As anyone who's spent any significant time in the "conspiracy community" knows, there's a lot of emphasis in many quarters on spirituality, cf. "ascending to the fifth dimension", sending the evils of the world "love and light", meditating, fasting, psychedelics, and so forth - the shared general theme of all these pursuits being, you're not as happy or fulfilled in life as you could be, as you're not spiritual enough. To improve your lot in life, you need to "spiritually optimise" yourself, much as a copywriter might "search engine optimise" a website - by "programming" yourself in a certain way, you will, you are told, "optimise" yourself and therefore your life experience.
I've always been - to put it mildly - suspicious of all this, because why would humans have to put so much time and energy into "being spiritual" when no other being on the planet does this? A cat gets on with being a cat, a horse is a horse, a cow is a cow, they just get on with being what they are and don't pour any especial time or thought into moving away from their essential nature to become "more spiritual" - and that's when I realised. The reason there is such an intense focus in the modern world on "spirituality" is because we are not supported to fulfil our essential natures in the way that wild animals are. Modernity completely divorces us from natural human life, and this causes a void and, very often anguish and misery, which has been misinterpreted as a spiritual issue - an existential emptiness resulting from lack of sufficient spirituality - but what I have realised is it's not that we need to become "more spiritual" to fill this void: it's that we need to become more human.
Zoo animals often exhibit signs of depression and apathy because, even when they have spacious enclosures and plenty of food and toys, they are still being deprived of fulfilling their essential nature, which involves living in the wild and all that that entails. A lion in a zoo is depressed, not because he needs to become "more spiritual", but because he needs to become more lion-like. He needs to move further towards what he really is, not ascend off into other dimensions far away from it.
Equally, modern human beings have also been completely deprived of fulfilling our essential natures, which also involve living in the wild and all that that entails - hunting, fishing, farming, growing, building. We are all hardwired to do that, to carry out the essential survival work implicit in being human, because - while individual humans may have distinct personalities and temperaments - we're nevertheless fundamentally all wired for the same things. Just as cats, irrespective of any temperamental differences individual felines may have between them (and as anyone who keeps the creatures knows, they do have VERY distinct characters), are still all hardwired to hunt, to sleep a lot, and to like warmth and high places.
If you deprive a cat of what it needs and is designed for, and instead put it in a suit, and send it to sit in an office for 8 hours a day, then the cat is going to become depressed. With the cat, we'd realise why this is happening - that this is an absurd and wholly inappropriate way for a cat to live, so we would treat the resultant depression by taking the cat out of the office and putting it back in the garden, swapping the computer mouse for real ones. With a human, however, we label the resultant depression as mental illness, and prescribe treatments - whether allopathic or naturopathic - that seek to support the person to better adjust to the sick situation, rather than changing the person's environment entirely and recognising that a healthy person cannot thrive in a sick situation, no matter how many meditation courses they go on or organic vegan fasts they undertake. All these activities - while they may have some beneficial effects - never ultimately deliver the deep and lasting transformative change people are really looking for, because they're fundamentally misinterpreting the real problem.
Some great heroes of mine are the Amish, and it's not because they've perfectly epitomised optimal physical health and have flawless diets and lifestyles, since they certainly do not (I lived near an Amish community when I studied in the States, and they were often to be found eating pizza slices and smoking cigarettes outside the local drug store) - but I think there can be too much of an obsessive focus on achieving "perfect" physical health amongst lost people. I see a lot of health and fitness gurus obsessed with eating everything organic and eliminating all "toxins" and they often seem like really angry and unhappy people. Eating healthily most of the time is desirable, but cultish obsession about anything isn't healthy. Eating the occasional slice of pizza - or, heaven forfend, even having a cigarette - isn't equivalent to a blasphemous evil sin and it's not helpful or evolved to treat it as if it is. So, I admire the Amish - not because they have "perfect", natural, organic diets, since they do not (indeed, they have a bit of a problem with diabetes, as they're very fond of sugar), but because they so presciently predicted what would happen to human beings if they were removed from a direct productive connection to their own survival.
