The world was my oyster. I set out oblivious to the confines of its shell. All I saw was the beautiful lustre and the wild ocean that surrounded it. I set out to tame it. To leave my mark. I remember once witnessing a repeated bickering session between my uncle and his wife when I turned to my cousin and said, “We should show them how it should be done.” I was referring to marriage. We were cocky. He is in his second marriage, and me in my fourth.
Life is easier as an observer. We have all the technology to be professional voyeurs pretending to be philosophers and activists, denying the fact that all we’ve become are armchair critics. But all is not lost. If anything, many surrender to their armchairs because of the heightened sense of self. If nothing else, the social web that we surround ourselves with has provided affirmations of our condition that was impossible just a generation or two ago. My observation of my weaknesses being expressed with passion by faceless bloggers gives me the comfort of knowing that it’s not only me. And if it’s not only me, then it can’t be my fault. There must be something bigger than us that is doing this to us, right?
My perspective is sometimes tainted by this reality of virtual life. It’s that much easier to get drawn into the cycle of complacency and distractions, because losing sight of my drive to overcome my obstacles is easy when faced with the validation of my weaknesses. I see too many that are fearless and fierce in their defence of the under dog but struggle to hide the hints of their own sense of worthlessness in real life. The connectedness makes it so much easier to fill the gaps of life with the artificial reality of the other life. We now have three domains of life it seems. The real life, the other life, and the afterlife. Depending on your spiritual persuasion of course. It’s the other life that seems to dominate our attention span which leave the real life and afterlife quite neglected.
Purpose and grounding cannot be found in a distraction. The shameful truth is that the more connected we are, the less humane we’ve grown. Real tragedies that we witness are easily transformed into notes or likes in the other life. Our desire to be the one to start the trend that others will follow for a few brief moments is that moment in the limelight that we have little hope of achieving in real life. The contamination got worse when those notes and likes started being celebrated in real life. Suddenly my other life gained the validation it needed to be perceived as real rather than as a distraction. So it must be true that my vents, my rants, my passion, and my fearlessness online makes a real difference. It can’t just be a distraction. I am making a difference in real lives. But why then am I still conflicted?
I think the conflict arises when I leave my other world to dash out for a moment of necessity. There, despite my distraction, is a world over which I yield little influence. There before me is my insignificance staring right back at me. That’s when it occurs to me. In real life I am but a remnant of the fire that rages within. I am misunderstood, and often dismissed as a dreamer, despite those dreams gaining so much subscription in my other life. There is a danger in surrounding ourselves with kindred spirits, and that danger is escalated when the ability to connect with them improves in probability due to the technology that we have to facilitate such polarisation. It polarises us further. Not just socially, but we find ever widening gaps between our sense of self-worth and significance in our other life compared to real life. This shapes our behaviour in ways that will cause much destruction in our lives if we fail to notice the chasm that is forming.
Living holistically has just become more difficult, despite the additional comfort that we obtain from those that see us without the social stigmas that we can so easily hide in our other life. Living online while existing in real life is a statement of hypocrisy that will leave us uneasy in both. The moment the distractions subside, the realities of each life appear larger than life, and in that, also more daunting. We’ve added a dimension to life that has enriched it, while creating an even greater challenge to be human. Suddenly we’re mostly able to help only those that are reachable online, while those that threaten our personal physical space are denied our indulgence or compassion from fear of them seeing us too clearly.
Living mindfully is demanded more than ever. Finding congruence between each of my lives has become my new greatest challenge in my efforts to be grounded. My grounding will only ever be manifested in the realisation of being able to apply myself consistently, not just in principle, but in deed, in both my domains of my life, so that my afterlife will not be left wanting. The acid test for me is found in that moment of silence, when I have no technology to distract me, or people to cajole me, and the feeling of consistency or inconsistency descends. When I feel a yearning for one space more than the other, I know that I am a raging fire in one, and merely a remnant in the other. I need to rage in both, or divorce myself from the one that counts less towards my afterlife. But the investment in both is such that I am unwilling to forsake either, and therefore the only option is to ensure that I rage fearlessly in both.
I often wonder how much more wholesome society would be if we were able to express ourselves in person with the same strength and security that we enjoy through anonymity online. I think it’s possible to achieve this. The equivalent of such anonymity would be the rejection of the opinion of others towards shaping your person. Leave behind the need to feel accepted, but instead nurture the desire to express, and it will result in you attracting those that are similarly impassioned in real life as well. The principles are the same, it’s only the courage that differs.
(This is an incomplete thought process)