Last night, I was enjoying my first issue of a new magazine subscription I just received, Shambhala Sun, and in it, there was a piece that struck me titled, "Just Leap!" written by Sakyong Mipham. The first sentences read:
"This current Dark Age, to put it very simply, has come about by people not properly being on the spot. We have ended up in a distracted, mindless state . . . "
Something about those first four words really resonated with me - "this current Dark Age." To be honest, it was somewhat of an "Ah ha!" moment for me. Yes! We are in a Dark Age. Finally, that's it! That's the perfect phrase to describe exactly what I've been personally observing of mankind.
We are in a Dark Age, folks.
And by that, I mean this - as a race, Sakyong is correct, we've lost our focus. What gives us the greatest pleasure in life is to love, accept and assist your fellow man. I mean let's face it, we are a social species. We need acceptance, we need to love, we need to be loved, and we need to assist and be assisted by others. Yet those necessities seem somewhat further out of reach than they ever have before. We have a lot of technology that keeps us "social" and connects us with others. But is that really the type of connection that feeds our souls? Do you feel all warm and fuzzy when connecting with an avatar in a social forum? I'd say, no. It's an impersonal connection at best and a virtually anonymous connection at its worst. It's what I term a "superficial social."
And when it comes to support, love, assistance and acceptance – I wonder, is that really even possible these days? That's a tricky one because some would say that they do find those necessities in the real world and the virtual one. But how can someone really support, love and assist you via your laptop or mobile device? Isn't a face-to-face connection really required to “feel” for someone in a genuine manner?
In the real world, frankly, it just seems that such matters are relatively unimportant to most people these days. Everyone’s more worried about getting the next best gadget or updating their Facebook page than they are about how people perceive them, or how they can help, support and assist others, or things such as integrity, reputation, compassion, kindness - those somewhat esoteric concepts that they cannot grasp or feel in their hands. Those are the concerns of days gone by. Matters that held much more importance with previous generations, but not much weight with today’s society.
Remember the days when someone’s word was everything? It wasn't that long ago.
These days, people are busy, they're in a hurry, and they're generally focused on "self" instead of "others." Add to that a need for instant gratification, which makes everyone a tad more selfish, abrupt, arrogantly expectant and thus, ugly and somewhat cross in nature.
In the real world, this all creates a mentality that's somewhat of a, "Hurry up, tell me what you can do for me. . . I don't have much time." An abrupt and somewhat cross type of attitude. Many people sense this type of overall “disgust” mentality so they withdraw from it and plug into their electronics and settle for "superficial social" bonds instead. There they can find an instant superficial connection that they really don't have to invest much of themselves into.
Let’s face it, making bonds and forming satisfactory relationships in the real world is much more difficult when compared to the virtual world because you have to actually make investments into those relationships. You have to be present, you have to be available, you have to be understanding, you have to be supportive and you may, at times, even have to do things that you otherwise would not choose to be doing simply to make the other person happy and balance the bond.
Give and take is required. People love to take but giving proves a bit more difficult these days. None of that is required in the virtual world. There, you make an instant connection, you are instantly accepted, you receive instant support in the form of texts, tweets or emails, and you're not required to be physically present. It's a lot less work. It's the easy way out. Besides, when you've used up that connection or you just don't want it anymore - it's much easier to get rid of someone in the virtual world than it is to stand in front of their face and reject them or push them away.
I’m a child of the 70’s and my teenage years were spent enjoying the headbanging days of the 80’s. We didn't end friendships or break off relationships via text or email or by changing our Facebook status from “In a Relationship” to “Single” or by “unfriending” someone. Me and my peeps spent just about every single day together, hanging out, conversing, enjoying life and each others company. Because of that, many of my friendships extend back some 35 years - to my first day of kindergarten. The bonds are so strong that to this day, many of us are in touch regularly, still get together and the children of my peeps are now forming those types of relationships with one another. What you could call a “second generation” bond has resulted from those earlier bonds created.
I wonder, will today’s youth be able to experience those same types of strongly bonded, long lasting relationships and friendships? The kind that possibly even get passed onto the next generation? Hmm . . .
Real relationships require real work. Whether it's a friendship, a romantic connection, a neighborly connection, a working relationship - it doesn't matter, real world relationships take real work. And in the end, they are the much more satisfying type of "social" that we seek. So why are so many people investing in "superficial social" relationships rather than doing the work required to maintain a real world relationship?
Why are so many people living in the dark?
Let's be honest with ourselves, this really isn't our finest hour:
• We're polluting our planet at a previously unseen rate of destruction;
• we're placing the important people in our life on the back burner because there's always something more pressing;
• we're not spending quality time with our children because we're too busy, (that's what daycares and grandmothers are for);
• we're quickly judging people at a superficial face value rather than investing the time to get to know them on an inner level;
• we're moving through life at the speed of sound and making quick, erroneous assumptions all over the place;
• we're not volunteering our time to those in need;
• we don’t give things such as compassion, integrity, reputation and character much value;
• we prefer superficial, unsatisfying social relationships because real world relationships require too much time, effort and understanding – too much work;
• we're generally ignorant to one another, even though we don't realize this and it's not our intention;
• if we do a favor for someone, it’s a big damn deal that’s really put us out, it’s not the kind courtesy of assistance anymore;
• we're behaving as cowards who cannot seem to face one another directly;
• we have very little compassion or patience for one another;
• and the only connections we're investing in are those that can benefit us somehow.
Indeed, it is a dark age for mankind.
Many of you may disagree with my observations above and you're certainly entitled to do so. If you're finding that being "superficially social" is working for you . . . well then it works for you. But in that case, I'd have to ask that you read through the above bulleted points and ask yourself, "Can I identify with any of these?" I bet you find that the answer to that question is, "Yes."
Turn on the light and pull yourself out of the dark.
None of this makes us bad people perse'. . . it just seems that we've lost our focus and we've forgotten what this life is for – for living, interacting, loving and experiencing – both the good and the bad. Instead of "we" many are coming at life from a perspective of "me." That thinking needs to be reversed if our species is to survive and evolve further. That arrogant mentality is the type of mentality that exists right before a great fall – just ask the Romans if you don’t believe me. Abundance, luxury, self-importance, lack of compassion, and a false sense of security.
When you focus too much on yourself and your superiority, your narrow lens doesn't allow you to see your downfall rushing towards you.