May 19, 2012
"The quality, not the longevity, of one's life is what's important."
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
It's a telling and sad truth that our society seems to have been designed to anesthetize us from emotional pain.
Think about it for a second. Every song on the radio encourages us to get wasted up in the club, engage in casual sex and generally keep ourselves physically close but emotionally distant from those around us. Meanwhile, films and TV shows are also mostly superficial, derivative fluff - firmly rooted in the escapism of sci-fi and fantasy too - that rings lack any semblance of reality and real, tangible truth.
Even on the rare occasion that the popular arts attempt to touch on sentimentality, it's done in such a glossed-over, saccharine manner that it's difficult for the already-guarded population to relate to.
If women get sentimental and emotional, our collective default response is some jackass comment about hormones, and if a man shows the slightest inclination of emotional sensitivity or genuine compassion, he's branded a "sissy" by this inept male-driven society we live in.
As one of the aforementioned sensitive guys, I've encountered this attitude time and time again over the course of my life, to the point where I deluded myself into being shameful of the fact that I'm more attuned to the emotional, artistic and creative side of life than most.
Part of that is because I somehow managed to retain a remnant of that childlike sense of appreciation and enthusiasm that most of us eventually outgrow, replacing our joy and purity of spirit with stress, doubt and guilt. Whereas most people see life negatively and have acquired a cynical view of their circumstances, I have tried to imbue mine with a sense of fun, silliness and optimism, albeit tempered with a sometimes self-deprecating realistic stance that keeps me from becoming one of those "head in the clouds" types.
Not that I don't have my off days, mind you, but I try not to take things too seriously, to remember the little things and keep my life in perspective, the good and the bad parts of it (because really it all helps to shape who we are and who we will be tomorrow).
Yet, today's obsession with technology has caused everyone to be constantly flooded with information non-stop. There's no chance to breath, to think, to actually stop everything for a moment to reflect on the life that's passing you by. Every facet of life is so intent on delivering instant gratification. Just a couple clicks on the World Wide Web (which you can now fit in your pocket, thanks to the invention of smart phones) and anything you need is right at your fingertips.
This is leading us to lose that self-awareness of ourselves, our loved ones and the world around us. How can we take the time to see our lives - really SEE our lives - if we're constantly drowning in a flood of responsibilities, negative emotion and the relentless swarm of our despicably fame-centric culture?
We can't. We don't have time to "stop and smell the roses," to consider all the beauty in the world and, most important of all, to react to it all. As sad as it may sound, people today don't even allow themselves to feel, and the world around us, with its Kardashians, its Ke$has, its mindless mission to remove any genuine emotion from life, isn't helping one bit.
I shudder to think of the next generation of kids, eyes glued not to the television as my generation was (although that was bad enough... see my previous rant about television) but stuck on the Internet, a world where entertainment never sleeps... making "friends" with random strangers on Facebook... listening to a mind-numbing, sex-obsessed tune by Pitbull and watching a film wherein anonymous characters battle each other in a valiant (but ultimately shallow) effort to save the world.
The world... as I see it... isn't being saved. The values, morals and artistry of our race is slowly dying. Never mind global warming and the potential environmental threats that others may be discussing. The best, most admirable quality of the human race is its ability to feel, the realization that you've found someone who truly understands you, the weight of loss when someone you love is stolen away by disease and the flood of joy when your child is born.
I've experienced all but that last one. And I can honestly say that I consider myself one of the lucky ones for not necessarily having these events in my life (because I would never wish the death of a loved one on anyone) but for being able to feel these unforgettable moments, even the sad ones.
Because our grief and sorrow are what help to put the wonder of life in perspective. Without feeling both sides, there's no way for a human being to ever truly be complete, and today's crop of individuals have become so used to being on-the-go, having their culture spoon-fed to them, being disappointed by the way their lives have turned out... that they don't even dare to dream anymore. They don't even get sad about it. They just are.
"Survival of the fittest" may have been Charles Darwin's claim to fame, but nowadays, that's become our only focus. It's not life, so much the quality of it, that concerns me. For, if we never feel joy, passion and love, what the hell is the point?
I'm sure my message will fall mostly on deaf ears. Chances are, only a handful of people will even consider my words carefully. But that's really not my concern. All I can do is live my life, share my perspective with the world and do the best I can to enrich the lives of the people I care about. If I manage this, at least I can go on, even in a society that has become more and more obnoxious as the years go by, knowing that I lived my life and chose not to sleepwalk through it.