Superficiality of the Big City

A glance at the stream of postings on social media will quickly show you that the focus is on immediacy and superficiality for very fast consumption; ‘likes’ are focused on happy couples, cute pets, little kids, food dishes, and vacations. Any text longer than a paragraph tends to go unread. I do appreciate the connectivity that tools like Facebook allows, but if it is to become our main source of information, then the emerging consumption model has big consequences on our capacity for complex thoughts and ideas. Is it the natural result of our urban lifestyles? I myself find it harder to read books or to meditate when I am at home. The challenge, at least for me, is that faster pace and more options do not equate with higher contentment. Here I am on a small island far far away, with very limited connectivity, and after the first few days of restlessness a ‘new’ peace emerges. I find myself shying away from big crowds, busy restaurants, fancy bars. The whole social show that might normally fascinate me now starts to feel foreign. It makes me wonder if in our big cities we are all gradually becoming superficial, one click at the time?

On the other hand, it might just be me: my several brushes with death and my almost constant ‘not fitting in’ might be the roots for the need to always look around the next corner with the thirst for something more. And it is not easy: I just wrapped up a very successful show of my work and I am already obsessing about what comes next, I rip myself apart regularly, not a week goes by that I do not want to throw all my work away and start fresh and/or get a meaningless but steady job. I thank (and resent) the incredible friends that keep me on this path; providence always seems to throw me a bone when I most need it, and so forward I go. I am never more keenly aware that fear, doubt, pain are the foundational building blocks for courage, drive, pleasure.

Yesterday I was reflecting on how in the USA we are at risk of electing for president a criminal ego-maniac because we lost faith in the system: we sit feeling powerless and angry and disenfranchised, witnessing the whole elections process as one big sad reality TV show. Thus we become easy preys to those that see the world as their own.

My father recently reminded me that wisdom lies in between the brutality of poverty and the dumbness of wealth. So what happens when the middle gets squeezed too thin? Historically the two extremes end up crashing into each other. Looking at the news this past week I am left wondering if this might already be happening. The only path forward I can see is a stronger engagement with our family, peers, and local community: I now believe that a sense of belonging brings a sense of meaning, which in turn brings the courage (and desire) to stand up for what is right.