My Ancient Soul
I’m old and certainly not very cool. I don’t know that I ever was. I don’t belong here in the age of selfies, but I’m not so sure I belonged in the age of transistor radios.
I don’t understand selfie-sticks. I don’t understand the ego behind selfies. I grew up in the age when Polaroid cameras were all the rage, but I don’t remember anyone taking selfies and passing them around.
I don’t understand why anyone needs a life trainer. Do you. I’m lost in this age of instant gratification made instantly instantaneous with the swipe of a smart phone. What do the unattractive. unpopular and unwanted feel like in these days of selfies and life trainers? How do they escape? How do they feel? How do they cope?
I think I know.
Even when I was young, I lived in a different world than my peers. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because of my “ancient soul”. When I was seventeen-years-old 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. That I was like trapped between centuries.
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. It very much did make me uncomfortable then, but it does not make me uncomfortable in the least 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 be seen and to be seen and never be disconnected from someone, anyone, everyone, is the new mobile mantra. The world is all about image we project and seldom about the substance within. Self-worth and self-esteem come from the outside and not from the inside in this new age of technology.
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 eploit 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 stimulent. If we’re lonely all we need to do is create a profile on a dating site and instantly have our egos assuaged and our loneliness cured by anyone, someone, it doesn’t matter who.
As soon as our profile goes up we get attention imediately 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 enough, we will will never have to worry about anything substantial. In this world of illusion and image — image is all that matters.
Attractiveness is the universal aphrodesiac.
Yet, with all this instantaneous gratification available to us, we still may end up empty and aching — and not ever know why. There is a hollowness to all this that is almost tangible to me. I feel it everywhere, as if we’re all empty shells, all so worried about being filled that we don’t really stop and think of what we are being being filled with.
We’ve become slaves to the instant world we’ve created.
This new age has created so many new and deeper kinds of sadness and emptiness and it’s contributing to an epidemic of low self-esteem. Loyalty means little, integrity is for moralists, fun is wherever you find it, instant gratification is just a mouse-click or tap on a tablet 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 happiness can be.
We’ve lost our ability to enjoy the pleasures of being alone. We are too busy with all our toys and trying to stay connected that we seldom stop to enjoy beauty of the world around us or the inner-peace that we can find in the serenity of silence.
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 the important things — like who made that iPhone they’re using? What kind of miserable exploitation is is that poor child enduring. Does that child even 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. 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 smart phone? 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 smart phone 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 called her yet today.
I don’t know the answer. All I know is the world makes less and less sense to me than it did when I was seventeen. Maybe trying to behave the way everyone expected me to insulated me for a while, but 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’m a hypocrite because I’m typing on a computer most likely made by some exploited ten-year-old girl working fourteen-hour days in some inhumane and horrid sweatshop in Indonesia. And I think — I’m typing these words on that poor little girl’s tears.
We’re all hypocrites, 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 alone by the sea in a lighthouse keeping mariners away from the rocky shoals on 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 horses, 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.
One thing for sure — the more I see of this new age, the less comfortable I become. Where can I find substance in an increasingly superficial world. It is no wonder that happiness has to be created from moment to moment – and never seems to last. Happiness is created from moment to moment because it can be — technology has made it possible.
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 lost in a vast maze of interconnectivity where everyone is connected but no one really connects.
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 can swtich them out with a click. Not many consider that the new becomes the old and then, of course, we will have to switch them out for something newer.
I’m typing this on a computer made in a dreary, dirty sweatshop. This instrument of technology was fashioned by tired hands of an exploited mother, father or child.
Yes, I’m a hypocrite too.
I’m a hypocrite but I’m not at all comfortable with it. I wish there were still lighthouse keepers — I’d apply for the 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. Surrounded by good books, I imagine myself looking out into a dark November night and seeing ship in the distance and feeling worthwhile because I’m the one who will keep that ship from running aground on the rocky reefs in the bay. I’d be alone on the sea, but I’d never be lonely.
In world where image is far more important than substance, I feel alone and isolated. Who understands the thoughts of an ancient soul?
My ancient soul is restless and yearning.
And I know exactly why.