Addicted to Stimulation

We live in a society that is addicted to stimulation.  Here are some statistics:

  • On average we watch 151 hours of television a month
  • We spend an average of 42 hours a month on the web
  • Youtube – more people, per capita, watch Youtube in Canada than anywhere else in the world.  On top of that we are #1 in number of videos watched per person.
  • Wikipedia – we read the most pages, per capita, on Wikipedia (4x as many as Americans)
  • We buy more e-books than Americans, per capita 
  • 61% per cent of Canadians drink coffee regularly, making it the #1 drink in Canada.  On average they drink 2.6 cups a day, with the most being drunk at breakfast.
  • 28% of students (ages 18-20) drink alcohol with 67% of them being binge drinkers and 21% of them being heavy drinkers.
  • 44% of young adults (18-25) smoke
  • 10% of children (12-17) use drugs, 23% of students have personally / know someone who has used ecstasy, Marijuana is easier for them to get than alcohol and cigarettes.
  • 46% of high school students have had sex (6% of them before age 13) and 23% of them used drugs or alcohol before intercourse.  Roughly 1 in 3 teenage girls (31%) end up pregnant at least once before the age of 20.  55% of sexually active teens wished they had waited.
  • We work overtime, trying to make it big or just trying to survive.  All of our “stimulation” costs money.

We are a society that is addicted to stimulation from almost day 1.  Our kids start watching television shortly after birth (most 2 year olds watch videos and television).  I know kids 7-9 years old who are “connected” almost as much as I am and I’m involved in interactive media (internet technologies) as part of my job!!  Teenagers (in and out of the church) think “If it feels good, then it must be good”, which leads to the statistics we see in drug and alcohol (use/abuse) and sexual activity.

What If We Were Blown Back to the Stone Age?

We are so over-stimulated that if we suddenly switched all the technology off, we would have no idea what to do with ourselves.  If we got rid of all the coffee some people wouldn’t / couldn’t even get out of bed in the morning.

I think it’s time for a wakeup call.

My day job it is to create content, technology, and access in “internet land”.  In a way I am a stimulation dealer.  So you might think it strange that I come out against “stimulation”.  For me the issue is not access or use but content and reasons for use:

For people who live in a “connected” world we are very disconnected.  We spend a lot of time online: Facebooking / Twittering / blogging / videoing every detail of our lives or watching /reading the lives of other people online (anyone want to know what I had for breakfast?).  But we never really connect with people.  Our relationships are not with the people but with the technology that supposedly “connects” us with other people.  Don’t believe me?  Tell a kid to pick up the phone and call their friend rather than texting them and they will tell it’s “easier” to text them than to actually talk to them.  I’ve watched 2 kids sitting in the same room texting each other rather than talking.  I’ve watched my own family scattered all over the house because one is watching TV, one is on the computer, the other is reading a book , and we can go for hours sitting in the same room without actually communicating because we are all involved in the technology around us.  Why you ask?  Simple.

We live in a dysfunctional world:  our families are broken (divorce, single parent homes, absentee parents), we don’t know how to relate to each other, and we are looking for anything that will help us forget or escape this dysfunciton or give us some sense of being “connected” even if that connection is a false one (technology, sex, etc).  I admit I play video games sometimes because it gives me a sense of accomplishment (but in the end a hollow accomplishment), it is a form of escape.  We are slowly destroying our minds and bodies with substances.  In the process of trying to forget, we are destroying our ability to remember.  In our attempts to “connect” we are destroying our ability to have true relationships.

Content

If you watch TV for any length of time, you will discover that there is nothing “good” on television:  Most families are portrayed as dysfunctional, premarital sex is considered normal and good, murder is the #1 favourite subject on TV, followed closely by occultic supernatural, and any kind of belief in God is mocked.  Let’s look at the Top 10 television shows for 2010:

