I want to change your life. Is it okay if I occasionally pull your phone out of your hands or flatten your laptop– ask you to stand up (or sit down) – take your shoulder – shake you and yell the words, “what is wrong with the world?”
I have a routine where I become very angry about whatever some people are doing that has absolutely no effect on my life. That’s when I want to shake them up and yell the aforementioned words into their face. But since I am small and also don’t run very fast, I choose to shake my head and draw vague and depressing conclusions about the human race instead.
I see a guy staring at his laptop as his kid is tugging at him repeatedly; he doesn’t look at the kid once. I think about how insensitive and addicted we have become – and how I will never be like that. I want to go shake him up. I see a girl talk to her friends as she’s typing into her phone and wonder how people have no etiquette and how other people don’t seem to care because they are all typing into their phones too. We have no time for real relationships. I want to shake them all up. And finally: the icons – the paragons of human potential and accomplishment: the guys using their phones at the urinal. It’s what pisses me off the most. Pun, logistical implications, and the overall hygiene standards aside, I hope there’s an invisible force in every urinal to shake them up while they are, you know, at it.
Now, since I can see all this and draw stunning conclusions, I must be special. I must be really aware.
Awareness is a beautiful thing. Unevenly distributed, gestalt, infinite, indiscernible, intangible, yet beautiful. But, another beautiful thing showed up: Technology. This humongous force of human potential that is offering us a sextillion (I just wanted to use that word) ways to know and become aware while at the same time making us more and more oblivious to our own unawareness. Some of us developed an awareness of this blinding oblivion and saw tech’s potential downsides. We sat up straight. We loved, conditionally. We became aware.
The more wary and knowledgeable this awareness made us, it also injected a holier-than-thou urge in many of us. This urge includes but is not limited to snickering at people who are still unaware; talking about what a giant unaware loser they are for 45 mins because someone shared a screenshot of their social media feed; writing about them because you ran out of things to write about; and the all-important urge to shake them and yell awareness into their faces because what an honor it would be, for them.
The awareness that makes us feel we are special has also made us both complacent and conceited.
As much as I pontificate on my need to shake other people into awareness, I receive a jolt a lot of times myself. And when this happens I dismiss it as a one-off thing. However, these one-off things happen almost every day. I am busy stuffing popcorn in my mouth while typing on my laptop while talking to someone on the phone to notice. If someone pointed out what a slave to technology (and popcorn) I am, I will refuse to believe it. Because that’s what the urge to shake people up does to us: it makes us disbelieving and defensive.
That’s just the twisted paradox of awareness: to become aware, you need to first become aware of your own infinite unawareness.
This awareness won’t come through by trying to shake people up and yelling awareness into their face. It can only happen through a slow painful slug of embarrassment, failure, dropping your phone in the urinal and watching your popcorn stuffed face in the mirror. If you are lucky, it may happen through a book that you happen to read at the right time and place of your life.
This urge to change and reform people who are not as aware as we are is dipping our ego in a bowl of self-righteous fast food. What it’s doing is making us increasingly unacceptable of the light coming out of the brokenness. We want to see people in their shining wholeness, every moment. But, in an attempt to put them together, we are only breaking one another.
I can’t change your life. The one thing that can is life itself. So, I think I am going to take it easy and eat some popcorn.