Every time I see the videos that people make of themselves doing things, I get sad. The latest one I saw was a compilation of a bunch of people who'd filmed themselves taking cold plunges. I have a cold plunge. My wife has even taken photos and videos of me sitting in it. But it never occurred to me to set up a camera just so, or hold my phone and look into it, narrating my experience to others. Just the thought makes me a little sick. At the same time, here I am writing this to you.
Some people have built businesses making videos of their lives. I respect them for that. Every idea I've had about having my own business, earning a living doing things I enjoy, not compromising for anyone, has basically been DOA. I've had some good jobs. But they all represent different times I've settled and suffered as a result. I went on doing the work because I had to, not because I wanted to or found it somehow rewarding. That's how it goes for most people, I know. But I think some people are more accepting of that than others. And maybe that's my problem. Maybe I should simply be more accepting, stop striving and settle into a life of stable drudgery. Add this to the list of things I can't figure out how to do, I guess.
There's a yoga channel I follow. It's led by a husband and wife team. When they're teaching yoga, I think nothing of their videos. But occasionally they post vlogs, sharing their travels, their pregnancy, their baby's birth, family gatherings, meals eaten, coffee consumed, et cetera. I watch these videos sometimes after doing yoga and while doing breathing exercises. Not always. Just when I prefer their pleasant presence to my own self-talk, i.e., when my self-talk is at its most punishing. Even so, these are among the larger body of videos that make me sad. It's a vague sadness, one that's not limited to myself but that stems from a more general sense I have about people and our need for others to acknowledge us (or, if you must, our need "to be seen").
I wonder how many of this couple's actions are now dictated by the need to keep churning out experience-based content. I wonder how much things like lighting and scenery and whatnot factor into their decisions to go places and do things. I wonder if they ever enter times of darkness and feel a sense of dread when lifting the camera and pressing record. Do they smile and fake their way through? Does it leave them feeling worse, emptier, and demoted to a deeper kind of darkness afterwards?
I doubt that they actually feel any of this. I think they knew what they wanted, figured out how to get it, got it, and are now genuinely happy about it. So what I really find myself wondering, I think, goes more like this: If that were me, would I find a way to ruin it from the inside out? Would I get what I want, then find the worst in it, and then reject it and start to fantasize about running from it? And yes. My experience tells me yes. And I guess this is where my more personal sadness comes in. Because in more ways than one, I've already run about as far as I can from everything. And the same experience keeps repeating. Because its cause is something in me, and such things can't be outrun.
The yoga couple aside, the world's full of people making content out of their lives. But which one are they really doing? Making content out of their lives, or making their lives out of content? Same goes for me. Which one am I doing now? Is there a difference anymore? Was there ever? Before devices, were experiences just personal content accumulated and revisited in the mind? And is it the same thing now, plus devices and the endless onslaught of immediate sharing? I think I basically understand the idea that there is no self, only the stories and characters that we habitually create. But that also seems like the appeal of both making content out of lives and making lives out of content. By default, we're nothing and no one. But by making lives and content we become something and someone. And if we feel a pull to become that in the eyes of others, is it really any worse than aiming to become it only in our minds, beyond the gazes of others? Why does the former strike me as sad and shameful while the latter seems strong and dignified?
Does our existence require the witness of others? Do we need to see ourselves in their eyes?
Whatever we need, when I look into the eyes of the people making videos of themselves doing things instead of just doing those things, I can't help but see desperation. I know I'm projecting, but I still see it, and seeing it fills me with something dark and sick and empty. And I don't want that in me. I have it in me anyway. But I don't want more of it. I don't want to feed it. I want to starve it. Which I guess is what makes striving for a life of nonexistence in the eyes of others seem okay to me. I've been thinking about this a lot lately. It's why I haven't written in some days (among other reasons, including Lampang’s hazardous air, which effectively feels like an alien life form that has seized control of my mind and body). I've been wondering what life would be like without writing. Or rather, what it would be like if I kept my writing private. Would that be so bad? I don't think it would. In fact, I wouldn't mind just being alone with books and notebooks for the rest of my life. If I could figure out how to do that, which I suppose just means how to finance that, I would not hesitate.
Again though, here I still am, still writing this to you.
The other day I googled "how to drop out of society" and found an extensive wikiHow article on the topic. The page's existence seemed absurd to me. But it also made perfect sense. I'm far from the first person who's had enough of society, and the ease of locating such an article only confirms that. Once I got there, I felt like a fool and didn't even bother to read the piece in full. I just skimmed it. The work it would take to bail and be self-sufficient would require more brains and energy than I have. Also, as I touched on earlier, my experience of running is that it leads only to more running. So for now, I guess I'll just keep doing this. Putting my thoughts into black words in white boxes. Maybe sharing them here, and maybe not. I'd like to see the stats for that wikiHow page, though. How many millions have been there? How many have felt too exhausted and broken to acquire the skills necessary to break away? How many have given up on giving up because doing so would take too much? How many aching legs are there in the world? How many marathon minds with nothing to show for it?
The darker my thoughts get, the purer and truer they seem. I don't know if that's really how it is or if it's just an excuse to keep feeling this way (which is so much easier than not feeling this way, which I can’t, at the moment, remember how to do). I think both things might be true. But I'm not sure what to do with that. Does it do anyone any good to put thoughts like these into the world? Or is it just like walking into someone’s living room and taking a dump on the carpet, giving a smile and nod of appreciation on the way out? Or vomiting on video, then turning to the camera and saying, “I feel better now. Thanks for watching. Share your thoughts in the comments below. Don't forget to click like and subscribe.”
You'll have to make that call on your own. But for whatever it's worth, I tried not to share these thoughts with you. I tried to write this just for myself. But it felt incomplete. It needed your eyes. I needed them. Which I guess says a lot about me, probably much more than I'm able to say about myself, which only makes me want to share it more. You are basically reading my notebook. Thanks for reading my notebook. I hope it doesn’t leave a stain.
GoALL in Forit
Brian I wish for you to find what it is you need.
Your hand ICON suggests a want of your Origins, When our Hominin ancestors' artistically began painting the walls of caves
I envision your hand against a cave wall with red ochre spat upon it, creating your imprint in time.
Hear the creative ramblings of
our ancestors' beat on a hollow log, the musical tones of their bow strings and their own guttural cries and moans.
Let your inner artistic being go back, back 20yrs to ghu, back 64,000 years when you put your hand on that cave wall.
Revisit the music & words of your 20 something mind. You could find inspiration there.
Sorry I haven't commented in a while.. been sick and even tho our air quality is excellent i have COPD and sometimes find just even walking difficult...Would love to finish reading this when I feel better, Brian. Love to you on this Valentines day.