  • NCIS – a show about the Naval Criminal Investigation Service, in almost every show someone dies, either the show is about someone who was murdered or they kill people “in the line of duty”.  Some of the main characters are:  a man who killed his wife’s murder, a sex addict, a gothic scientist, and the only people who have any kind of morals are portrayed as socially inept or clueless.
  • Grey’s Anatomy – They are a wonderful bunch of dysfunctional people.  Some of the major plot devices are: who is sleeping with who and how their relationships are not working.
  • Vampire Diaries – I have never watched this show, but in a 30 second promo for it I saw violent murder, drinking of blood, talk of murder, and dark supernatural.  Not something our kids should be watching, but our kids (especially girls 12+) have helped become the third most watched show.
  • Bones – The show is based on a real life forensic anthropologist, but it mainly investigates murders and talks about how believing in God is “backwards” in a “scientifically advanced society” and that as mammals we should just engage in sex often and with many partners because monogamy is contrary to “nature”.
  • Criminal Minds – I really don’t think we should be trying to understand how the criminally insane think….
  • House – I like the concept of medical mystery, but the main cast is made up of:  A cynical man who is sleeping with his boss, a bisexual woman, a man who is constantly cheating on his wife, and a man who committed murder.  Belief in God is mocked and portrayed as “a throw back to the stone age”.  And the latest addition to the show believes that they need to be truthful with patients and have integrity… and she is constantly mocked for it.
  • Supernatural – this show tries to make the occult and demonic activity “cool”.  (P.S. I watched only a portion of a show a long time ago, but that was far more than I should have…)
  • Smallville – I don’t have enough info on this one (don’t watch it).  But of what I’ve seen its just more dysfunctional or broken relationships, broken promises and lately they have introduced magic into the show (a friend gave me a rundown on the latest seasons).
  • Gossip Girl – with a tag line like “Your one and only source into the scandalous lives of upper east siders of Manhattan” it cannot be good.  In a 30 second clip, you see blackmail, sex, partying, and everyone is checking their email/texts/web for all the up-to-the-minute dirt.  I see enough of this malfunction in real life, why do I want to watch more of it?”
  • Dexter – I don’t care if you think that a serial killer killing other serial killers is a good idea, we shouldn’t be filling our heads with Dexter’s psychopathic activities.

Like I said, there is nothing good on television.

We Are Literally Blowing Our Minds

Then there is society’s romance with chemicals.  People tell me there is nothing wrong with marijuana, they tell me it’s not addictive and that it has less health side effects than cigarettes, etc.  I’m not sure where the truth lies in most of the statements that are made.  But I do work directly or indirectly with people who do / have done marijuana and the effects on their brain chemistry is obvious.  There ability to make leaps in logic, to go beyond the obvious, to make critical decisions, is impaired, many cases permanently, by smoking marijuana.  And we are not even talking about “hard” drugs.

I know several people who have taken hard drugs and they will, apart from the grace of God, never be normal again.  For many of them they have severe psychological problems ranging from depression to full blown psychosis.  I personally have never done drugs recreationally.  But when I had got a kidney stone and they filled me full of pain killers, it took me weeks to get back to feeling normal.  I took only half the dosage recommended for 2-3 days and I did not feel myself until 2-3 weeks later.  I cannot imagine what abusing them for any length of time would do to me.

There’s Nothing Casual About Sex

The 2 stories that I think best describe society’s attitude towards sex are:

A high school girl wrote to a newspaper advice column saying “Every time I sleep with a guy I get attached to him, how do I stop that from happening”.  Thankfully the columnist responded with “Don’t sleep with him.  Sex is supposed to attach us”.  But it only shows society’s attitude:  Sex is fun, it feels great, just avoid any emotional attachment.  God gave sex as a way of cementing marriage, it connects husband and wife together, it is an expression of the already existing love bond between them.  It was never meant as a recreational sport.  It is the emotional equivalent of dynamite, it can blow your socks off (in the marriage context) or destroy your life (premarital sex and breakups, teen pregnancy, STDs, etc).

The other story is one that I am personally aware of.  I once worked with a man who moonlighted as a bouncer at a club (by day he worked in the IT industry).  One night after working as a bouncer he was in a restaurant getting food with a friend, when his friend asked a group of passing woman if any of them wanted to go home with his friend (my co-worker).  Obviously the request was for her to have sex with him.  One of the woman responded “sure, I would”, and she did.  She did not know him, he did not know her, but that did not stop them from engaging in an act meant solely for the marriage bed.  His attitude was “I don’t care what she looks like, put a bag over her head and I’ll have sex with her.  He was not interested in her as a person, just as a sex toy.  There are so many websites now that exist for the purpose of facilitating “intimate encounters”, some with million of members.  AdultFriendFinder boasts 6 million users and is ranked in the top 100 visited websites worldwide and has a slogan of “Get Laid Today”.

