Monday, December 26, 2011

The Unforgiving Minute

Recently, in one of my lazy days roaming the net, I came upon this question: Why are adults so lonely when they're so social as kids? This became far pertinent given that all the new tech meant to help us keep in touch isn't doing much to help the cause, even as it becomes more integrated into our daily life.

This isn't to say it's a whole new problem each of us struggle to grasp; I mean I was an awkward loner way before my first time on the net, and the only thing it did was connect me to other awkward loners. It certainly has done much to change the way people define a friend, a lover and a relationship, but really, the thing it made easier for people to do was the same thing they did when they grew up and got into their established 9 to 5's: keep perceived threats from laying a finger on the us that lies behind the mask made of carefully construed words, stories and grooming.

Even before color and sound, people knew the power of lighting, make up and training to transform a plain Jane into the next big image for people to adore, revere and throw their money at, like a Jane Fonda, Clark Gable or Beyonce. With the phone, folks had to work hard, if they wanted to keep the content of their words and the tone of their voice from revealing the hidden truth, the computer making that process even easier, since it's a lot tougher to read too deep into words on a screen without your mind leading you down twisty roads and dead ends. Naturally, this breeds questions like 'Why would people want to hide who they really are?' in the back of the mind, those thoughts growing stronger when a deception is uncovered and the desire to avoid the hurt increases.

Before, people simply learned to suck it up and hide their intent behind small, vaguely worded statements-or what my Damage Estimation teacher calls 'weasel words'; nowadays, the relative space and anonymity the net allows leads people to unleash how they feel in the heat of the moment without fear of repercussions, since few are knowledgeable enough to trace the origin of someone's statement (which is very possible, as is them using that info to impersonate you and get stuff from the people you've worked with). That, paired with cultural considerations reinforcing the behavior-like the lone maverick mindset valued in the States and the distaste for flow disruption linked to Japan-make it highly desirable to tune out the outside world and condense the nonsense. This keeps folks from getting too close and having a clean look at the real us, whether they want to help or hurt it.

To ensure people never have the time to get close, we do different things to look busy and show them we can't engage them in a meaningful way (See the guy who answers a call when someone says “Hi, how are you doing?' to them). All the while this creates the 'I don't wanna be alone, but I don't wanna risk being hurt again' cycle within us, which takes us on a long, winding road to the same spot we were at when we took our first step. Ultimately, we need to be a friend in order to find any, and that means opening ourselves to the chance of getting hurt and taking on what I call the unforgiving minute-or however long the moment of action lasts. For those who've dipped into the poet's realm, they'll know the phrase from Rudyard Kipling's If, and for me, the line that comes from is best viewed like so.

“If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds of speaking without pretense,
Yours is the Earth and all that's in it”

In this case, the unforgiving minute is when we get to know someone in order to better understand them, a moment which easily veers towards false personae being brought out to leave a positive impression and maintain it, should we ever meet them again. It is a scary thing to chance that kind of hurt with anyone, but is the alternative of never connecting to those we speak with worth avoiding all the potential hurt? For those who bear deep emotional scars, the answer is often an emphatic yes, but having walked that path for many years-on top of feeling its ups and downs-I'd like to pose this question: is avoiding the unforgiving minute worth abandoning the chance to know life's riches? For me, the answer has been and is sure to stay: What're you, nuts? No! Life's too short for that crap

My question to you: how would you fill The Unforgiving Minute?

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