Is that all there is?
Is that all there is?
Many from the 1960’s will remember the haunting cabaret voice of Peggy Lee singing ‘Is that all there is?' And some will have heard Madmen’s Don Draper, celebrating his dizzy rise to the top of the corporate ladder, exiting an evening on the town with his CEO at a Strip-club, again utter those iconic words: ‘Is that all there is? Is that it?’
How many have had this very thought, have felt the emptiness of life’s anticlimax?
Recently an article in a widely circulated daily newspaper on the ills of consumerism, picks up on this old refrain: it describes a woman walking in a department store, filing through the racks and shelves of stuff, registering the other shoppers robotically shuffling through the aisles, cocooned in muzak, when suddenly she finds herself stopping in the middle of the store and shouting out, ‘Is this all there is!?’ An assistant appears and answers ‘No madam. There’s more in our catalogue'.
George Monbiot’s article puts forward that we have been trying to fill the unmentionable void by engaging in more and more consumerism – and that as a result, we have created a world which our ancestors would have found impossible to imagine – seven billion people, suffering an epidemic of loneliness. The void of deep discontent is vast.
His article observes that the pit of emptiness that many feel, propels their engagement in rampant consumerism, and that the pit could instead have been filled by a common purpose, ‘a better society built on mutual support and connectedness’ with each other.
We may be getting somewhere here – that the existence of the void could have something to do with connection, people, and our purpose here.
Indeed, he says, such a consumerist way of living ‘stifles feeling, dulling our concern for other people’. Yes, it does.
Buy up and numb yourself down – and in doing so you may never know that one of the fatal side effects includes losing connection with yourself and other people.
Numbing may help to gloss over the pain, the emptiness, but at the same time it also stops you from having access to true vitality through being able to feel what is truly going on – to be able to ‘feel’ – that sentient sense which is our most precious asset.
Yes, the sense of ‘feeling’ is ultra important – and ubiquitous consumerism is but one of many ways we use to stifle feeling, leading to the consequent shutdown of our precious connection.
We are a creative lot and can use practically anything at hand to do this numbing job. The original siren song of Peggy Lee proclaimed to her audiences sitting there yearning for connection and fulfillment: ‘If that’s all there is then let’s keep dancing/ let’s bring out the booze and have a ball/ If that’s all there is’.
Yeah, let’s numb the disappointment, the ache of emptiness, and make it go away with some booze and dancing. This ‘remedy’ used to be called ‘bread and circuses’ in the era of Charles I. And so it goes. We are all familiar with it. We’re still doing the same old thing centuries later – just set against a contemporary backdrop.
How did it get this way? How did we find ourselves on the hamster-wheel of futility, hurtling through our daily ‘round’, trying to keep up with the endless ‘to do’ list to keep ourselves afloat to survive, in a society that never stops racing, racing, with more and more to do and less and less time to do it in? And for what?. . . Just another day doing the same thing and wondering ’Is that all there is?'
Then, when we do stop numbing ourselves with seductive busy-ness, does the emptiness crowd in, and do we automatically reach for something to block it out, dumb it down?
Could it be that if we stopped the hamster wheel for just a moment and allowed ourselves to actually feel what is going on inside and around us rather than reach for the numbing devices, we might discover a place that is potentially a life-giver, a gateway to the ‘all there is’ that we crave?
And what if we found, when consenting to actually feel life in all its rawness and beauty, that underneath all the things we did not initially want to feel or dare to feel or even mention, there was a deep, beautiful and powerful essence that was ‘us’, untouched by the vicissitudes of life – an ‘us’ that we were once deeply familiar with, that is still there, waiting.
A true connection with our essential self changes our relationship with everything because we are once more in touch with love, and with everything we crave – there at our very fingertips. Once in relationship to self, our relationship to everything else shifts – to people, to money, to food, work . . . When connected we can clearly feel and observe the effects of using, say, food or money, to numb or comfort ourselves – we can observe what that does to us and our precious bodies. And if we truly clocked this, might not consumerism, obesity and anorexia go out the door?
A society of a whole different league could emerge – a society that might look like that one of mutual support and connectedness – a society where we help to inspire each other to raise the bar on the quality in which we live our life rather than succumb to mere existence and the futility of the adversarial life.
So why not stop, and re-connect to or plug into the most potent power-point on earth – yourself and your body. There will come a day when the question, ‘Is that all there is?’ will no longer be asked because we will have discovered that each one of us, when connected, is a gateway to the ‘all that there is’. Roll on that glorious day.