A drug called Spice has become very popular among the homeless and incarcerated in the UK. It has the attractive property of rendering those who consume it unconscious. A recent article in The Guardian newspaper carried multiple photographs of homeless people lay unconscious in the street while the rest of society just walked past. In the comments section, someone who had clearly never done anything other than clean the car on Sunday and program their personal schedule with Zomba and yoga classes asked why someone would do such a thing. The obvious response was that these people preferred unconsciousness to the pain associated with being conscious – emotional pain certainly, and maybe physical pain. Somewhat surprisingly there were many critical comments asserting that the people who consumed this drug had a choice and so they deserved everything they got.
Let’s take a step back and talk about oblivion more generally. I spent a great deal of time in the North of England, and oblivion by alcohol was a favorite pastime of a fairly large percentage of the population. I don’t know the figures, but certainly more than one in five people. And then there is a much greater percentage of the population whose gateway to oblivion is the TV – soaps, game shows, talent shows, and the like.
Oblivion is attractive because it allows people to forget the salient facts that dominate their lives. Toil and strife, old age, illness, and death are what constitutes a life stripped of the fancy wrapping. People don’t want to know this, it would undermine the reason they have for all their striving – and the striving must go on because a better life awaits tomorrow.
It would seem to me that oblivion is the most saleable commodity on Earth. It doesn’t have to be Spice or heroin, it can be endless social media, endless computer games, and fanatical ambition. Fortunately, we all experience oblivion every night in deep dreamless sleep. And oblivion quite possibly awaits us after this short time on Earth. So all-in-all oblivion plays a very large part in our lives – a much larger part than purposeful, directed effort. This latter is based on the belief that there is someplace for us to go. A place that is better than where we are, although we do ignore the obvious fact that no matter how purposeful our lives, the destination is always the same – oblivion.
On the surface, this sounds quite depressing, but deeper reflection would show us very clearly that we should kick back and live a simple untroubled life. Epicurus said that the essentials of life are easily got, and for many people they are. So why make the effort to live some glorious life when our old friend oblivion awaits us. Go downstream – don’t fight the current, and in the words of a song by Simple Minds – there is nothing out there worth fighting for.