TV Series… man. Customised Hype. Tailored Distractions.
After spending so much time, even now, watching, watching and looking forward to the next episode of whatever. I’ve been forced to face the ever higher mountain of things I should be doing. Stories are great, but I think they should be uplifting you in some way because of the high cost of the investment, your time. You should be learning something new, it should be inspiring you to change some behaviour which does not serve you. It should definitely go beyond entertainment.
But, maybe that is all it is and what it is meant to be and will always be. Distraction. We’ve always sought out distraction because, I don’t know, life is hard and we’d rather not face it. Other have also exploited this to their benefit. They’ve delivered this bread and circus tailored to keep us hooked and coming back for more so that we have far less time to ponder, to reflect our own existence, to reflect our place in society, in the world… and far less time to do anything about the growing discontent as those who hoard wealth, hoard more wealth, consolidate more power and leave us to pick up scraps when we finally turn our eyes away from the TV, phone, computer we’re stuck to.
This tailored content, wrapped in the ideology of its creators and lobbyists, warps your perspective as well. Little by little, subconsciously, making you see the world as they want you to. Adopt the perspectives and opinions of the many protagonists they parade in front of you, that you identify with. When you finally face the world, you end up not seeing the world as it is, but as they want you to see it.
So, which TV series defines you as a person? How much sex, violence, comedy and drama is it going to take to fill that void inside you?
More importantly, what will it take for you to finally get off your ass and make your life better? Because make no mistake, at best… you’re stagnating unless you get your ass up and away from whatever series you’re watching.
At least take time to reflect that what I’ve written above, is it true or bullshit for you in particular? What could you be doing? At least write it down. Be aware, you’re either fulfilling the purpose of the creators of the show, or yours… depending on how much time you spend with it.
Maybe it’s because growing up in Johannesburg has cemented the mix of danger, concrete and… I don’t know what to call it… flow? maybe. That’s always had me mesmerised by cities. It’s that constant movement, people moving through it like blood along arteries. It’s a macrocosm of life. Like blood flows through the body delivering nourishment and oxygen to organs, people do that to a city… from one place to another, keeping it alive.
It’s like the city is a living organism on its own being nourished by ideas, labour and the flow of money. I love how, generally, in a city big and diverse enough, you can always find people or a place that caters exactly to your particular curiosities. Hip Hop, Islam, Knitting, Cats, Book Clubs, etc. etc. You’ll find something that brings people together in a city. It’s so easy for ideas to mesh together… for similar curiosities to group together.
I always have the animated image in my head about the public transport system and how if you track them all in the system in a time-lapse it would look exactly like blood flows through arteries. When you think about it like that, it’s kind of weird when you jump on a bus or take a walk through the city. You kind of are the lifeblood of a city… you and millions of others.
What I don’t like is that, as a habit, you end up eventually spending a bit too much time away from it. Not really taking advantage of a city. Then again, a city is built on concepts like capitalism, which sustain it and make it grow… to a fault. Eventually seeing something like that, growth for growth’s sake… it does kind of grind against you and makes you subconsciously shy away from it… or it becomes you.
Like most things… it gets complex the more you think of it. So, in the end, you kind of end up loving and loathing it. But you can never get away from it.
I’ve been in countless situations like it, especially in a work context. The condescending tone, remark, jibe at me communicating their superiority with a little dig at my work or clothes or music choices (yeah, even that). It was hard at first, but I think I got used to it. I had come to the realisation like so many other people of colour that we have to work twice as hard to get half as far because this is “their” world. It’s stifling and disheartening, your ideas are overlooked or repeated by someone with a lighter skin tone before they’re taken onboard. It’s all these little things that irritate, and after a long enough time it leaves its mark, psychologically.
It takes a while to break out of it. You have to sit with yourself and just shovel through all these feelings and thoughts and beliefs and values to just remember, at a basic level, who you are and what you stand for and why the things they’ve said or done to you are bullshit. You have to figure out what to do next, because you can’t carry on like that… who in their right mind would choose to carry on in that context? After that it just becomes clear what you need to do, what you need to change.
