Saturday, 7 September 2013

Be The Change

Here's a problem with life you may have noticed: we're too busy trying to absorb information about other people that we don't have time to analyse our own lives.

I know more about what's happening in Syria than I do about what's happening with my next-door neighbours. The story behind that is that I've moved into a new apartment, and my wife and I have been intending for the past two months to just meet for coffee with our new neighbours (who we've only seen twice in the passage). The closest we've gotten is exchanging a business card and a couple of friendly e-mails - they live on a completely different schedule to our one, and in the few times when we're both home at the same time my wife and I are generally distracted by other things to do. Or felt too tired. So it's always 'next time', or 'next weekend' or 'next month'.

My wife recently made a startling observation which cuts to the heart of this irony: why is that it in a world in which we've become increasingly insulated from one another, that social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have exploded? Or supposedly exploded?

At University when Facebook was still fresh and new, I loved Facebook. I kept trying to post witty comments on the photos posted by girls I fancied, and sometimes that translated into the real world and sometimes it just didn't. That's Facebook.

Now married, I have no interest in trying to prove to anybody I'm a funny guy. I don't care about sharing my current meal, or reading about yours. In fact, I've grown increasingly averse to taking photographs which just clog up a forgotten folder and are never viewed again, never mind printed.

I've definitely noticed an increasing trend towards the retro for me. I think wistfully back to my family's old photo albums, which showcased the lives of everybody living and dead. I remember renting a VCR player at the same time as a VCR movie, and because it was pretty expensive it was a really special occasion and you made sure to enjoy whichever movie you watched. I remember my grandfather treating my family to meals out, which were really something special as well.

The older I get, the less special everything has become. I have a digital photoframe I cannot be bothered to unpack, never mind figure out which of the thousands of photos I have I want to bother uploading for display. I have several cameras, two of them I haven't touched in months. I have a hard drive full of movies I just cannot get past the first fifteen minutes of, because they're all rubbish. I only ever listen to a favourite radio station because the DJs have become like old friends, but I really seriously miss buying a CD and reading the lyrics to the songs (these days you just hum along if you're paying attention to the background noise at all).

Eating out isn't special anymore, mostly because I'm on a successful diet (less is definitely more!). When I do eat out I prefer sitting down for a meal, because at least sitting down in a McDonalds or KFC makes it feel like a semi-occasion, compared to cramming food down while watching TV at home. Same thing goes for buying quality food and sweets, instead of the cheap crap you get at the check-out counters.

My life at the moment has become a fight for survival. I'm trying to cut down the useless clutter going into my brain. I'm trying to enjoy simple moments more, instead of pretending I'm enjoying complex moments (seriously, I have NEVER gotten the whole clubbing scene).

I hate what the world has become. The biggest challenge when buying anything is to ensure that you won't feel buyer's remorse the second you bought it. If you can stave that off for a month at least, you're doing great. That's sad - what's the point of buying anything, if you are certain that you're going to regret it?

I'm describing my life now, just another rat in the rat race that Johannesburg city life has become. It might be very different where you live. I suspect it's probably the same, however. I keep reading about people wanting to escape into rural environments, but I don't think any more than a fraction ever do.

We have dreams for our lives, and it's seldom you'll obtain them (I wanted to be a NASA astronaut). My biggest frustration is that nobody is talking about these things openly. It's like when you become an adult, you have to keep up this pretense that everything is easy, even when it just isn't. It reminds me of the animal kingdom, where if you show weakness you get attacked.

To refer back to an earlier post, in 200 000 years of humanity, we've really gotten nowhere. We have electricity, yay, but we use it to power our televisions to numb our minds with games and irrelevant news headlines and gameshows which are clearly staged. When's the last time anybody did something truly amazing with electricity? Same thing goes for medical care, which helps us live our fruitless lives for longer than ever, and our extended lifespans giving us new headaches over retirement savings.

If you're like me, and share the above sentiments, then this is my way of telling you that you're not alone.

The greatest unfairness in life, however, is employment. Seeing people saying they hope they can find a job. Clever, funny, hopeful people, unable to even find an opportunity to become wage slaves and having their lives flushed down the toilet as a result. The only positive for employment is that it's better than unemployment.

Now's maybe a great time to share a quote from a movie I watched (it was a DVD rental, mkay, so it was a mini-occassion). There's this great scene in the Jack Reacher movie, where Jack stands with another character and speaks to her about the people in the neighbouring office block, all visible through the windows at night - stuck in their cubicles.
Jack Reacher: Look out the window. Tell me what you see. You see the same things that you see everyday. Well, imagine you've never seen it. Imagine you spent your whole life in other parts of the world, being told everyday that you're defending freedom. Then you finally decide you've had enough. Time to see what you've given up your whole life for, everything. Get some of that "freedom" for yourself. Look at the people. You tell me which ones are free. Free from debt. Anxiety. Stress. Fear. Failure. Indignity. Betrayal. How many wish that they were born knowing what they know now? Ask yourself how many would do things the same way over again, and how many would live their lives like me.

There has to be a better way to approach life. For all of us. Here's to hoping we can find a solution which revolutionises everything we know, so that ramblings like these are transformed beyond ramblings into catalysts for change.

If you're frustrated, that's awesome. Frustration results in change - being content can often just be a mask to hide unsatisfactory routines. I'm as frustrated as hell. I don't just want to make my life better: I want to make EVERYBODY's life better!

This is my tribute to being in your late 20s and angry. My sincerest hope is that by the time I'm in my late 30s I've done something about it. How awful it is to look back at yourself and chuckle at how naive you were. I'm not going to be that guy.

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