A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
According to psychologists, psychiatrists and the Internet, the thing most people fear is – wait for it! – speaking in front of a group. Yep, public speaking! That terrible moment when you have to give the toast to the bride or rally the troops for the church bake sale. Don’t get me wrong: I understand pathological fear (been there/done that) but I think we’re aiming a little low here. Personally, when I think of fear, my mind kinda runs to homicidal maniacs with sharp objects or those dead-eyed, bearded guys with bulky vests. Quite frankly, speaking to the assembled PTA doesn’t come up.
The problem is we live in the most benevolent society in history, and we really don’t know how to handle it. Strong emotions are reserved for strong situations, and our world has, for the most part, done away with those. In short, our emotions have no place to go. So they hang around, cluttering up our lives and making things difficult.
For example, I’ve heard people say, “I hate Kanye West.” Okay, fair enough! However, in a world that has Kim Jung-un and Vlad Putin in it, hating Kanye West strikes me as a little undercooked. If you’re going to hate somebody (which isn’t actually allowed, these days) you might want to do a little research. Kanye West is a pompous ass who has bad taste in women; those other two guys can blow up the world. Random hate diminishes the brand.
And talking about diminishing the brand, the things we do to love oughta be illegal. People love to cook. They love to ski. They love hiking and painting and going to the mall. Hell, they even love cyberjunk like Instagram. Yet, when it comes to that one magical moment with that one magical person, we run and hide behind “the relationship” as if even thinking “love affair” would unleash an emotional bogeyman. Go figure!
The thing is we’ve spent the better part of a generation trying to concoct a society without sharp edges – a place that doesn’t cry. However, in our zeal to make a better world, we’ve inadvertently smoothed out all the other stuff, too. Unfortunately, people aren’t made that way. We don’t even like it. We need and want to ache with love, burn with hate and shiver in fear. It’s the way we’re made. (That’s why people go to horror movies and rom/coms.) Our primal emotions are an essential part of life’s equation, and when you take them away, people start looking around for replacement parts. That’s why the 21st century is flooded with depression instead of sadness, anxiety instead of excitement and outrage instead of disappointment. People need to feel, and they’re willing to tie themselves in imaginary knots to do it.
So go ahead and fear public speaking, hate mediocre musicians and love video games. Just remember: it’s a big world out there, and there’s tons more and better stuff around to get worked up about.