You see, it isn’t hard to do the right thing, it’s hard knowing what the right thing is. But, once you know what the right thing to do is… it’s hard not to do it. It will burrow a hole in your mind, day by day, until you do something about it.
I am thankful I am where I am now. With the clarity I have, the place I’m at, the work I’m doing, the people who are around me. But it took a hard journey to get here. But nothing worth having ever comes easy and even though it was so hard, I’d do it again. I treasure the journey as much as the destination. I wouldn’t be who I am without it. I’d be less… me.
And, because life is what it is, it’s probably not the end. Good and Bad come in waves. There’s always tests which make you pit your values and grit against the world. They’re there to see how you react, respond… What do you do? What do you give up? What do you protect?
So, I was going through my daily podcast listening routine and one in particular had a fantastic thought to begin with…
“Darkness has no identity of its own, all it is… is a name we give to the absence of light.”
Thinking about it… you can create light, through lighting a match, flipping a switch, whatever. But, you can’t create darkness, if you want that you need to extinguish light. Where there’s light there can be no darkness.
The metaphors around this are amazing too. Truth is often associated with the light, Falsehood with darkness. In Islam, one of the Quranic injunctions is that Falsehood, inevitably, will perish. Lies can not last because the Truth inevitably comes out and will come out.
When we think about light and dark in terms of truth and falsehood, they seem like very abstract concepts but make it more personal. What falsehoods do we tell ourselves in order to sleep better at night or to just deny the “truth” about ourselves becasue it’s a bit too difficult to face? One of my greatest learning moments was finally seeing things for what they are instead of what I wanted them to be. This was doubly hard because it happened in front of others, people I had to convince of an argument but the case I made didn’t match the conclusion I ended up with. Come to think of it, that particular learning moment had the Truth hit me straight in the face. A major moment of clarity.
This little line from a podcast made me contemplate how important knowledge of self is, as well as getting to the point of seeing things as they are, and accepting them for what they are. We need to constantly shine a light inside of ourselves to find the Truth and accept ourselves for what we are, warts and all, before we can begin to look outward and see the world for what it is.
Looking at the world today, man… Darkness everywhere. I want to do my bit by spreading a little bit of light, some truth, into that void. And, I believe, it has to begin with me, with us, understanding ourselves better and constantly striving to make ourselves better than we are in whatever little ways we can, day by day. But, we won’t be able to do that if we’re not seeing ourselves clearly, if we haven’t shone that light inside and accepted ourselves for who we are.
“Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.” ― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov
It’s 3am and I’m alone. Billions of stars in the sky, blank desert horizon in every direction. It’s cold, really cold. Starting the fire takes me a half hour and the effort barely sustains me with enough heat before the fire starts.
After sitting for an hour with random thoughts, my mind starts to settle. I was here to find answers and so I might as well start with the obvious. Why am I here? I mean, how can you expect yourself to get anywhere if you don’t know where you’re going, right? or at least figure out why you’re even on the road.
How do you get to answers, though? are they in books? are they in you? I’d imagine both – knowing what’s outside and what’s inside. Knowledge of the world and knowledge of self.
The desert has a way of blocking out everything except you.
And then, a new thought occurs to me… Why am I, me? Me in particular. Sitting in this spot, thinking this exact thought. I don’t have anyone else’s experience but my own. This self-reflection has me stuck right here in the present, exercising my will to move , to act, to do anything I want. But what is that exactly? What do I want to do? What should I do?
I’ll be grappling with this for a lifetime, but for now, let’s at least answer it generically. You’re here for a reason, and you’re you for a reason. Only you can be you and, well, you’re already here, so you may as well keep asking the question why until the answer comes to you or is answered for you personally. After all, you are going to have to live with the answer.