Christianity / Design / Humanity

Consumption & Castration: Disconnection from our Humanity

I’m tired of consuming.

Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Repeat.

Dezeen. Gmail. AP. NPR.

Data. Data. Data.

What does all this do? What is all of it for?

If ‘to consume’ means ‘to live,’ then life has no meaning.

Rather, I’m interested in the life lived with humanity. A life not of looking, but of seeing, involving oneself with mankind, fully invested in the events, places, and people who shape us.

We seek endless fulfillment. Music, movies, food, drink; It’s all distraction, a means of numbing, a means of disconnection from our humanness, and further, our spiritual self.

We can’t even maintain a complete thought, especially when our ideas and intentions are reduced to 140 characters or an eighteen-minute TED talk; “Brevity is the soul of wit,” that is, when intellectual discourse actually happens.

I could take this entry in two directions, that of the mind (nous) or that of the heart (psyche). Rather, I will keep them together because, in our busyness today, we’ve separated the two. We’ve segregated ourselves from both our internal and external humanity and have exchanged it for the frivolity of consumption. So long as we continue to consume, we continue to fabricate the lies of our life. Lately, some friends and I have begun referring to this as ‘existential dread,’ from Thomas Merton:

“…underlying all life is the ground of doubt and self-questioning which sooner or later must bring us face to face with the ultimate meaning of our life. This self-questioning can never be without a certain existential ‘dread’… ‘Dread’ in this sense is not simply a childish fear of retribution, or a naïve guilt, a fear of violating taboos. It is the profound awareness that one is capable of ultimate bad faith with himself and with others: that one is living a lie.”

So, perhaps we should come out and say it. We are living a lie. We’re told constantly by who knows? what to wear, what to read, what to think, what to feel, all by a world we don’t personally know or understand. It’s not that we’re addicted to Facebook or Twitter, it’s that we’re addicted to the middle school notion we could someday be like them, could have this, could see that.

And it keeps us from knowing who we really are.

I’m reminded of this quote from Henri Nouwen:

“You have to start seeing yourself as your truthful friends see you. As long as you remain blind to your own truth, you keep putting yourself down and referring to everyone else as better, holier, and more loved than you are. You look up to everyone in whom you see goodness, beauty, and love because you do not see any of these qualities in yourself. As a result, you begin leaning on others without realizing that you have everything you need to stand on your own feet.”

The interesting thing is, we’re not even leaning on one another anymore. We’re leaning on the digital façades of people we think we know. We’ve developed a life of memes, copying and pasting the thoughts, ideas, and emotions of others into our own lives. We’ve lost both the ability to think and the ability to feel, and our lack of these basic needs keeps us from dreaming.

Currently, I’m sitting on the thirty-first floor of an apartment overlooking all of Bogota, Colombia. A world I do not know, let alone understand, sits directly beneath me, and yet, I maintain my comfort consuming the data of people and places which I’m familiar. It’s this comfort that will lead to my our death.

Perhaps a better word for ‘consume’ would be ‘castrate.’ Graphic? Sure. Morbid? Maybe. But until we stand on our own feet, develop an original thought, and take on life with full force, we might as well be sterile.

If you’re interested in pursuing a life lived fully, you already are, it’s just up to you to remove the blinders keeping you from seeing it.

 

Also, this post is but a blip amongst a plethora of information in the world. No, all these ideas are not my own, but rather a compilation of things I’ve been seeing, learning, and reading. Check out Contemplative Prayer by Thomas Merton, The Inner Voice of Love by Henri Nouwen, The Bible, and the tweets of Umair Haque.

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