The future vs. here and now: NYTimes + Carl Jung

Along with Bob Garfield of National Public Radio and the pretty hilarious Bobosphere, perhaps the most thoughtful media columnist around must be David Carr, who last week had a great column on the helplessness of print media in the face of the firehouse of information that is 24-hour television and the Internet. 

In a mode of rueful alarm, he wrote:

Nothing can compete with the shimmering immediacy of now, and not just when seismic events take place, but in our everyday lives. We are sponges and we live in a world where the fire hose is always on.

Meanwhile, as with a group of fellow men I work my way slowly through Carl Jung's classic memoir, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, yours truly could not help but by struck by the similar warning he issued, back in 1961:

Our age has shifted all emphasis to the here and now, and thus brought about a daemonization of man and his world. 

For Jung, consciousness and rationalism, for all their virtues, had limits. The importance of dreams and myths lay in their ability to awaken us to our true selves, or deeper impulses — to literally "bring to light." He feared what could happen to us if we let the unconscious run free in the world of the now (And, as a survivor of the Nazi era, he spoke knowingly of "the phenomenon of dictators and all the misery they have wrought.")

He concluded, in his chapter on the afterlife:

As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.

But if this is true, what does the 24-hour news cycle and the dominance of the now presafe for our culture? Have we abandoned both past and future to live in the moment?

Carr concludes:

It struck me that part of the reason we always stay jacked in is that we want everyone — at the other end of the phone, on Facebook and Twitter, on the web, on email — to know that we are part of the now. If we look away, we worry we will disappear.

We are all on that train, the one that left print behind, the one where we are constantly in real time, where we know a little about everything and nothing about anything, really. 

When I manage to forget about print media for a minute, I get scared for us.  

Published by Kit Stolz

I'm a freelance reporter and writer based in Ventura County.

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