Friday, February 17, 2017

When the World Makes Less and Less Sense

One frightening and yet also calming aspect of getting older is how you become less and less engaged with the world.  Sometimes the world seems to be a scary and different place than as a youth, and thus we tend to engage with it less and less.

Today, when I read the news, I see references to trends and fads that I have never heard of.  Moreover, most of these trends and fads come and go without ever making it onto my radar. When I was younger, I was always up on the latest things going on. Working in an office environment, I guess I tended to hear more about these sort of things during water-cooler chat sessions.  Maybe working alone, I miss out on what the latest outrage du jour is, or what embarrassing thing happened to a celebrity.

I guess social media fills in this void for a lot of people - things "trend" and are upvoted and go viral.   But it seems very superficial and trite - and also commercial.  Nothing floats to the top of the Reddit front page by accident, which is why I lost interest in that site as well as Facebook.   It is just a bunch of ads for stuff - movies, video games, kick-boxing, or whatever.  We are supposed to care because everyone else does - or they make it appear everyone else does.   I mean, really, do you give a rat's ass about the "competition" between two brands of comic books?

I guess now that I'm older, I realize that missing out on some fad that lasts for two or three weeks or a month or even a year it's really not missing out on much at all.  And the same is true of music. When I hear about an awards program, none of the names, or least very few of them, resonate with me. I am sure my parents probably feel the same way about the musical acts that were popular back in the 1970s. Back then, as a young man, I knew the names of all the popular artists, even the ones I despised.

Today, I know a few of the more popular names that are mentioned frequently in the press, but I couldn't identify their music if I was forced to.  Moreover, and I know this sounds like a something an old man would say, it seems like all the music sounds the same. We've reached a new era of the solo vocalist who tends to sound like someone from one of these reality singing shows, warbling their voice up and down the scale is if that were proof of proficiency in the art.

I guess Adele feels that she owes a debt of gratitude to Beyonce as they both sound the same to me.  Ironic, after nearly a half a century, white people are still making money off black people's music - and getting all the awards as well.  So I guess not much has changed, and I'm not missing out on too much.

Again, this is both oddly calming and frightening at the same time.  It is frightening because I feel that I am turning into an old person or turning into my parents. And it is somewhat disconcerting to be disconnected from society at large and unaware of popular trends in culture.

But it is also calming in that when you reach a certain age realize that none of these things really matter.  Being up on the latest trend of dabbing really doesn't do much for your personal life.  Knowing the names of all the popular musical artists or even the obscure ones really doesn't make you a better person, more well-informed, or happier for that matter.

In fact, you realize that this stage in life that a lot of what you thought was important and relevant and pressing really was just noise.  As I noted in a very early post in this blog, people love to drown out the deafening silence in their lives with meaningless noise.   Or worse yet, the powers-that-be want us to be deafened by distractions in our lives.  We all want to feel that our lives have some sort of deep inner meeting and that there is a point to our existence on this Earth. This is a normal human thing.

The sad reality is that even the most famous of humans is largely irrelevant in the long scale of time. Human history spans only a few thousand years, and in that time only a few dozen names resonate for any length of time. And even then those names resonate only because they are infamous and not famous.

But compared to the history of our planet, human history is a mere blip on the time scale. The rocks and magma care little for our scrambling activities on the surface of the orb.  For ordinary humans, our significance is even less. None of us will be remembered for more than a few years at best, and few of our accomplishments will be recognized for any significant length of time or scope in the greater scheme of things.

Again, you can view this as depressing or frightening or liberating. Once you realize that your life doesn't have a dramatic meaning, you are free to actually enjoy it on a day-to-day basis. And maybe that is the real meaning of life, to savor every moment rather then to seek some higher meaning through achievement, accomplishments, religion, or politics.

It seems that many people go through life concentrating on the latter, obsessed with things like religion or politics and making them the centerpiece of their lives - providing meaning for their lives. The media would have us think that what the president is doing is the most important thing in our daily existence. They would have us believe that we should put off the enjoyment and experience of our lives in favor of pining for a future that may never exist

I mentioned this in an earlier posting about past, present, and future. It seems that many either pine for a long ago rosy past or wait in eager anticipation for a future that never seems to arrive. In the interim, we seem to miss out on the experiences going on around us.

So maybe it's not a bad thing that I feel a disconnect from the latest trends or popular artists or movies playing in the theater. It seems they come and go with regularity. By the time I hear about a movie I'm interested in seeing, it has left the theaters months ago. And that's okay. Young people want to see the latest releases, have the newest albums, and the latest video game. At my age it seems like, "what's the hurry?"  They'll be plenty of time for all of that and for the most part it isn't much different than what you already experienced in the past.

And that is a very calming thing.