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Does (Too Much) Knowledge Drive You Crazy? “Rick And Morty” Says Yes!

Greetings, and wubba lubba dub dub! If you remember that wacky string of words from a previous article, then you know, in part, what this will be about. That’s right. I’m going to talk about “Rick and Morty” again.

I promise it involves a serious issue and one I’ve touched on before. I know that’s hard to do when “Rick and Morty” contains characters named Mr. Poopybutthole, but I’m willing to rise to that challenge because I think this show illustrates that issue better than most, while still being hilariously subversive.

In some ways, the issue stems from problems I already highlighted with the crippling effects of boredom. It’s an issue Rick Sanchez deals with many times in the show and it’s just one of the reasons why I pegged him as someone who might relate to an emerging generation that will have to deal with more boredom than any generation before it.

However, this may even go beyond boredom in the sense that it strains our sanity more directly. In a world that’s already full of traffic jams, internet trolls, and reality TV shows featuring spoiled toddlers, that’s already pushing it. It all boils down to one simple question.

“Does too much knowledge drive us crazy?”

It’s a question that “Rick and Morty” tries to address in the least subtle way possible. In an episode called “Morty’s Mind Blowers,” which inspired this article, Morty briefly gains ultimate knowledge by gazing into the eyes of an alien turtle. I swear on Pamela Anderson’s tits that’s not made up. That really happened.

Naturally, this drives Morty nuts, which is saying something because it’s hardly the first time he’s been horribly traumatized. This is a different kind of trauma, though. Having all that knowledge, plenty of which strains his teenage brain more than it can handle, leaves him completely unhinged. He carries himself as someone who will need heavy medication and a padded cell.

Rick, being the lovable asshole he is, just shrugs this off and offers a simple solution. He’ll simply remove Morty’s memory of the experience from his brain. In fact, he reveals that he does this quite often, so much so that there’s a whole room full of Morty’s memories that he’s removed during their mind-bending adventures. Again, not a word of that is made up.

It’s an extension, of sorts, on a concept I’ve discussed earlier in dealing with trauma. I think most would see, to some extent, the merit of removing traumatic memories from someone’s brain. It spares them undue suffering and helps them function. On the basis of limiting someone’s pain, I think it could be argued that it’s a moral thing to do.

If, however, we use that same moral concept of reducing suffering, then what does that mean when excessive knowledge strains the human psyche to untenable extremes? If such knowledge inevitably leads to suffering, then it might take more than just removing memories to fix it.

It’s a distressing, but documented phenomenon and not just in shows like “Rick and Morty” either. There is a body of research that shows a correlation between mental illness and individuals with genius IQs. While correlation and causation are very different concepts, so much so that they’re easily confused, it’s hard to ignore the pattern here.

Those with obscenely high IQs know more you, me, or 99 percent of the average population. They see the world in a way that’s so different that it’s hard to relate to them on a fundamental level. It goes beyond the comical social awkwardness we see in shows like “The Big Bang Theory.” It can be downright debilitating for some people.

It speaks to the inherent limits of our caveman brains. As I’ve said many times before, our brains are not wired to process ultimate knowledge. They’re wired with two purposes in mind, namely survival and reproduction. While I enjoy writing stories about the latter, it’s hard to get around the former.

Knowing a lot means thinking a lot. Thinking a lot means realizing things that most people never even contemplate, either because they’re too busy trying to get laid or too stupid to wrap their head around it. In that sense, idiots may have an advantage when it comes to sanity, but what happens when it gets harder to be a happy idiot in this world?

As I write this, our society is being influenced by something called the Flynn Effect. In essence, it’s like Moore’s Law in that it documents a general rise in our collective IQ as civilization advances. That has huge implications and not just for the viral video industry that lives off the theatrics of idiots.

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I’ve noted that it’s getting a lot easier and cheaper these days to educate people without sending them to the hormonal torture camp that is high school. This generation, as well as the next one, is the most educated generations of all time. Is it possible that as people get smarter, they’ll be more prone to mental illness?

It’s a difficult question to answer, especially when you throw brain augmentation like those being developed by Neuralink into the mix. It may very well be the case that Morty wouldn’t have needed his memories removed if he just had some sort of brain implant that allowed him to process all the knowledge he had. That may be what keeps everybody sane in the distant future.

It’s impossible to know for sure, but the conclusion of “Morty’s Mind Blowers” isn’t very hopeful. Near the end, Morty tries to absorb all the other memories he’s had purged from his brain over the years. Once he has them all back, he decides there’s only one solution. He tries to kill himself. Yes, it gets that dark.