The Amish refused (and continue to refuse) to use any kind of modern technology, because they foresaw the disastrous consequences of depriving man of his essential labour. Human beings are hardwired to hunt and farm, to build and grow, and when you take this away from them, you make them redundant at a very profound level - they might go on to "get a job", but at a primal level, they feel what is missing - they feel redundant in their own lives - and that manifests itself as "depression", or "an existential crisis", leading people to pursue "spiritual" answers when actually, what they need is not to become more "spiritual" but to become more human. More directly in touch with the work human beings are fundamentally hardwired to do.
Most of us in the modern world, most certainly including myself, are rather poor at being human. It's not our fault, any more than it is the fault of a lion in a zoo that he cannot fulfil his essential lionness: it's because we're not in the right environment to facilitate it. A real human life looks more or less like how the Amish live - not necessarily how they dress or the particular religious beliefs they hold, but how they structure day-to-day life and what all non-infirm people spend most of their time doing - creating and maintaining the essentials of life. What we modern people do - spend hours staring at screens or sitting in buildings or driving in cars, whilst spending no time at all producing food or maintaining shelter or creating communities that enable this, isn't a human life, and that's why so many people are struggling with depression, unfulfillment, pessimism, and despair.
We spend our lives doing what might best be described as ancillary activities - things that should be "as well as", not "instead of". Sitting in offices, using the internet, driving cars, reading books and watching films, may not any of them in themselves be bad things, and can have many merits, but they should accessorise and supplement a real human life, not serve as a replacement for it. Just as we should not be using social media instead of building real-life networks, nor should we be engaging in various ancillary entertainments, instead of carrying out essential human labour - the ancillary replacements for reality will fill some gaps and provide some temporary respite: they're better than nothing. But they're not as good as the real thing and, no matter how sophisticated our screens, devices, and mod-cons become, they never will be. As they say, technology is improved means to unimproved ends.
But it's not just screens and devices that are the problem - all ancillary activities have the same kind of destructive and detaching capacity, including (and I know this is heresy to some...) books.
As someone who has read a lot of books, and was the stereotyped bookworm of a child, it profoundly irritates me how books have taken on a sort of quasi-religious significance in the modern world. It seems that, because for most people, the preference is to watch TV or go online, reading a book has become less common, and so has started to be seen as this profound holy thing that is sacrosanct and beyond reproach as an activity.
In my opinion, this is nonsense and actually quite dangerous nonsense, insofar as modernity might recognise it's bad for people (especially children) to spend too much time on screens, but reading? Oh, you can never do too much of that! Reading is always a great thing to do!
Well, you can and it isn't. Reading can be, and often is, as indoctrinating as any screen, and as escapist and anti-reality as any internet site. I understand that in times gone by, children were actively discouraged from too much reading, as it was thought that holding something that close to the face for long periods of time could damage developing sight, and that children needed to be outside as much as possible, looking off into the horizon, to allow their sight to properly develop. There's a stereotype regarding children who sit inside reading for hours rather than going outside and playing, and as a child who had those tendencies, I can see there is some truth in it. In short, it's very much possible to do too much reading about life and not enough living of it. So, I don't like the semi-religious worship of books and reading, because I think (much as I enjoy these things), they're just ancillary activities like TV and the internet are - they're fine "as well as" (as an addition to real human life), but profoundly undesirable and potentially very dangerous "instead of".
I might even go further and suggest literacy in itself isn't the shimmering and unblemished moral good, something utterly beyond reproach, that it's presented as. Let's be clear that I'm pro-literacy and, as someone who has always derived so much pleasure and meaning from the written word, I'm certainly not going to discourage it for others - but there is something fundamentally unnatural about it, insofar as, literacy is not necessary for a human community to survive and thrive, any more than it is necessary for any other animal. We need to be able to do a multiplicity of other things to survive (most of which we no longer know how to do), but we don't need to read. Humans are social and creative, but we can express that in many ways, we don't NEED the written word - and indeed, one of the oldest and most beloved forms of entertainment has always been, watching other people interact. Human beings have staged plays and shows since time immemorial, and the current popularity of television over books doesn't suggest to me so much that most people are uncultured plebs (well, not all of them...), as much as they are doing what human beings are hardwired to do long before they learn how to read - watch other people interact. That is, after all, how we learn how to do anything as babies - watching and copying others. Not reading about them.
