In Brave New World, soma is the government supplied drug that numbs and offers blissful escape from any unpleasantness, whether great or small. Modernity has built up her offerings until it is nearly impossible to avoid dusting oneself with our own versions of soma. One starts with the obvious – the internet. But it is not the internet that is soma, it is what we grab while we are here on the web.
We grab numbness. We grab stimulants. We grab psychedelics. The internet simply makes the grabbing easier – these have been progressively more available through the years. Luxury and free time offer us the opportunity to do anything. Being humans, “anything” tends to be that which makes the pain disappear.
I was the child with few friends, the one with her nose in a book. At first it was not my deep love of the written word that drove me, it was the pain of being alone. I found friends and adventure – safe adventure, with nary a skinned knee – between the pages. One thing led to another, and most of my summers were spent with stacks of books. I gorged. I dreamt. I fell.
Music calls to some, as they lose themselves in the sounds from the radio, youtube, headphones… there is a virtual cacophony these days, where the absence of noise is more precious than the sound of rhythm. You need never be out of earshot of your favorite music.
We all love faces, and stories. Humans always have. When TV showed up, we were offered limitless faces, limitless stories in the comfort of our own homes. The smiles were not aimed at us, but we feel as if they are. We fall in love, we weep, we cheer… faces matter.
Humans were built hungry. But now food is cheap. Soma is handed out like the candy that it is. Sad? Restless and dissatisfied? Angry? Lonely? Take. Let us press it into your hands.
But soma does not satisfy, it fills for a moment and disappears. Like filling your belly with cake when it wants bread, you end up hungrier than you started – and now, with a taste for cake at breakfast-time. We are desperate for entertainment, endless novelty – because true soma is not art. Art makes your soul ache. Rapturously or in tears – art affects you, it changes you. Soma? Soma must merely distract. One doesn’t want art for numbness. One does not want a sense of wonder, childlike curiosity when one is seeking a reason to rant, to vent, to choose up sides.
Numb or enjoying vicarious anger, the one with the soma addiction is less likely to enter community. Soma gives such similarly flavored gifts – especially when one has forgotten the taste of real, fresh strawberries, strawberry candy is very nice.
We drift in a land of dreams, addicted – and who can blame us? It takes constant work not to be addicted. Soma is here, it is there, and it is everywhere.