Naturally, he doesn’t succeed and not because someone talked him down. He doesn’t succeed because his sister, Summer, shows up and we find out that Rick actually had a plan for something like this, as he often does with everything.

To solve the issue, and effectively render all the conflict in the episode pointless, Summer purges Rick and Morty’s memory of the events of the entire episode. She then restores them to what they were at the beginning and makes it seem as though they fell asleep watching TV. There’s no real resolution, no greater insight, and no real lesson learned. This isn’t a 50s sitcom. This is “Rick and Morty.”

That resolution, as crass as it might be, might be the most we can do at this point. Our caveman brains are still painfully limited, even as our ability to craft and share knowledge grows. At what point do we reach a tipping point where so much knowledge starts to drive us crazy?

We don’t know for sure and the development of brain augmentation is sure to complicate things, but shows like “Rick and Morty” highlight just how hilariously unequipped we are to deal with this stuff at the moment. For now, we might be best taking Rick’s own advice and simply not thinking about it.

In that sense, maybe reading some of my sexy stories will help. It’s just a suggestion.

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Rick Sanchez: Hero Of Generation Z?

Every generation has heroes, icons, rebels, and blowhards. While they don’t always define that generation, they often act as their voice. Sometimes, they even become a metaphor that embodies their hopes, dreams, and struggles. Other times, they reflect just how screwed up certain parts of that generation became.

The Baby Boomers had the Beatles, JFK, MLK, the Rolling Stones, and the average hippie. Generation X had Nirvana, MTV, NWA, “The Simpsons,” “South Park,” and Bill Clinton. For better or for worse, these people embodied the spirit and attitudes of that generation. Sure, the worse tends to make more headlines, but those who are part of that generation fondly remember the better.

The book is still being written on the millennial generation, which I’m just barely a part of. They’ve still assembled their share of heroes and icons. Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, and Barack Obama would definitely fit into that category. I would also list Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, and Kanye West as musical icons. For heroes, I’d basically put the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe on that list.

That list of heroes and icons is still in flux for millennials because many of them are still young. They’ve yet to go through the natural evolution of a generation where spirits get crushed, rebuilt, crushed a few more times, and then stitched back together in a way that embodies the breadth of their story.

For Generation Z, who I’ve also been talking about, that story is barely beginning. Most of that generation isn’t even old enough to drive or buy a beer, let alone establish who their heroes and icons are. Right now, much of their identity is still tied to that of their millennial parents.

Make no mistake, though. They’re going to rebel against those parents. Every generation does that. It’s like laws that govern gravity, atoms, or the inherent appeal of female breasts. They see what they’re parents are doing, decide that it’s “uncool,” and try to forge their own path. Along the way, they often forge new heroes and icons.

I’ll give millennial parents a moment to dread this process. At the moment, though, Generation Z is still too young to latch onto any icon that isn’t a stuffed animal, a homework assignment, or a game they can play on a smartphone. However, that doesn’t mean some aren’t already emerging.

Once again, I’m going to try and speculate here. That means I need to make the same disclaimer I did with my last post about Generation Z where I say I am woefully unequipped to predict the future. I’m an aspiring erotica/romance writer. I’m as qualified to predict the future as an unlicensed plumber. Please keep that in mind as I attempt to make sense of a generation too young to pay its own phone bill.

I’m still going to take that chance because I feel like there is an icon emerging, as we speak. He already resonates with a sizable crowd of disillusioned individuals from previous generations. In some respects, he’s a force for utterly deconstructing everything that Generation X, Baby Boomers, and millennials held dear. As a result, he may very well be the first hero/icon that Generation Z rallies around.

To complicate matters even further, he’s not even a real person. He’s a cartoon character on a show that doesn’t air on Saturday mornings. I’ve talked about him before and I’ll probably talk about him again for any number of reasons. His name is Rick Sanchez, the raging alcoholic, nihilistic super-genius from “Rick and Morty,” the greatest show on TV that doesn’t feature a naked Emilia Clarke.

Those who watch “Rick and Morty” as avidly as I do are probably cringing at the idea of him being the voice of any generation, let alone the one the millennials are creating. This is a character who once turned himself into a pickle to get out of going to family therapy. I swear that last sentence is real. Trust me, it’s even crazier than it sounds.

I could spend multiple blog posts talking about the various antics, exploits, and traits of Rick Sanchez. I could spend even more posts talking about why a show like “Rick and Morty” is so unique compared to every other cartoon, sitcom, or TV show managed. I may end up talking about Rick Sanchez almost as much as I talk about X-men comics and Wonder Woman.

