. Modern life is unnatural because it has separated us from the magic of the unknown and put all the answers in the palms of our hands.
7) We Spend Our Days in Offices
When I was a kid, my dad used to tell me how easy my life was, and he would say, “when I was your age, I used to wake up at 6, feed the chickens, milk the cows before I could eat breakfast.” My dad’s childhood was likely an exception rather than the rule, but back then more people worked outside and interacted with nature than they do today.
These days, many people spend most of their time sitting in office staring at screens.
No doubt, the more common types of work have changed over the years, and in a lot of ways, that is progress. But at the same time, a few hundred years ago almost everyone would have worked outside, now most people sit on chairs and look at computers.
Because of the changes in how people work, more of us are finding ourselves working on computers are rarely need to go outside into the world. Modern life is unnatural because it has changed our relationship with our work, in the past, people used to make things with their hands, today most people do things with computers.
8) The News Tells Us About The World
Up until relatively recently, our world’s used to be a much smaller place. Before the internet and cable news, it wasn’t easy to find out what was happening in other parts of the world. For this reason, we only really knew what was going on around us; on the surface, you could say we were naive and uneducated about the world, but at the same time we didn’t need to worry about things that didn’t affect us.
This isn’t to say that what happens in other places doesn’t matter, rather that it doesn’t matter much to our day to day actions.
When there is a disaster on the other side of the world, it sucks for those people who have to go through it, but there is nothing we can do to help them.
I’m not trying to be cruel or inconsiderate here either, just trying to make the distinction between information that is helpful and information that doesn’t make a difference.
Our modern life is unnatural because we continuously hear about problems from around the world that we can’t do anything about nor do these things have any effect on us. It is a problem for us today because when we didn’t know about these things in the past, our lives were less stressful be practically the same.
9) We Work For Money
People throughout all of the time have had to work so that they could survive; in the long lost past, people would need to hunt and gather food so that they could eat. As time passed and the world got more developed, our lives changed, and the way we looked at work and survival changed with it.
In the past, people worked for survival and they worked for tangible things. Bluntly, people picked vegetables because you needed to eat them; and they raised animals because they made work more manageable.
When we work, we don’t create what we need; instead, we work for an abstraction which can be turned into the stuff.
This might sound like splitting hairs, and maybe it is, but the difference is essential; as in the past, we worked for the things we needed, now we work for money, which we can later exchange for the things we need.
Because we work for things less tangibles, our connection to our work has changed and we can see this in phrases like “collecting a paycheque” or “working for the weekend.” Modern life is unnatural because we don’t work so that we can survive, we work so that we can get money so that we can use that money to survive.
10) Choices Are Already Made For Us
Related to working for money, so many of our choices are made for us. Before we were organized into countries and civilizations, we had to choose each day what we would do because our survival depended on it. If we made bad choices, we wouldn’t be alive the next day to make different choices.
However, today, we know that we have to get a job so that we can make money, so we can use that money to buy stuff and put a roof over our heads. Long ago, if people wanted a home they just built it wherever they wanted to.
Another thing that comes to mind is when it is time to eat. What makes this unnatural is that it isn’t a choice; you can’t grow or collect food, you need to buy it from a complicated supply chain.
People in the city have no involvement in what they eat, instead they go to a store and buy “food.”
Working and eating are a necessary part of life, but the decisions we can make about how we do those things were made long before we were born. Getting to the point, so much of modern living is defined and structured, so we are much less free to step out of those structures and make different sorts of decisions.
11) There is a Tool For Everything, Even Sleep
One of the most natural things we do is go to sleep, yet today, we can use tools to help us sleep. Things like white noise machines and sleeping pills come to mind, but others include books and watching videos on our phones. For most of human existence, people had no choice but to lay down and try to sleep; there often wasn’t even an option to consider something else.
For almost every task we must do, there is a tool; no doubt, these tools make our lives easier, but we no longer know how to do things.
But at the same time, we don’t have to interact with raw materials the same way people used to. I’m not complaining; I love this computer; it lets me do something I love, but I can’t pretend that typing words on a keyboard is natural.
Modern life is unnatural because we don’t interact with the world’s material anymore; instead, everything is mediated through a tool of some sort.
12) We Don’t Look Up to The Stars
I can’t be the only exception to this rule, but I’m sure that most people don’t look up to the stars all that much. If we think back to ancient times when people came up with the names of the constellations, they must have had a much different relationship with the night sky than we do.
Today if we want entertainment, we turn on the TV or look at our phone, but before all this stuff existed, people’s options included looking at a fire or looking up at the stars.
I get lots of joy out of stargazing, but when I’m doing it, the people around me often ask what I am up to. I know my neighbours think I’m strange while I sit outside looking up at the sky during the summer. Yet, for all of time before now, that was most people’s only form of entertainment.
Modern life is unnatural because people don’t look up at the stars and wonder, instead, we have all of the answers on our phones so we look at them instead.
The modern world has severed our connections with the world around us, and the things that used to be natural are now considered fringe and strange. But this doesn’t mean we have to keep living this way, perhaps there is something else we can do?