Musing of an Ancient Soul
I was seventeen-years-old and one of my best friends at the time told me I had an ancient soul. He told me I came from another time and another place. At the time I found it off-putting; I didn’t take it as a compliment. I tried to find a different soul and chose a lifestyle of which I’m not proud. I did things then that were contrary to everything I knew to be right and good. I battled my ancient soul because I hated being different.
I’m far past seventeen now and I’ve become comfortable with my ancient soul. I find peace and comfort in the little pleasures of life: a good book, watching the greening of spring, listening to the wind and imagining sailing on a vast ocean without a destination, or just watching people pass by. I never really fit in when I was seventeen and it made me uncomfortable then but it does not make me uncomfortable now.
I see the world differently than others see it. I sometimes withdraw too far into myself and don’t often give good people a chance. I have many faults – an ancient soul offers no protection from making mistakes or making misguided decisions.
Sometimes I’m the ancient mariner or the town crier or a baker of bread in a small colonial town. Most of the time though, I spend observing the behavior of people as they hurry from somewhere to somewhere else, and I am bewildered. People texting, taking pictures of themselves and others, updating their social networking pages or tweeting about some new coffee-based drink at Starbucks. They’re connected 24/7 — and seem so lost when they’re not connected. I wonder what can possibly be so great about being connected to someone, sometimes anyone, all the time.
Why is anything new, good, and everything old, bad? I just don’t understand it. And I don’t think I ever will. In order to supply us with all things new, the Earth is plundered and human beings exploited. The factories in China are alive with the sounds of misery and sadness, with the sounds of twelve-year-old children working fourteen-hour days, with the sounds of fathers and mothers working for $2.00 a day to make your next pair of $200 running shoes or your next smart phone or tablet… or laptop or PC…or shirt, or pants, or…
I’ll bet all these people I see rushing about today, texting and trying to stay constantly connected, don’t really give a damn about who made their smart phone or tablet. They don’t look into their screens and see the sweat and sadness of the children who toiled long days to make it; they don’t give a thought about the sweat of mothers and fathers and children by whose hands the devices that connect them were made. They see only the smiling face of a new boyfriend or girlfriend – or the tweet from a “friend” about the trendy new restaurant where they are having dinner.
So abused and overused, the word friendship has lost its meaning; the word love is so ubiquitous that it means the same as the word like. To see and to be seen and never be disconnected from anyone is the new mobile mantra. The world is more and more about image we project and less and less about the substance within. Unfortunately, self-worth and self-esteem come from the outside and not from the inside in this new age.
The fashions we wear, the shoes on our feet, and the devices that keep us connected to a loose and unfathomable web of “friends” were almost certainly fashioned by the exploited poor and underprivileged. Our appetite for the things we desire and think we need create the hunger that those who pillage the Earth and destroy its beauty and exploit its people, happily and greedily feed.
We live in the world of the instantaneous. There’s an instant feel-good for everything. No one need suffer anything anymore – or at least for very long. For every pain or sorrow or ache technology offers a panacea. if we’re hungry, there’s instant food. If we’re down, there’s a pill for an instant up. If we’re tired, there’s an instant stimulant. If we’re lonely all we need to do is create a profile on some dating site and perhaps, if our image is attractive enough, have our egos instantly assuaged and our loneliness cured by… anyone, someone; it doesn’t matter who.
And if our image is pleasant, as soon as our profile goes up, we get attention because someone — anyone — will connect with us and ease our emptiness and loneliness. Or so we think. And if the image we project is good or pretty enough, we will will never have to worry about anything substantial. Today’s world is a world of illusion and image — image is all that matters.
Attractiveness is the universal aphrodisiac.
Yet, with all this instantaneous gratification available to us, many still end up empty and aching — and don’t even know why. There is a hollowness to all this that is almost tangible to me. I feel it everywhere, as if we are all empty shells, all so worried about being filled with something, that we don’t really stop and realize what we are being being filled with.
We’ve become slaves to the instant world that we’ve created.
But this age of instant everything created many new and deeper kinds of sadness and emptiness and it’s contributing to an epidemic of low or no self-esteem. Loyalty means little, integrity is for moralists, the truth is malleable, fun is wherever you find it, instant gratification is a just smartphone app away. But there’s one thing missing in this connected world and that is happiness. The more we seek instant happiness the more we discover how elusive it can be.