For now, though, I’m going to restrict the discussion to why Rick Sanchez may be their first iconic voice of a new generation. If you’ve read my post about the possible secrets that this generation may possess, I recommend you check that out first. That’ll help make sense of why Rick Sanchez embodies many of the traits that may shape Generation Z.

If there’s one trait that makes Rick Sanchez stand out, even more so than his raging alcoholism or trademark portal gun, it’s his unique brand of nihilism. Granted, it’s not the same nihilism that would’ve made sense to its champions in the 19th century. They probably would’ve drawn a line at turning themselves into a pickle. With Rick Sanchez and Generation Z, the context here is more subtle.

Throughout the various antics in “Rick and Morty,” there’s one common theme. Nothing you do really matters in the grand scheme of things. Nobody has an inherent purpose. There’s nothing mystical, special, or unique about you or the world you live in. Even Friedrich Nietzsche would find that extreme.

As a result, none of the conflicts that play out in “Rick and Morty” follow the traditional path of a story. It’s basically the antithesis of every cartoon, sitcom, or general narrative that we all follow in high school English classes. In the world of Rick Sanchez, all that crap is a total farce.

In many cases, especially in episodes like “Meseeks And Destroy” and “Ricksy Business,” the conflict is either forcibly contrived by someone or is revealed to have never been a conflict in the first place. In most cases, Rick Sanchez already knows this and usually can’t be bothered to make much of it. He’s so smart, so capable, and so devoid of ethical boundaries that there’s really no conflicts he can’t resolve with ease.

This is part of why I highlighted him as an anti-hero forged, in part, by boredom. The issue for him is that because he’s so smart, he’s aware that he’s part of a vast multi-verse filled with infinite versions of himself, his family, and everyone he’s ever dealt with. He’s even made allies and enemies with alternate versions of himself in some episodes. It basically reinforces the notion that nothing he or anyone does truly matters.

It doesn’t matter of he succeeds at anything. In another universe, he failed. Conversely, it doesn’t matter if he fails either because in another universe, he succeeds. The biggest example of this, by far, is the events of “Rick Potion Number 9.”

In that episode, Rick and Morty essentially destroy their entire world. Every human being gets turned into a monster and civilization collapses. Rick’s solution to this is as simple as it is pointless. He and Morty just travel to another universe where he did succeed, but died afterwards. They just go to that universe, bury their own bodies, and take their place.

It might be one of the most disturbing, but telling messages of the show. While Morty is horribly traumatized, Rick just shrugs it off. One minute, he’s burying his own body. The next, he’s drinking a beer and watching TV. That’s because he understands how pointless everything is in the grand scheme of things.

In a sense, Morty’s trauma is a metaphor for the millennial mindset. Many millennials are so driven by their sense of passion, social justice, and community. When that gets shattered, it’s pretty traumatic. That’s why a lot of millennials will suffer a major meltdown at some point in their lives. I know this because I’ve had more than a few.

Conversely, Rick Sanchez is the perfect response to that mindset. He’s so smart, aware, and informed that he understands all that drive means nothing in the grand scheme of things. In world that’s so small in a universe that’s unimaginably big, all those hysterical theatrics are pointless.

It’s because Rick’s attitudes are so utterly opposed to those of millennials like Morty that it’ll strike a greater chord with Generation Z than it will with any other generation. Unlike all previous generations, this is a cohort of people that is actually over-educated and over-informed.

Yes, it is possible to be too educated and too informed. The millennials, the most educated generation of all time, have already begun crossing that line. They helped forge a society that has unlimited access to information and is more socially accessible than any generation before it.

However, in recent years, all that information and education has unveiled a problem that only someone like Rick Sanchez could’ve foreseen. Given the sheer breadth of information, as well as the inherent chaos that comes with people in general, it’s impossible to know what’s real, what’s fake, and what’s just plain stupid.

Most of Generation Z isn’t even old enough to drive, but they’ll be entering a world where known falsehoods are alternative facts, all news is fake, everybody lies, and nobody can be trusted. The implications are unavoidable. If everyone is special, then nobody is special. If nobody is right, then it doesn’t matter how wrong everyone is.

That’s not to say there’s no meaning, whatsoever. Even Rick Sanchez shows throughout “Rick and Morty” that he is driven by something. It’s just not the same crap that drove millennials, Baby Boomers, or Generation X. In a sense, everything that drives Rick is more petty and personal.

