Just do it. Because I’m worth it. I don’t want to grow up; (I’m a Toys R Us Kid). There are some things money can’t buy..for everything else there’s MasterCard. Obey your thirst. Hungry? Why wait? Membership has it’s privileges; don’t leave home without it. Live your best life…
These are all easily recognizable commercial slogans…and sadly, so ingrained in our culture that they have become mantras to justify our every whim. We live in an isolated culture of iPods, cellphones, TVs in every room of our homes, DVRs, and Prozac–all just to protect the individual against the overwhelming fear of….a conversation with a stranger, our tormented teen, our emotionally distant spouse. It has become uncool to be unplugged. Are we so terrified to get to know our coworkers, our neighbors, even our children, beyond superficial pleasantries for fear of learning something that may make us uncomfortable, or that might challenge our way of thinking? More likely than not, many are afraid that they might be challenged to even think at all. Or does it go deeper? Do we live in a society that masks self loathing with the protective assumption that if anyone cuts through our guarded facade, they’ll find nothing to love and hate us as much as we hate ourselves?
I’ll go further and state that we merely survive now…we go to work, white knuckle our way through the day, come home, plop into our chair, turn on the TV…work, home, chair, TV…repeat. We break up the monotony by shopping for things we don’t want with money we don’t have to make people we don’t like jealous. Long term joy has been replaced with fleeting happiness. Don’t worry, when your shopping high wears off, take a Prozac that has been prescribed by a pill pushing physician; after all, no one has time for an emotional breakdown in our breakneck, faster than the speed of life world. Unfortunately, the ugliness of divorce, the depression of job loss, even the pain of losing a close loved one CANNOT be masked by a happy pill. Pain and sadness must be felt and in the battle of pill versus pain, the pain will always win until it’s recognized, owned, embraced, and seen through. It is dangerous to walk around in a prescription induced fog pretending everything is fine; sometimes it isn’t and you are not alone. Nor are you less of a person because you hurt.
If you don’t know your neighbor or your kid’s teacher, go introduce yourself. Take a pie, just to make yourself even more uncool. Log off the computer when your kid is trying to tell you about her day. Look at your dog when you pet her. Decide you’re too smart to let what ANYONE says on TV impress you. Read a book. If you had dinner or know with any kind of certainty that you will eat dinner in the near future, if you have a bed to sleep in, hot water to bathe in, if you have at least one person in this world who cares whether you live or die, then step out of your drama infested life filled with problems of your own making and appreciate what you have.
We are blessed in this country to be able to take a stand for anything or against anything, and yet many of us don’t. We have a chance to vote for leaders, yet too many of us don’t bother. We walk around in a texting oblivion, having meaningless cell phone conversations in line at the supermarket, shouting over the din of loudspeakers and electronic scanners. On the way home we drive past billboards telling us to drink more coke or that having a cell phone is the path to happiness and enlightenment. We live in a country that pays lip service to free speech, yet we silence ourselves with our own political correctness to the point that we are afraid to voice even the most benign opinion for fear that we will offend someone. We parrot PC jargon like a bunch of soulless robots in order to fit in. I firmly believe that we really don’t want to be disconnected from others; it’s just that maybe, on many levels, we have forgotten how to connect at all.
Thomas Merton, a brilliant Catholic monk and author, said it best, “Where men live huddled together without true communication, there seems to be greater sharing, and a more genuine communion. But this is not communion, only immersion in the general meaninglessness of countless slogans and cliches repeated over and over again so that in the end one listens without hearing and responds without thinking. The constant din of empty words and machine noises, the endless booming of loudspeakers end by making true communication and true communion almost impossible. Each individual in the mass is insulated by thick layers of insensibility. He doesn’t care, he doesn’t hear, he doesn’t think. He does not act, he is pushed. He does not talk, he produces conventional sounds when stimulated by the appropriate noises. He does not think, he secretes clichés.”
©Mary Flanagan Taylor May 30, 2010