I understand that some of us just get old and tired. Some of us simply wind down and no longer need to hunt for our food or find a mate – our attraction to colors and scents becomes dulled and our desires fade.
But while you sit there at your screen, I want you to know that new and life-enriching experiences are bursting around you like champagne corks and fireworks as most of us sit, medicated and complacent.
As artists, we are awakened in the middle of the night, scrambling for our journals or sketchbooks as the lyrics, dialogue, melodies and images bloom in our heads like lightning. There are times that we would sell or pawn everything we owned for access to a studio or the equipment necessary to help us give flesh to our vision. And, as entertainers, we are here at the club, theater or concert hall, having rehearsed the show a thousand times or more. Having set up the lights and microphones and amplifiers and promoted tonight’s performance out of our own pocket, hearts beating wildly, hoping you saw the handbills, waiting for you to arrive.
Yet, the rest of us remain on our couches, sleepily re-focusing our eyes between commercial breaks. You might even be at the bar right now, with a band, songwriter or poet performing directly behind you, and your eyes are still glued to the screen.
It’s not entirely our fault. We are continually shown, told and reminded every second of every day what a dangerous, filthy, contagious and most importantly — evil — world we live in. And for all the tools, medicine and miracles we have created, our progress has also increased our loneliness and isolation, and heightened the degree and intensity of our need for distraction.
It’s not new. Technology has always unfolded alongside the aspects of self, culture and nature. The advances of modern architecture once made it possible to house the public theatre and for the best playwrights to showcase their work, the harnessing of radio waves gave us weekly dramatic cliffhanger serials, the cathode ray gave us daily televangelism and MTV, and now the mobile internet makes it possible to stay plugged-in, turned on and marketed-to at all times.
I grew up before we had the world’s knowledge base and creative storehouses at our fingertips. If you wanted to read a book, you needed to check it out from the library, and then return it before it was due. If it was out of print, most times you were out of luck. If you wanted to see a film, you needed to buy a ticket while it was being shown at a theater. If you missed it, you rarely saw that film again, unless it was shown on TV, and even then there was no pause button. We had no VHS tapes. We had no Netflix.
I am in no way implying that things were better when I was young, nor am I saying that we need to deprive ourselves of technology in order to have a meaningful life. Technology is, after all, how I am able to speak to some of you now. But we are alive at a time when so much “art” and “innovation” has been allowed to flourish at an overwhelming rate — with no filter and no editors, with no institutions, patrons or benefactors required. For this, our development (at all stages and on all levels) is being stunted by distraction and the consumption of junk. If we expect to grow, develop, adapt and unfold according to our highest potential, we must find a balance between the alternating states of rest and activity, contemplation and action. The sweeping pendulum of prayerful devotion and real-life service or experience surely leads to real wisdom, even illumination. But we seem to be on our knees, stalled in constant prayer, in front of our television screens and computer monitors, drooling and frozen, too frightened to touch the screen or engage in the world around us. Too tightly wound by the stimuli and frequencies of everyday life.
Our children are now “diagnosed” as inattentive or withdrawn, given experimental and patentable medications for contrived and creatively-named diseases, yet still taught to live in fear of others (especially those that look or act differently). They even fear themselves, their own personal potential and their own bodies. Nowadays, it is considered shocking to have a natural childbirth or to leave your doors unlocked at night. We are simply not shown how to love and we are not encouraged to heal.
An Orwellian future (where our rights are forcibly stripped from us by Big Brother) is not upon us after all. As it turns out, the future is brave, new and Huxleyan – and we have contentedly given up our rights and our privacy to our smiling leaders (sometimes, they’re even played by actors) in exchange for what we think we need: government-sanctioned drugs, including cigarettes and alcohol; genetically-modified, artificially-flavored food; and mindless entertainment. When will we grow tired of so insultingly little being expected of us? When will we get sick of being seen as incapable of knowing what is best for ourselves? When will we finally hate the state we’re in and demand that steps be made toward something better?
I challenge you to be mindful of what you pay forward.
I challenge you to question what we call “news” in this country (hint: it’s not “news” if it contains someone’s opinion).
I challenge you to discern how much real food is on your supermarket shelf.
I challenge you to think twice (and take a breath) before you share that link on Facebook.
I challenge you to be a leader and take responsibility for the health of your network and your community.
I challenge you to find new ways to use the tools that we’ve been given.
I challenge you to make a stand — to resist the influence of the media and their attempt to seduce and control your mind (and the minds of your children) by aiming their campaigns directly at your sense of fear, your prideful ego, your stomach and your sex organs.
I challenge you, no I beg you, to simply turn me off, walk outside and consider your place in the Cosmos – this nested hierarchy of clustered galaxies and sub-atomic particles – infinitely up and down, out and in. And you, here, in the center of it all. Try to be present in that perfect moment. Try to be witness to your body and your thoughts and emotions arising within you.
We are all connected by an ordered system of energy, particles, waves, spirit and matter that somehow holds itself together in various forms. One source, different masks — sometimes comic, sometimes tragic.
Some of us are so bold as to give this source a name.
If we’re confident that we can invoke the name of the entire known universe with one word; If we can be so bold as to think that life is a drama — put on to entertain us and our single point of view — then we need to be willing to take a seat and hear someone else’s telling of the story.
If we are to reach our highest consciousness, and our highest potential, then we deeply owe it to ourselves to simply entertain someone else’s vision of our universe — and to always be entertained by it.