Rick uses people, selfishly indulges in self-destructive vices, and crosses any line he has to, even before he knows its there. He does all of this because while he understands that there is no meaning to what he does, he still challenges himself. Sometimes it’s just because he can. Sometimes it’s because he really likes a certain flavor of dipping sauce.

Rick Sanchez doesn’t just understand this. He basically lives it in every episode and he’s fine with that. He doesn’t try to prove himself to anyone, even other versions of himself. He doesn’t bother virtue signaling or making excuses. He just does what he does, understands it’s meaningless, and enjoys himself along the way.

That, more than anything, is what will resonate with Generation Z. They’re inheriting a world where uncertainty is the only certainty. Their millennial parents whined and protested about it. They just accept it, shrug it off, and watch TV like Rick. That’s what will make him a true voice for a burgeoning generation.

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Rick Sanchez: An Anti-Hero Forged By Boredom?

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Greetings, and wubalubadubdub! If you have no idea what I just said and worry that I’ve suffered some kind of traumatic head injury, then calm down. It’s nothing like that. If you happen to know what that word means, then congratulations. Your life is inherently richer because you’ve watched a show called “Rick and Morty.”

For those of you who think “South Park” is too polite, “Rick and Morty” is right up your alley. It’s crude, lewd, callous, crass, vulgar, obscene, and pretty much every other word you would use to upset a typical PTA meeting. It’s also one of the most hilarious, insightful, smart, and wildly entertaining shows on TV right now. Unless you find shows like “Family Guy” too harsh, a show like “Rick and Morty” will appeal to you.

Why do I bring this show up? I usually don’t do post just to lavishly praise a particular TV show or movie without making a larger point. While I may make exceptions to movies like “Wonder Woman,” I usually try to tie it into a larger discussion. This time is no different. At some point, I was going to use “Rick and Morty” in a discussion. It was only ever a matter of time and topic.

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In this case, the topic is both relevant and revealing. It once again ties into my ongoing exploration of boredom, an inescapable facet of modern life and a potential plague of the future. I cited DC Comics character Vandal Savage as a super-villain who is defined by boredom. He’s even said outright that boredom is what motivates him.

As compelling as Savage’s case might be, Rick Sanchez would probably still roll his eyes and call it stupid. He would also probably find a way to kill Savage, spit on his corpse, and do it all while exceedingly drunk. That’s the kind of man he is. He’s not a hero by even the greatest stretch. He’s also not a villain either, although he has been known to carry himself like a sociopath at times. He is, at his core, an anti-hero.

I’ve talked about anti-heroes before and how they’re neither heroes nor villains. They exist on a different spectrum of sorts, from tragic characters like the Incredible Hulk to truly brutal souls like the Punisher. In respect to this spectrum, Rick Sanchez exists on a nebulous, yet extreme end.

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He rarely goes out of his way to save the world or do good. He also regularly traumatizes his friends, family, and his cohort, Morty Smith. His dimension-hopping, universe-spanning exploits often put everyone around him in danger. He’ll also show little reservation about participating in various acts of debauchery, violence, and general douche-baggery.

There’s no such thing as a typical episode of “Rick and Morty” in the sense that it follows a formula. In a sense, it defines itself by essentially taking the formula of traditional adult animation and shitting all over it.

As a general rule, though, an episode of “Rick and Morty” usually revolves around Rick getting his side-kick/grandson, Morty, caught up in something crazy. Morty, being young and innocent, tries to help him out and do the right thing. More often than not, though, Morty’s idealism gets crushed and/or backfires horribly. Rick, being a genius inventor, usually finds a way to fix everything and he does it while rarely being sober.

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Why he does what he does, getting Morty caught up in his antics in the first place, is what makes him relevant to the discussion about boredom. Throughout the first two seasons of the show, there are various teases about what truly motivates Rick Sanchez. At times, it seems like he really loves his family. At other times, though, he gives the impression that they’re just a means to an end.

At every turn of his antics, regardless of context or motivation, Rick and the plot of nearly every episode tends to trivialize everything. Think of any cherished tradition, be it family, religion, culture, love, or friendship. To Rick Sanchez, it’s all pointless crap. It’s only important because people make stupid excuses to justify it. These are some of his soul-crushing quotes, which he often says in the presence of loved ones, no less.

“What people call love is just a chemical reaction that compels people to breed.”

“Listen, I’m not the nicest guy in the universe, because I’m the smartest, and being nice is something stupid people do to hedge their bets.”

“Don’t break an arm jerking yourself off.”

