One of the questions that always bugs the modern is, “when did we stop dressing properly?” My dad had the answer for this one, he said it started when TV came along. At that point, our fellow humans were no longer our entertainment source, the box in our living room was. He says he can remember the change, and how quickly it began.
I’m not on a rant about entertainment and socialization, because I use my glowing boxes as much as the next person. But it’s interesting…. and what interests me is the division in our society between the Viewer and the Viewed, and how it’s crept into so many parts of our lives.
One of the things that I get when I go out in a long, full skirt is someone coming up to my shyly to compliment me on my “dress”. That’s nice, of course… but when I say, as I do, that the skirt is very simple to make and she could have one, I get a demurral – as if the woman couldn’t possibly have permission to wander around in a pretty skirt of her own. That bothers me. You want this, you find this beautiful, there’s nothing outside your head stopping you from having it… and you won’t reach out. Why?
We’ve made ourselves smaller.
There was a book I read once, a sci-fi comedy, and much of it was set in a world where there were athletes and fans, and the two groups had divided so long ago that they’d genetically drifted. The fans were either bone thin or obese, and the athletes were solid muscle, built like trucks*. One, of course, cannot possibly see that if one looks around today… -cough-
The Beautiful People *are* pretty – and we photoshop them to become even more so. But what about the “normal” person next to us? Have you ever looked around? There are plenty of normies who are very attractive, and could be part of the Beautiful Crew if only they had the right support staff. (Hair, makeup, coach, dietician, tailor, etc). We all know that the Beautiful People have this set of tools… but we don’t internalize that.
Because they are to be seen, and we are not.
Every part of their lives is up for scrutiny. They ‘belong’ to all of us, in a weird way. Their lives form the community in our heads that we lost when we came inside to circle around the glowing boxes.
Community is formed by what you circle up around. It is shaped by the seeing and being seen. Small towns had parades and church picnics and fourth of July parties … and they were small enough you were actually viewable, not just viewed.
Being crammed into huge cities reduces community, as it increases anonymity. Yes, the old cities, that weren’t driveable, they had community, but it was community in neighborhoods, which functioned like a small town. Probably even more community, as a neighborhood in which you must walk everywhere forces you to participate in the daily parade.
We are invisible. We walk from our houses to our cars, and sit in those steel boxes until we get to our jobs. We work – and work is where we’re “real people”, no wonder everyone defines you by what you do – and then we get back in the steel boxes and come home. Other than running errands, and participating in entertainment, we stay in our concrete boxes. Sometimes we go to other concrete boxes to perform functions like exercise or worship. And in those concrete boxes, we exist. But we aren’t real, outside in the world. We don’t have a constant identity that travels with us from box to box, because we are performing such different functions in each box. And the visible enclosure encourages mental enclosure. The boxes are disposable, by the way – we can always find new boxes to enter, and we can leave behind the last like a fallen chrysalis. Anonymity is ours, forever for the taking.
And yet we are desperate to be known… and not. So, we take instagram photos and show off the best parts of our lives, inviting folks to look at one tiny piece of us but not know us. I want you to know me! But I don’t want you to judge me. So, see this little bit, and “like” it, and go on. Allow me to feel real, and let me go back to sitting on my couch in my bathrobe. My ratty bathrobe, because no one will ever see me… and I don’t care about seeing myself, because I’m not really real without someone to see.
We’ve lost the stimulation of conversation, of belonging to a group, of daily intercourse with others. We’ve lost the pleasure in the parade, and being part of a whole. We replace that with fandoms, food, and pile entertainment upon entertainment in the vain hopes of no longer being bored.
Because we’re bored and tired and blah.
We don’t create, because again – creation is for those who have mastered it, not for those who are coming up. (And so few of us will come up the right way, working through all the not-showy tasks in order to learn the skills for showy ones. Let’s not even get into the time, money, and effort required to become skilled. Yes, craftsmanship is for nearly everyone – but not everyone understands that “instant” isn’t part of the equation).
I’m starting to think that life lived inside a concrete box isn’t really life at all…
More later, still chewing.
*Myth Directions, by Robert Asprin