This paints quite a bleak picture for true, lasting relationships, let alone godly relationships.

But Why?

Why are we so addicted to stimulation?  Why are we willing to destroy our lives and our minds for stimulation / escape / excitement.  At our current rate of decline we face a bleak future:  the family unit is under attack, education is in the toilet and what brain cells we haven’t destroyed with drugs or STDs are rotting as we veg out on the internet or television.  All for what?

What value is there in a society like the one we live in?  According to the Bible, very little.  Romans 1 talks about how because of our choices to abandon God and his ways that we were turned over to our own depravity and began doing things that should never be done:  premarital sex, perverted sex, murder, greed, envy.  That we became senseless (unfeeling / callous),  faithless, heartless, and ruthless.  It’s scary that this description sounds like the script for most television shows.

If we look at the historical Rome (to whom the book of Romans was written), we would realize that Rome collapsed under the weight of its own debauchery.  Though historians argue about what really caused the ultimate downfall of Rome, there is no question that they had become addicted to partying and traded the natural order of things for the unnatural.  They had 180 days of holidays (if you were a Roman citizen) of which alcohol and debauchery were a big part.  This partying actually destroyed Roman culture, and led to its downfall as they were too fat and complacent to deal with the attacks that came.

But the question remains as to WHY?  Again, the answer is in Romans.  But first let me establish some things about God:  God is love (1 John 4:8), He is the source of all godly pleasure (Psalms 16:11, Psalms 36:8), He is the giver of all good things (Matt 7:11, James 1:17).  But if, as Romans says, you turn your back on God, you are ultimately separating yourself from peace, love, and joy, from true pleasure.  If you do that what is left but to seek “pleasure” in its lesser forms.  I like what C.S. Lewis said about pleasure:

“If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desire not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, we are like ignorant children who want to continue making mud pies in a slum because we cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a vacation at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

Put another way, Pleasure is in and of itself not bad, God was the one that made things pleasurable.  But God also established the confines, or the right way, of seeking pleasure.  If you come to God seeking what is good and pleasing, you will find it.  But if you seek pleasure apart from God what you will find is addiction.  And any who has (or knows someone who has) suffered from addictions can tell you, addictions can never be satisfied.  It is like putting a man on a planet without enough oxygen, though he breathes in and out, he never gets enough oxygen, he breathes harder and faster, but still he dies for lack of oxygen.  So it is with pleasure, apart from God it lacks what we are really looking for and will result ultimately in death, if not physically, emotionally, then definitely spiritually.

But ultimately, the problem is not one of pleasure.  Pleasure is created by God.  The problem that man has is one of purpose, and ungodly pleasure simply becomes a way of forgetting the real issue.  Every man, woman, and child longs to be loved, to have significance, to know that they are valuable, that someone cares, someone values them.  But the problem with the world is that everyone is seeking this. When you put two people together who are both expecting the other to provide them with value and significance, you end up with two hurt and empty people.  Nothing plus Nothing, still equals nothing.

That is where God comes in, we will find the ultimate pleasure when we discover the joy of being valued, loved, and significant to God.  There is no greater joy than the experience of hearing God say “Before you were formed, before the world was created even, I knew you, in fact it was I who formed you, and I loved you before you even knew me” (Jeremiah 1:5, Ephesians 1:4, Psalms 139:13, Romans 5:8). 

But when we separate ourselves from God, we fill our lives with stimulation and addiction in hopes of forgetting our emptiness.  The problem is we can never truly fill that void inside of us.  Only God can.  and that cannot happen until we truly surrender ourselves to God and let him speak value, worth, and love into us.  Our biggest problem is not seeking pleasure, just seeking the wrong kind from the wrong source for the wrong reasons.

I highly recommend that you give yourself time to stop, get away from all the stimulation of this world, close your eyes, and ask God to speak into your life and let him fill you with true pleasure.  Receive God’s affirmation.  That is my prayer for you, that you truly hear God speaking into your life the value that he places on you.  Christ put your value above that of his own life.  He gave up his divinity to come and suffer indescribable pain to receive the indescribable joy of calling you his own.  He valued you and relationship with you as the greatest treasure in all of creation.  You are heaven’s greatest treasure and Jesus is (y)our greatest treasure.  And in this revelation lies the greatest pleasure and will truly fulfil us.

P.S.  For the record here are the links form which I got a lot of my stats:

Youtube Stats
Coffee Stats

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