We’ve lost our ability to enjoy the pleasures of being alone. We are too busy with all our electronic toys we use to stay connected that we don’t stop to enjoy beauty of the world around us or the inner-peace that we can find in the serenity of silence and the quietness of being alone.
We’ve become addicted to being constantly connected. We’ve become terrified of being alone. We’ve forgotten how to love ourselves.
I didn’t see anyone today, who looked the least bit happy. Everyone seemed too busy staying connected to be happy. They seemed lost in a world that doesn’t really exist and too busy to think about important things — like who made that iPhone they’re using? What kind of miserable exploitation are those poor underpaid workers enduring. Do the people who build iPhones have enough to eat?
If you mention this to someone they’ll tell me there’s nothing they can do about it – it’s just how things are. They will hardly look up from there iPads or smartphones to give it any thought let alone give me a thoughtful answer. There’s nothing I can do about it, it’s just how things are.
The exploitation of mankind didn’t begin in this new age, but it is alive and growing in the sweatshops of China, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Indonesia. And the products of this immoral exploitation of children and of mothers and fathers end up in the hands of us, the connected. I wonder who is happier? The child in the sweatshop or the person with the smartphone? The child’s unhappiness and sorrow is real and understandable and not by his or her own choice. Maybe that guy over there using his smartphone is unhappy because he didn’t receive his daily quota of texts from his friends. Or the girl over there may be grieving because the guy she met yesterday hasn’t messaged her yet today.
I don’t know the answer. All I know is the world makes less and less sense to me now than it did when I was seventeen. Maybe trying to behave the way everyone expected me to behave, insulated me for a while. But one thing is for sure – it never made me happy.
It’s not that I haven’t embraced technology. I have and I’m very good with it. I know more about computers and the Internet than most. And I admit, I’m a hypocrite because I’m typing on a computer most likely made by some exploited person working fourteen-hour days in some inhumane and horrid sweatshop somewhere in this world. And I think — I’m typing these words on that person’s tears.
We’re all hypocrites in a way. I am for sure, but I really don’t want to be. If I could travel anywhere in time and space I’d be living in the 18th century making candles or shoes or tending a general store. Or maybe, I’d be alone by the sea in a lighthouse keeping mariners safe from the rocky shoals some dark foggy night.
I often wonder how much people would want to connect after spending the day washing laundry by hand, plowing fields with with plows pulled by mules, or canning enough vegetables to last a long, cold winter. I wonder if they would know themselves better. I wonder if they would become more comfortable with their own inner voice instead of needing the feedback of everyone else to feel worthwhile.
The more I see of this new age, the less comfortable I am with it. Where can I find substance in this increasingly superficial world. It is no wonder so many people think that happiness has to be created from moment to moment, that happiness never seems to last. Happiness is created from moment to moment because it can be — technology has made it possible. But technology can’t bridge the gap from momentary to lasting.
Yes, I’m a hypocrite, but I don’t want to be. I see a world disconnected even as its people become more connected. People seem lost in a vast maze of interconnectivity where everyone is connected but no one ever seems to really connect.
New is better. Old is worse. That goes for everything — technology and people too. People aren’t so willing to work out problems with their husbands or wives or girlfriends of boyfriends. If they aren’t like we want them to be, we simply switch them out with a click. Not many stop and think that the new soon becomes the old and then, of course, we will have to switch them out again for something newer.
I’m typing this on a computer that was probably made in a dreary, dirty sweatshop. This instrument of technology was fashioned by tired hands of an exploited mother, father or child.
Oh yes, I’m a hypocrite too, I’m sorry to say.
I’m a hypocrite and I’m not at all comfortable with it. I wish there were still lighthouse keepers — I’d apply for a job right now. Alone in a lighthouse on the shore of a lake — with the sound of the waves would be the only connection I’d need; I’d be connected to the sea, connected connected to the Earth and connected to the universe.
In the lighthouse, I’d be surrounded by good books. Glancing up from a page, I look out into a dark November night and see ships in the distance and feel my purpose. I’m the one who will keep those ships safe, and prevent from running aground on the rocky reefs.
Alone on the sea, but never lonely.
In world where image is far more important than substance, I feel alone and isolated. Who understands the thoughts of an ancient soul?
I have an ancient soul and it is restless and yearning.
And I know exactly why.