I overheard a conversation the other day when I was at the gym: two young twenty-somethings, counting down the days until they’d be at the next music festival where they could take their shirts off and be huge, strut like peacocks.
It kind of made me wonder what I was doing there: I use the gym because I want the vessel that I’m in (my body) to be in the best possible state that it can be. It seemed clear to me however, that these two kids were more obsessed with the idea of how they looked and how they were perceived, rather than what they actually are.
Horrifyingly inflated by a rigid combination of performance enhancing drugs and supplements, and an undoubtedly massive diet, they simply looked like cement-filled Michelin men. – Absurd, grotesque, abnormally shaped, abnormally sized.
All the twenty-somethings at my gym look like this, it’s crazy. And despite all their conspicuously ballooning size, for the most part, they’re not even as strong as me because for them, it’s not about practicality (nothing is practical about arms so big you can’t scratch your back anyway), it’s about image .…
It seemed crazy to me that there couldn’t be anything else that motivated them, other than how they appeared, and I wondered: how did this become a priority for them? And what is it in society that caused them- and everybody – to become so self-obsessed?
Fact is, image has become everything these days. No longer are we aware of what it is that makes us happy or sad, or confident or whole, or what connects us to each other but rather, what it is that makes everyone else think that we are. In a world of ever-increasing material, it is only the ‘material’ that matters.
And all this, to the point where youths will jeopardize the health of their organs and their muscles and their bones, and spend a vast majority of their time and money, preparing their ‘image’, all for the sake of appearing to be something that they perceive as valuable in society’s eyes.
Seemingly, it doesn’t end here either: Now, they all wear the same clothes – lest they be seen as being untrendy or ‘out of fashion’; they listen to the same music – albeit without an understanding of why, with little to no connection to its content; they frequent the same nightclubs and bars – formulaic and regurgitated in style, where everyone can take the same drugs together, and drink whatever they’re currently being told to drink, pumping their fists whenever they’re told to pump them. Same jewellery, same haircuts, same clothes – the more we conform, the more we are accepted, the more we ‘fit in’.
And then we look at social media: how often do we see a friend publishing a photo of themselves, flatteringly posed, unnatural, staged to impress; Everyone writes using ‘en vogue’ language: hashtags, fml’s, yolo’s- void of any correct grammar or spelling, lost in the detritus of an age where computers are thinking for us, and complex, meaningful language and communication is becoming dissolved – no-one dares to be different.
I see middle-aged men and women doing the same thing: scrolling through their facebook newsfeed while they wait for a drink at a bar, or ride the bus home, tapping on photos and perusing albums wondering: am I better than them, are they better than me? Obsessed with something that doesn’t really exist. – Are we going insane? ..
Our inability to interact then becomes apparent and real. Even though I see the same people at my gym every week, their glances dart away when I nod a hello to them. People keep their heads down on the street. They find it strange when someone is open or tries to engage.
Everyone is obsessed with themselves, to the point where we don’t even realise other people exist. – Is this the product of some weird mantra that says: If I just make myself exactly what I’m supposed to be – a drone in a machine that is actually working against us, working against our earth and our future – I won’t have to worry about what people think. In fact, it won’t even be relevant, because there is only ‘I’…
Where did this all come from? What is it in society, in the global sphere, what is it that has made us all slaves to our egos, lost in a hazy confusion of self-centeredness, unable to think outside the box, unable to find comfort in the strange and the new and the different, unable to find anything valuable that connects us to the very beings we are, and each other? Why? Why do we only care about fitting into the mask? A mask from a limited choice we are led to believe are our only choices.
Why are we all too willing to compromise our health, our free time, our family life, our relationships, our beliefs, our freedom, our individuality, and even our earth, our only home, rather than compromising our image or our ego or our comforts and luxuries? Are we fucking crazy? Where did everybody go? What the fuck happened?
A few weekends ago, a young man was at a takeaway shop, buying everyone’s dinner for them, a kind, if somewhat perplexing act. Nevertheless, I let him buy my dinner, thanked him profusely for doing such a great thing, shook his hand, hugged him. I sat down to eat and watched him do it over and over again, as customer after customer entered the shop, ordered their meals, became confused, then shared a similar thanks to mine.
Then, I hear some lady calling back over her shoulder: Steve, can you get this guy the fuck away from me? – his kindness was so threatening. I couldn’t help but think that she assumed he was trying to get something from her – whatever it was – when all he was doing was trying to be kind, to connect, to say: we are all in this together.
Where is this going? It just all seems horribly wrong. There is no ‘us’ any more, it’s all about ‘me’.