What do we perceive as reality, what the government and celebrities are doing, or what is going on in our own lives?
I was at a friend's house the other night, and we talked about how some folks here on paradise retirement island are so deeply unhappy. You read that right, you can have enough money to live the rest of your life without working, live in a beach resort community, and still be deeply unsatisfied with life.
It struck me that one reason why this occurs is that people's view of "reality" has little to do with their day-to-day lives or their personal lives, and more to do with what is on the television, what is in the "news" or what gossip is going around. People obsess about their social lives, what others are doing or not doing, and fail to grasp the beauty of life as it exists around them. What is going on in Washington has more impact in their lives that a beautiful sunset in their own back yard. Why watch that when Fox News is on! News Alert Level 5!
And for many people, that is "life" in a nutshell. They know more about the Mueller investigation that what their own children are doing in school. They are up on the latest finalists in Dancing with Celebrity Chef Hoarder-Pickers, and have tweeted and facebooked their brains out. They have opinions about everything but their own internal happiness.
Here on retirement island, the thing people obsess about is the Island Authority - which is taken for granted to be some evil Illuminati organization dedicated to making residents' lives miserable. They extended our leases! How evil is that? So you go to a cocktail party or a bar or dinner party and the talk isn't about how nice the day was, and how a walk on the beach is so tranquil, but what evil machinations the "Authority" is up to.
And once that topic is exhausted, we turn to the never-ending saga of Parcheesi Club and what outrages have occurred today. The idea that you don't have to join Parcheesi Club, if you hate it that much, or that you don't have to socialize with every last person on the island, or that you can just not give a damn, about the Island Administration, is alien to most folks.
And it is easy to get caught up in this nonsense. I find myself being drawn in - baited to be sure - because everyone else thinks it is so important as well! Pretty soon, not only are you being treated to these "bitch sessions" - you are part and parcel of them as well.
I had to put my foot down a few years ago, because some friends of ours, whenever we got together, loved to talk trash about the one person who wasn't there. "Did you hear what she did today?" they would say, and relate the latest "outrage" perpetrated by a flawed person who was really only hurting herself, at best. But it was the topic of endless discussion, and I felt empty and hollow inside during and after these bitch sessions. It was a one-way ticket to depression-ville.
But we do tend to do that - it is a human thing - to externalize our problems, or think more about someone else's predicament than our own. Because it is far easier to solve other people's problems or the problems of government or whatever, than to address our own lives.
The problem with this approach to life is that it leads to depression. Americans are some of the wealthiest people in the world, living charmed lives that most of the world envies. And yet the rate of depression in America is alarming. The "happiness index" or whatever you call it, routinely lists poorer countries as having more satisfied populations.
The problem, I think, is that we are too plugged-in to the television, social media (the television of the Internet) and social lives. We drown out the deafening silence in our lives with distractions. And these distractions are not constructive, positive things, but depressing things. The news is bad enough, but the rest of television is so passive - watching other people fix up their homes, watching other people bake cakes, watching other people dance. And when we see folks do these amazing things, our lives look drab and pale in comparison. Why bother trying at these things when your efforts will be failure compared to the expert on TeeVee?
That is why I can tell when I am talking to a TeeVee person and/or a Facebook person. They assume I know what the latest is on their "favorite show" and have followed the latest outrage on Facebook. And when I give them a blank look, they get upset. What do you mean, you don't get cable? How can your survive without Facebook?
And the answer is, very well, thank you. I only wish I could unplug more and care even less about "current events", the Island Administration, or the latest social gossip. Because when you come right down to it, these first two things are not affected one whit by our opinions about them or obsessing about them, unless you vote or give money. And the latter, well, while amusing and interesting, really isn't something worth obsessing about, either. People are going to do what they are going to do - we are all flawed human beings. I can only try to forgive their flaws and hope they forgive mine.
But speaking of too much social media, I think I'll turn off the computer and go for a walk on the beach. It is a nice day and all....