THE OFFICIAL BLOG
Recently I was making small talk with a lady whom I had just met (which seemed to be the proper thing to do given the circumstances), and inevitably ended up sharing a little anecdote about my goats. I say "inevitably" because goats have been a part of my life in one way or another for several years now, so that it is natural to include the subject when I am talking to someone who does not know anything about me. Of course, I am assuming (which is also a natural part of introductions) that the person wants to know something about me to begin with. Ah, but back to the conversation. When I finished my short little story about goat adventures, the lady looked at me with some irritation, waved her hand dismissively, and said, "Yeah. I have goats, too."
It stung a little. Aaand the conversation ended. I am pretty sure that any prospect of a future friendship with this person also ended at that moment. Not because I was offended, but because it was clear that she would not be particularly interested in such a relationship.
A few days later I was still tumbling the exchange around in my head. I wish I could say that it warranted so much thought because it was an unprecedented thing. On the contrary, it seems to happen more and more often of late. So much so that I am beginning to feel as if strangers are more strange than they ever were before -- that something happened out there in the world at large while I was busy on my hill. I missed the program. I did not get the memo. When did we become so completely uninterested in one another - to the point of rudeness? What is going on?
As I contemplate the awkward encounter, I keep coming around to the idea that years ago - maybe many years ago, but most definitely for millennia before the change - that moment of the discovery of some common ground, some common interest or experience - would have been a good thing. "Ah," we say to our fellow man, "We are cut from the same cloth! We can start here."
People seem to be constantly searching for two things - and, I believe they are willing to sacrifice friendship in the process: everlasting newness and knowledge for personal gain. Those two things are not unrelated in this land of consumers. Hear me out, here. We are all consumers, we all consume things. But there was a time - not too long ago - that it wasn't our consumption that defined us.
I believe it began with our consumption of things, although the consumption of things is not inherently wrong and does not necessarily lead to the destruction of civilization or anything like that. We are not locusts... or we are not supposed to be. (After all, we are also producers. Or, we once were -- sometimes it feels as if that role is declining.) But, once upon a time, there was an orchestrated battle for the mind of modern man and advertisers (who knew a lot more about how our minds work than the rest of us care to know) taught people - an entire society - how to be masterful consumers of things. And then they didn't stop at things, because there's always more to sell. We became consumers of experience, consumers of ideas, consumers of knowledge, consumers of one another.
My general experience of late has, quite unfortunately, borne this out. I strongly feel that had a) I chosen to discuss a safely rare tidbit about myself or b) the woman I was talking to had absolutely no personal experience or interest in goats - the end of the conversation would have been more promising. As it was, I had nothing to offer - other than a shared experience which apparently is not worth much any more.
There's another side to this, and this is the part that begins to eat away at me. I find myself a little sadder - a lot less optimistic - maybe even on the verge of depression the more time I spend with people in a casual setting. This is especially true on the internet where the interactions come fast and furious and from all directions. (Fortunately, there is an off switch which I use more and more liberally.) It is not just a matter of difficulties in forming and cultivating new friendships... but a constant challenge to ... well... my sense of wonder.
I believe that it is very important for every human being to preserve and protect his sense of wonder... for his sanity.. for his happiness... for his salvation... for the good of his world and all he holds dear. It has become increasingly difficult to maintain. There is an enormous amount of knowledge at our fingertips - some good.. some bad... some useless.. some other stuff that masquerades as knowledge. There are answers. So.Many.Answers. There are more answers than questions. As a whole, we have lost our sense of wonder. Or if it is still there, we are afraid to suffer the ridicule of having it.
You may think I am being dramatic here - which would not be entirely off-base because I do have a tendency toward the dramatic.... But let's take a simple example from Facebook that I saw just a few days ago. An acquaintance posted a photo she had taken of an incredible sunset. She was obviously excited to share and posted along with words to the effect of not ever having seen a sunset with so many colors before. The first (and only) comment she received was from a woman who said: "They look like that here all the time. It's just pollution in the air that causes it."
I am going to step away from the formal tone of my post so far and just say: What a crappy comment.
It reminded me very much of my missed-friendship with the fellow goat owner. Yeah. I have goats, too.
I don't think we are always consciously aware of how these dismissals affect us. But they do. Let me ask this, have you ever seen the mother at the local park distractedly answer a small child who has come to her with some small wonder? "Look, Mommy! Look at the pretty leaf!" And mom looks up from her phone long enough to answer: "Put that dirty thing down." Do you catch the confused look on the child's face? Do you sense that there was some injustice in that moment? Do you want to go tell the child that it is, indeed, a beautiful leaf? I do. And, you see, this is exactly what we are doing to one another.. day in and day out...
So what? We are not children.
But, we are. For all of our knowledge, we know nothing. For all of our feats and accomplishments, we remain quite insignificant. What do we have left to go on when those realizations hit us in the middle of the night? What is left - what should be left - is at least a sense of wonder and awe. "Amen I say to you, unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven."
What does any of this have to do with the consumerism I was bemoaning at the beginning of this post? Everything. Because our sense of wonder has been replaced with an unquenchable desire for novelty (because novelty sells). Worse, objective novelty. People are looking for something that is actually new - not just new to them. But.. Wonder is subjective. "I have never seen such a tree!" But now we live as if we cannot take pleasure in the tree because we were not the first to have ever seen it. Come on, people! You will never be the first to see that tree. But no one else has ever nor will they ever see that tree exactly as you do at that moment in time.
Drink that in. Wonder in it. Find joy in these things. Be mindful of crushing the enthusiasm of those around you. Turn off the internet. (There's an off switch!) Make a new discovery. 'Impossible,' you say? How can anything be a discovery when a quick Google search yields 243,489 results on the matter? I will repeat: Turn off the internet.
That wonder. These moments. These discoveries. They belong to you. Reclaim them. Maybe once we begin to do that - we will again be able to find joy in the shared experience of our fellow human beings.
Posted by Anita
Still gets excited about leaves.