This is where the boredom aspect comes in. In addition to being a high-functioning drunk who has a very crass view of the world, he’s extremely smart. He’s a genius who is at or above the likes of Vandal Savage.

He creates portals to other dimensions with the same ease of changing the channel on a TV. He creates inter-stellar spaceships in a garage, complete with a super-intelligent AI that will obey orders in disturbingly literal ways. He’s so smart that he actually outsmarted an entire army of alternate-reality versions of himself. It’s even more messed up than it sounds.

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Keep in mind, he does all of this while often being intoxicated. He almost always has a metal flask of hard liquor in his pocket. He’ll gladly gorge on harder drugs, even if it inspires his own dance. The fact he can do so much of this while being such a drunk is a testament to the sheer breadth of his genius.

Like Vandal Savage, though, genius does come at a cost. Having such a high intelligence means you tend to get bored easily and are constantly in need of new challenges. Rick Sanchez is so smart that there’s pretty much nothing he can’t do.

With his gadgets, he could become the world’s richest man. With his understanding of reality, he could win every Nobel Prize and get every major university to name a building after him. He could do all of this without breaking a sweat, but therein lies the problem.

Rick could do all these things, but it wouldn’t be a challenge. It would be too easy and provide a fleeting distraction at best. It would also get bureaucratic and tedious too, which only bores Rick even more. It’s why he can outsmart the devil himself, get bored, and burn down a building all in the same episode. I swear there’s no part of that last sentence that’s made up.

In trivializing anything and everything that other people hold dear, Rick Sanchez often brings up boredom. He even looks bored, as well as drunk, when talking about it. Whenever Morty asks him about some terrible, traumatic, morally reprehensible issue, be it doing business with a hitman or the purge, his response is always dispassionate and crass.

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Like Vandal Savage, Rick is often frustrated by how easy things come. He’s so smart, even while drunk, that nobody can really challenge him. No matter what he does, his gadgets and his utter lack of regard for ethical considerations ensure he wins easily. He rarely experiences the thrill of overcoming a challenge, which is part of why he’s so dispassionate and crass.

Unlike Vandal Savage, though, Rick’s exploits also have him traveling across the universe and into different dimensions. This does more than highlight just how smart and resourceful Rick is. It effectively affirms just how trivial his actions and existence is in the grand scheme of things.

In one particular episode, his exploits with Morty lead to the complete and utter destruction of the world. Rick’s solution is as crass as it is anti-heroic. He just takes Morty to another universe where they both died and take their place. He even digs his own grave. He does all of this and then goes back to drinking beer and watching TV while Morty is horrifically traumatized.

In a sense, this understanding that nothing he does matters makes the boredom even worse. It means that even if Rick finds something meaningful to do, it really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things because there are literally infinite universes where the same thing was done in any number of ways. Whether he succeeds or fails doesn’t matter. Nothing he does matters.

Despite all this, Rick doesn’t become a full-fledged villain like Vandal Savage. He probably could conquer the world if he wanted. He already defeated an intergalactic empire of insect humanoids with relative ease. Again, not a word of that last sentence is made up. Unlike Savage, though, he doesn’t do that. He’d get bored with that too and understand that it doesn’t matter in the long run.

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That doesn’t stop him from protecting Morty and the rest of his family. When they’re in trouble, he usually goes out of his way to help them. At times, he seems to do it out of sheer boredom, but he still does it. It’s not very heroic, but it’s not at all villainous.

It would be a stretch to say that Rick Sanchez is entirely driven by crippling boredom. The show is somewhat erratic in the things that drive rick. The first episode of the third season indicated that Rick is almost entirely driven by his love of a discontinued promotional dipping sauce from the late 90s. I swear I’m not making any of that up. I know I keep saying that, but it really is worth saying.

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On paper, Rick Sanchez and Vandal Savage don’t have much in common. However, one trait they do share is that they are distinctly human. They have human weaknesses and human drives. They are very much at the mercy of human limits, both mentally and physically. That’s why boredom effects them so profoundly.

That’s also why they are both cautionary tales about the power of boredom. Rick Sanchez, through both boredom and extreme nihilism, is plagued and frustrated by boredom. It keeps him from using his genius to achieve a meaningful good. It also keeps him drunk, miserable, and constantly in trouble with killer insect people.

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While Rick Sanchez is by no means a role model, he still manages to do a lot with his brilliance and he can do it while drunk. He may be a callous, dispassionate anti-hero, but he gets the job done and he does it in a way that’s wonderfully entertaining. For that, he deserves respect, although he’d probably say respect is an idiot thing.

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