Looking up from the daily and mundane, I notice a reverberating groan sounding from somewhere round my midsection. It’s the reverse of the feeling I once got while touring the family’s Indiana pig farm in Uncle Sam’s Jeep, holding on for dear life as we caught air over the rise between mini hills, each dip catapulting my stomach to at least 3 feet above my head. It was a hysterical thrill. Yeah…it’s the opposite of that. This feels like something is pulling me down…slowly but forcefully… into a dark and ethereal hinterland of grief. It is a quiet sadness.
I’ve been wondering about this, trying to understand, maybe build another border around my neat and tidy frame through which I view the world, and find relief from my awful feelings of confusion and fear. For me, to understand is to cope. No, more than cope: embrace. To “embrace” something gives me courage. Courage predisposes me to act, opening my heart to receive enough energy for the demands of life today. That energy is love. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Love never fails. I believe that.
Okay…a little sappy, but it’s true. The only thing is that “love” hasn’t yet raised me up from the depths of the hinterland. I understand what’s going on; at least I think I do. Okay, maybe I don’t, but I have a theory. You know how things have changed right? We can’t get away from the tentacles of social media; cyberspace is nearing par with physical space. The only thing we can’t do is physically “be” in cyberspace…yet. I hear the family of Ray Bradbury is working on a new “beam me up, Scotty” technology.
Anyway, cyberspace isn’t real life, but it changes how we see real people. What we see and know about someone via our cyberspace perspective is different from what we see and know about someone after spending time talking face to face. How we engage one another is very different, and not always for the better. My daughter hangs out with her friends after school via Face time. How do you play kickball via Face time? I don’t get it.
A few very large and vocal swaths of society have taken up residence in cyberspace, spending their time talking down all the other groups with whom they disagree, labeling them with despicable descriptors once considered unfit for use by polite, optimistic, and collaborative adults living in a free country pursuing a common purpose. Those days are behind us. I hope they’re ahead of us. But they’re not here now.
We’re left with rough social media neighborhoods filled with people who are hurting and who want to hurt others, passive-aggressively lobbing accusations over the cyber-transom, sometimes seasoning their gibes with some of the most vile language I’ve ever encountered in a public forum. I actually know someone whose production company posts ads containing liberal usage of the “f” word. They’ve obviously become desensitized to the message of hostile contempt for others laced through the profanity they casually spew. Not me. I find the scurrilous use of profanity base, rude, and demonstrates a total lack of both respect for self and regard for the dignity of others…incredibly, including their potential customers. It boggles my mind. Just last week I signed up for a webinar on how to select a writing genre and the first email arrived with the details. The sentence at the top was, “Get Ready Because the S#*^ is Goin’ Down.” I was not impressed. They think they’re cool. I wondered if they’re vacuous. They probably show up to work in their pajamas. I only have dreams like that. Needless to say, I found something else to do with my time. And I wondered if I might have a different impression were we to meet in person.
Depending upon where your little spot in cyberspace sits (virtually, that is), you might find your cyber-pod mistakenly drifting through some rough neighborhoods. I’ve gotten lost a few times, startled by the vitriolic accusations lobbed by some who can’t even spell their cuss words correctly. Really…is that necessary? If you have a case supporting your view, make it! Don’t just launch a personal attack on anyone who disagrees. It makes you look defensive and weak-minded, as if someone got to you with a bulleted list of talking points and you dutifully gobbled them up…appropriating without research…or “hook, line, and sinker.” Emphasis on the word “sinker.”
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not Eeyore and it’s not all bad. Social media will always have full color recipe posts, which make me wonder why people complain about their weight. If you’re eating that stuff, you’re not going to fit into a size 4 by Thanksgiving, okay? Follow along with the dance videos instead. You’ll increase your chances. So yes, recipes and dance videos are out there, but in these days of upheaval, most of the posts I see on the news feeds groan and are foul and noisy and combative and depressing.
Where does this leave us? From what I can see, we’re wallowing in a debilitating pain demanding an anesthetic while we hide behind our walls away from those we’ve assigned to one or more enemy identity groups. I know way too many people who’ve severed a close friendship over a social media post. Ridiculous.
What has happened to us? Don’t we talk anymore? Even phone calls don’t happen like they once did. Now we use “texting,” a favorite tool of the passive aggressive. Dare I say we’re just not quite as human as we once were?
Unless you’re an extreme introvert, you probably agree that the social media life is a woefully inadequate substitute for a leisurely spent evening sitting face to face talking with a friend over a nutritious meal and a good bottle of red. I’d do that every night if I could. And I would, but everyone is soooo busy. Honestly I think we feel pressure to “keep up” with the demands of this weird cyber life we’ve been sucked into. Getting time is getting harder. When I was growing up, the neighbor lady Cathy would come over and walk in without even knocking and invite us to go down to the river. And we would. Now it takes an inordinate effort to make the schedule work and the best we can do is something every four to six weeks. A person could wither in two weeks for lack of a little face-to-face time. That’s where souls connect. Souls cannot connect through cyberspace.
Souls are meant to connect.
Wait. What? You don’t know what a soul is? Wait! You’ve got questions about robots? What? Sex robots? Are you kidding me? Wait…what? You know people interested in that? Uh…okay…don’t you think they’re missing the point? What do you mean, “what point?” That kind of intimacy is for our soul! It affects our soul. It must be meaningful. I mean, if it’s not meaningful, we hurt our souls. What are you thinking? It’s bad enough that so many people fail to see the beauty and sacred nature of their own bodies and souls. But really…robots? Come on. Have we lost our sense of our soul’s profundity? I mean, really, who’s behind this robot thing anyway?
Possible perps come to mind.
Here’s what I think is going on.
Society has entered the Era of Dehumanization.
Yes, that’s right. Dehumanization. Social media dehumanizes people. Politics dehumanizes people. The media dehumanizes people. Other people aren’t actually real; they’re just concepts that we embrace or reject. Therefore, we don’t need to connect with and understand them as individuals. They don’t matter. They’re not human. What’s important is that we get what we want regardless of how it affects “them.”
Have we lost our sense of the sacred? Has compassion for all been replaced with compassion only for those who fit the profile of the deserving according to a particular group? And everyone outside of that group doesn’t deserve compassion; they don’t matter and sometimes they deserve punishment?
Remember, they’re human too. And we’re all hurting right now.
What is happening to us?
I recently read a beautiful description of an everyday scene involving an elderly woman feeding birds on the side of the road. The author was overcome by the inherent goodness of our world. I wasn’t. At that moment.
And then I stumbled upon an article published in the New York Times on October 7, 2017. The article’s headline is “As Overdose Deaths Pile Up, a Medical Examiner Quits the Morgue.”
According to the article, “New Hampshire has more deaths per capita from synthetic opioids like fentanyl than any other state. Last year the overdose death toll reached nearly 500, 10 times the number in 2000.
Dr. Thomas A. Andrew, the chief medical examiner of New Hampshire, has decided to quit his job. He said that after seeing thousands of sudden, unexpected, and violent deaths, he’s found it impossible not to ponder the spiritual dimension of these events for both the deceased and those they leave behind. He’s leaving to enter seminary. He plans to explore the mysteries of the soul.
I think that’s beautiful.
Be kind and try not to cuss, okay? There are hurting people out there who desperately need your tenderness and your love.
I hope this makes some sense.