Opportunity and Limits
Commercials portray the unlimited, the dream of the impossible, the limitless. Painting a certain version of life where we can dream and be whatever we choose to be. By virtue of flicking a switch, or snapping our fingers, imagination births reality.
Then every so often, a company connects the unlimited with the engaging and the viral. Add the right tune from an indie band no-one’s ever heard of, and a slick production budget, and cue the dollar bills. STA Travel is one brand that comes to mind, connecting the FOMO and #YOLO with the overseas OE. The sports brands put their superstars on billboards and five word slogans that were curated for days by a marketing department, who probably didn’t sleep to find those five words. Heck, ANZ’s ‘Dream Big’ commercials from the Cricket World Cup still give me goosebumps.
Let’s market opportunity. Let them dream.
In an era when we have such vast choices to what we read, what we listen to and what we believe, the rhetoric of unlimited repeats on itself. The perspective is always positive, hopeful, with a subtle hint of hyperbole that isn’t obvious if you aren’t watching for it. Which always presses into what is outside the realm of possible. The untapped. The unseen.
This ‘echo’ of this perspective, interlaced with fashion, language, lifestyle and expectations, stretches as social platforms expand our social networks to our acquaintances. Through the filtered photos, the blogs (oops), the curated hashtags, there is success. Comparison sets in as the possibility of opportunity beckons.
What about travel?
What about relationship?
What about the fancy car?
What about the fancy job?
What about independence?
What about the parties?
What about social justice?
What about being selfless?
Or what about getting all of them?
Those pursuits all can be beneficial. But the underlying motivations could just be theissue — if we’re aiming for outcomes purely based on FOMO or #YOLO, something’s happening under the surface. Where it could just be all about I.
When writers and analysts with greying hairs talk about ‘millennials’, the predominant stories are around the ‘get off my lawn’ stories, spouting stories about how rebellious and lost we are in comparison to them.
The secondary, but also prevalent narrative, is the emphasis on opportunities to thrive, to be significant. Opportunities to see the world. Opportunities our elders never had. We can write our own histories, unbound by the journeys of prior generations, full of gloomy, war-torn days. Make this life matter. Make it count. Don’t waste your life.
And as much as I want to believe the rhetoric, I hold pessimism. The underlying emphasis is on production (and consumption). It is on me to ‘get the things I want’ or ‘Get the things I deserve’. There is a slither of instant gratification. Holding a belief that we can access resources from somewhere in the planet to give us those opportunities — the car trips, the flights, the copious spending on the flashy and the temporary. In the midst of the one-percent, there is capitalism attaching pleasure and wealth to success.
Can we ‘catch’ all of the pursuits we see as possible? Is life merely an expansion of Pokemon Go?
But then again, using words like feasibility and sustainability seems like a killjoy and a compromise in the narrative of plenty.
Who like to talks about limitations? Discussing limits brings back the ordinary and the mundane, and the pessimistic view that we are settling. Being the person we are right now would be the tagline to run a corporate brand to bankruptcy.
But everything breaks down to some degree. Human minds and bodies get lethargic, tired, worn out, fatigued and exhausted. The prevalence of functional ailments and symptoms that aren’t linked to a medical condition is a sign ‘something is up’, and the heightened likelihood of illness has to attributed to factors unrelated to stuffy air conditioning and the wintry chill.
Yes, we have adrenalin and endorphins that kick in, that help us push through limits. But are they renewable? Everlasting? Always accessible? If we expand the environmental talk around sustainability and feasibility to the bodies we use, maybe chasing the immediate and the instant temptations of pleasure can be just as costly.
As I wake up on Saturday mornings knackered from a working week, wondering where the week went, I toss and turn in bed. I know I just need to fall out of bed and things will happen. I see two days of possibility away from work to do fitness, get onto new food ideas, write more prose, read, or just get started on the washing.
Then I remember the last five days I’ve just had. My brain has spent the last five days pushing itself to think and put words together. In between, there has been social commitments, driving lessons and life administration (with budgets, ironing and laying of laundry that always take longer than I envision). I’m reminded of Friday afternoon where my procrastination won out in the office. And of the Friday night where I realise I just spent three hours on the couch wondering what just happened.
I ask the question of opportunities and limits. Moreso of limits, as the wash of superlative, impossible rhetoric will always be around. My mind will always remind me I’m not pursuing the impossible and wasting the opportunity.
In time, the ‘echo’ of individual significance and pursuing the ‘greater good’ is drowned out by silence. I stare at the ceiling, without thought. Where the mind is at peace. In this moment.
I’ll get to Monday. But from our limits, there is room for what seems limitless. As the conclusion, rather than the starting point.