Thursday, March 8, 2012

Nameless and faceless

We are sensationalists - and we are our biggest sensation.

We crave being bigger than we actually are - doing something more grand then we are actually capable of. We crave success. Feel entitled to it. Feel like it belongs to us. And feel like we can define it - for ourselves and for others.

I'm brought to this thought by the recent clamor over Joseph Kony, the LRA, Invisible Children. Just like 'Charlie bit me', it's gone viral. And somehow, as much as I hate to think it and to be the downer who says it, it has the vast potential (just like 'Charlie bit me') to fade back into the category of 'casual dinner topic' within a week.

Where does the hype come from? How do 20 million views just happen in a matter of moments? And even more importantly - how do we forget just as quickly as we learned?

Because we are governed by sensation - we crave it, and we can hardly respond to anything without it. What wakes us is not a high moral sense, not a deep belief in the goodness of humanity, not an unwavering conviction - but a sensation. At least that's what sparks us out of our seats - what makes us keep going is an all together different question.

As soon as that sensation comes, we are sparked right out of our seats - though not literally, we usually remain seated. We are driven to tears, we are inspired to grandness and show it by posting to our social media and telling some friends - maybe, maybe we even give a little bit to help the cause. Those who are really sparked will write a letter to someone, maybe host a viewing night to show others the video and spread the knowledge. And through all of our little 'sparks' a light will shine - at least for a time.

But inevitably it will die down, it will fade. Our sensation addiction will crave something new, something 'harder'. And we will continue on - looking for the next sensation to jolt us out of our seats for a minute. Something to remind us that while we sit here, we are supposed to be living - we are living. We. Living.

But living for what? And how? And for how long? For those sensations. Somehow, ironically - we have come to a place where we live to remember we live. And I would argue, that if we recognize this is what we are actually craving & look past the sensationalism that temporarily satiates this craving & give up on the desire to be successful/important/impacting on the entire world, we will realize that remembering we live is actually an excellent form of existence. Let me say that more clearly - realizing we are alive, this moment, alive, is the greatest thing we can do & the most thrilling sensation we can ever absorb.

If we actually remembered we were alive every day, every hour, every minute. Every second. What would that do to us? To me? To take a deep breath in, to savor it, because it indicates we are alive.

To recognize our smallness - even as 20million, to recognize our insignificance. To recognize the few in political power always have a stronger voice than the millions - even when they join the millions (and well done to the millions for getting the one voice to join - though that's what it often takes). What if recognizing our smallness didn't mean we felt in adequate or insignificant or un-sensational?

What if it means the opposite? What if recognizing our smallness means we recognize our limitations and our realities? Means we recognize our most profound influence is not grand but small. Perhaps this would free us from the self-imposed & societally-imposed pressure to be sensational.

The recognize our greatness is not in posting a video someone else made, but is rather in stepping outside our own door, turning around from the computer to look at a spouse, a child, a roommate. Taking a moment to breathe - to see the beauty surrounding us, to give thanks for it. And then to intentionally look for the pain - yes the pain.

Whether our own or the pain of those immediately around us. And then to say thanks when we see it - to say thanks for seeing those who remained nameless and faceless because we were too busy being grand and sensational. Because now that we see them, and I mean see them with our entire being, not just a glance - they are no longer nameless and faceless. Give thanks for seeing the pain.

Social media is a powerful tool - you all know that. Even this blog pursues that idea and belief. But if we think for a second that we are grand or sensational because we jump on someone else's bandwagon, we have missed living. We have missed the greatness that exists in our smallness. Our realized smallness is great not because it means we are part of something bigger (though I think we are), but because embraced smallness is content smallness - and contentment with ourselves (and our lack of grandeur) allows us to really look beyond the skin-deep walls of our own being. And absorb the realities we will inevitably see.

I'm not saying we should ignore the causes of the greater world - I completely think we should pay attention to them, be informed, be well-informed, be intelligent in our discourse, and unemotional in our analysis of how to best approach the problems that surround us (emotion is of course necessary, but very rarely useful in objective analysis).

I guess what I am saying is this - we are not as great as we think we are. And thank goodness. We are sensational - but not in the way society tells us we must be. We are sensational only if those around us have faces and names - if they don't, our shouts to those in our distant circles to heed the cries of other's causes will fall on deaf ears - because relationship is the primary catalyst to change.

If you've posted something on Joseph Kony or Invisible Chilren - that's wonderful, it truly is. Now, turn around and look across the room, out the window, into the next office or cubicle - do you see the nameless and faceless? They are there - I swear it. Now, go.  Be sensational. You are small, and thank goodness - someone needs you to be.

1 comment:

  1. You make many good points, for which I applaud you. Having lived/worked in Uganda in the past decade, I can assure you that even though the hype may go away on it's own, Joseph Kony will not. I love that you suggest we be informed and well thought out. Unfortunately many may see Uganda as the enemy. That would be akin to striking Chicago because the Mafia is there. However, the "gone viral" video is decades overdue, and it does serve to show us what collective voice can attempt that one voice cannot. I just want to end by reminding us all not to forget that the pain of those children is real, and ongoing, and it's not OK to trivialize it.


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