Thursday, November 22, 2007

So Many Questions

I watched a video the other morning. I had been sent a link to it, and I didn't spend a lot of time figuring out what I was going to be looking at beforehand. It was disgusting and disturbing and the thought of it has lingered with me since.

It wasn't even the content of the video that bothered me. It was my reaction to it. Specifically, it was my lack of reaction. I watched it and thought "That's gross. Oh, now that's disgusting. And that,...well - that's horrifying." My brain actually thought those words, but I didn't really feel any of it.

I didn't feel disgust or horror. I didn't even feel particularly grossed out, and I know I should have. What I did feel was disappointment. I felt disappointed that two humans would perform such feats of such depravity, and I wondered what their motivation was. Money? Drugs? Kicks? The link has been passed around the whole world, I'm sure, and now there are many videos posted capturing people's reactions when they watch the video. You can watch recordings of strangers across the globe being horrified and disgusted. And we're all in the club now. We've all had those images uploaded into our brains where they'll be stored in whatever file folder manages crap that doesn't make us better as human beings. Let's high five one another and commiserate, "Man, how fucked up what that?!" I'm disappointed in the length that we have to go now to be shocked.

If I had a camera perched atop my monitor and it had recorded my reaction, it would make for a very boring video. My facial expression wouldn't have varied from what it's doing now. My face is at rest. It's my normal walking around face. It's a passive face. It's a disappointing face.

How in the world did I get to be so jaded? How is it that I'm not particularly shocked when I see images that are meant to shake me up? Why is it that seeing things like this, or reading stories of brutality and torture in the newspaper don't shock me? They don't surprise me. Strange enough, it's the tales of goodness and kindness that I come across that surprise me these days. What the hell is wrong with me?

There was a time, quite a number of years ago, where I was involved in a movement that I felt passionate about. I worked in AIDS education and it felt imperative for me to share my experiences with people. I felt inspired to do something. I got involved and I got vocal. I remember writing an article once that was about a page longer than it should have been, and how I fought and refused to have it edited down because I meant every word of it with such conviction. I had a fire inside me.

But somehow it started to rain in me. A slow drizzle that's taken years to dull the fire, and I guess maybe that flame was extinguished some time ago. Now the rains starting to rot my faith and optimism as well. Some days I wonder what it is I believe in, and I really struggle to come up with an answer.

I guess it was about a couple of years ago I happened upon a video of someone being beheaded. They cut the man's head off from behind and it only took a few seconds. The body fell to one side, and the head was tossed onto the ground where it landed upright just a couple feet away from the neck it had just been resting upon. The man's face looked pretty much as terrified as it had when it was still attached. As I recall, in my apartment in front of the screen I had my passive face on. I watched that video and didn't turn away and I don't think I reacted at all on the outside. Inside, though, I felt a hitch in my chest. It was, I think, the feeling of my heart breaking a little more.

Fast forward to a couple days ago when I watched the screen and felt nothing. I might be a zombie now. I might require some guys with paddles to come and zap some life into my heart.

Is it because I'm watching thing on a screen instead of witnessing them first hand that I'm emotionally flat lining? I hesitate to even ponder the question, lest the universe throw me into a situation where I'm provided an answer. "You wonder if trauma is more traumatic in real life? Here, Jelly - check THIS out!" In general, though, what good are all the images and sensory abundances our brave new world provides doing for us? Is the shrinking of our world, as knowledge becomes so ├╝ber accessible, benefiting us humans? I've got to find a way back to caring.

Or, now that my heart's dead, is my brain the next to implode?

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