by Lou Lile

The 1950’s and 60’s were peak years for 1800’s based television westerns. Gunsmoke, Rawhide, Bonanza, Wagon Train, Maverick, to name a few. ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’ posters were tacked up in strategic places and in true Hollywood fashion the ‘bad guys’ were usually captured within the thirty to sixty minute episode. With a persistent Sheriff and his posse or a U.S. Marshall on their tail, Old West fugitives sometimes found asylum in Mexico, where U.S. law didn’t seem to apply. More affluent outlaws often fled to South America, Europe or some other far off hideout. The arm of the law wasn’t as long in those days and the term ‘extradition’ didn’t seem to be a concern.

For better or worse, around 1975 our species entered the Information Age. Since then, personal computers have become commonplace. Globally there are estimated to be over 2.5 billion smart phones and 210 million dedicated surveillance cameras. Facial recognition software keeps improving and images can be viewed within seconds of an event. Satellite technology is incredible, DNA capabilities are astonishing, social media is ubiquitous and the processing power for computers continues to double every 18 months. To say it has become more difficult to hide or get lost in the global crowd is an understatement.  

Claustrophobia is the well-known fear of being enclosed in a small space and having no escape. We usually think elevators, caves, MRI machines and even tight-necked clothing. To the degree that perception is reality, being in danger and having no place to hide is the stuff of nightmares!

Technologically speaking, it seems we are the inhabitants of a shrinking planet with fewer places to retreat. Consider the following: Our solar system has no other planets that are naturally habitable for human existence. The nearest star other than our Sun is about 4.2 light years away. Assuming it has a planet that could support human life, it would still take over 17,000 years to get there with contemporary spacecraft. Essentially, we are trapped on this third rock from the Sun!

Constant reminders of a faltering ecosystem, climate change, pandemics, aberrant asteroids, overpopulation, terrorism, political confusion and the increasing talk of nuclear solutions… are a few of the scenarios daily projecting themselves into our psyche.  

As a professional counselor, I read about and visit with a number of clients who experience a gnawing, ever-present sense of anxiety with no discernable cause. In my opinion, this unease is increasingly caused by a unique variation of claustrophobia due to the interesting times in which we live.

"A person can spend one’s whole life between four walls. If one doesn’t think or feel that he or she is in a prison, than he is not a prisoner. But there are people for whom the whole planet is a prison, who see the infinite expanse of the universe, the millions of stars and galaxies that remain forever inaccessible to them.  And that awareness makes them the 
greatest prisoner  of time and space" -----Vladimir Bartol