The point I'm getting at here is that all the ancillary activities offered to us in modern life - whether they're "high-brow" like literature or "low-brow" like soap operas are not suitable replacements for real human lives, and that is why so many modern people feel so lost and unfulfilled, including and especially those who resonate to "conspiracy theories".
If you've found your way to the conspiracy community, it's because you have a more finely tuned radar than most for truth, and are less indoctrinated into and addicted to the system. That's a good, healthy sign for you, but it also makes your life profoundly more difficult, because modern life is so anti-human in so many ways that, essentially, we all have to internalise some degree of insanity to survive it. Some have descended far deeper into this "survivor's insanity" than others, and we can now helpfully identify them - they are the quadruple-jabbed people walking on their own outside in the rain with three masks on.
But the less insane you are, the more insane you realise modernity is, and the harder it therefore is for you to comfortably survive and obtain meaning from it. This is where "spirituality" comes in, and many lost and unfulfilled people are told the problem is that they are not spiritual enough, and they need to read this book / follow this diet / do this meditation / imbibe this plant to find what they are looking for.
The conclusion I have come to is that this is exactly the wrong way round. They don't need to become "more spiritual", meaning further detached from normal life - they need to rediscover normal life (and there's nothing normal about modernity) and become more human. They - we all - need to get back in touch with the work and the life we are fundamentally wired for, once all modern technology is removed from the equation. If factors beyond your control, such as the international food supply chain, supermarkets and banks, completely determine whether you get to eat or not - and therefore, whether you live or die - then you are not living a real human life, which very rapidly becomes apparent as and when "the system" collapses.
I had a very brief taste of this when I was on holiday in Argentina in 2001. With virtually no notice, the banks all shut their doors and the ATMs didn't work. Nobody could get any money, and what were, just days before, civilised, middle-class neighbourhoods, descended into survival-mode panic. These were people with good jobs and plenty of money in the bank. But they couldn't get to that money, so they couldn't buy food, and so their survival was in imminent danger. They had big, luxurious houses with all the latest mod-cons - but no direct connection to where their food came from, and so, had "the system" not kicked back in quite rapidly, they would have perished.
We see something similar happening now in Shanghai, with residents locked in spiralling high-rises and completely dependent on delivery apps for survival. What if you can't get a slot? What if your phone stops working? These are all very real issues confronting the residents of modern, sophisticated Shanghai right now and confirming just how fragile and anti-human "the system" really is.
Meanwhile, communities like the Amish who are directly involved in their own food production are able to continue life much as they always have. Not only does that give them genuine autonomy from the evil machinations of the system, but - and here's the kicker for all those so keen to separate "spiritualty" from normal human life - they're spiritually fulfilled as the process of living as humans are designed to live is spiritual, and therefore confers spiritual fulfilment on those who live that way. You can't extricate the spiritual from the human any more than you can extricate the mind from the body, and living a real human life necessarily means living a spiritual one - but you can't put the cart before the horse. You're never going to be "spiritually fulfilled" unless and until you are humanly fulfilled. You can't become humanly fulfilled living within an anti-human system.
There are no easy answers here because we are all so inured to the system and few of us are in a position to reinvent ourselves as Amish (although I have acquired a very splendid Amish-like hat). But the answer certainly lies in moving further in that direction, and doing all we can to be less dependent on the system and more reliant on ourselves and others we know and have actual relationships with - relationships that are centred around meaningful production and creativity of the type that keeps us alive.
This is desirable not just because the system is evil and untrustworthy, but because we will never be fulfilled nor all we are designed to be, if we don't live the lives we were designed to live. Nobody was designed to live within the modern world: it's fundamentally anti-human, and has us all focused on ancillary activities - not as a subsidiary or augmentation to our real lives, where they certainly have a place (human beings have always developed and enjoyed art and music and so on) - but as a replacement for them.
This is why depression, unfulfillment, lack of direction, apathy, and existential crises rage in the modern world, and are virtually unheard of in communities like the Amish. Because they're living human lives and the modern world doesn't let us.
It shouldn't be controversial to say it but it is: if you want to become happy and fulfilled, become more of what you are. What you are is not what you "do", it's not your personal tastes and preferences, it's not even a matter of national or religious identity - first and foremost, you are human. And that's where all the meaning and fulfilment and answers we are all so intensely searching for, lie. As with many things in life, the truth, all along, was hiding in plain sight.