The title of this column, “confessions of a tightrope walker,” is an homage to the attention to minutiae required of us all – not just while in school, but as an ongoing philosophy of life.
While I once may have hesitated to share my age, out of some ridiculous sense of self-criticism or shame while among such young, bright students, I have no qualms about doing so now. A sheet to the wind, I am 37 years old, have three children, and what I believe is a unique perspective on this blink-of-an-eye experience we call life.
Dissecting the silly emotional reaction to sharing my age with others, I have come to a realisation; we live in a culture over-saturated with a celebration of youth, a perspective vehemently imposed upon us by consumerist and individualist driven ideologies. While I write this, I pray that none of my fellow students take offense, as youth is definitely a time to be celebrated. However, I believe that this ‘spirit of celebration’ has reached a point of critical mass that has become an intensive and, to be frank, dangerous commodification.
By commodification I am referring to the proprietary nature of personal and shared values, which seem to be dictated, albeit subconsciously, by the ‘machine-gun-messages’ of modern multi-media. We are shown how to live, what we desire in order to live, and who, what, where, when, and why we will do what we do. And always, how. This subconscious cultural code is ever more concerned with the transient ‘how’. Perhaps this is the secret weapon.
There have been many great minds that have provided in-depth critiques of the explosion of media and information technology, providing scholarly insight and social buffering, but there really is no denying that mankind has reached an age of globalization. In this era, we must remain diligent as the power elite aim to shape our attitudes, world-view, self-image, and interpersonal dynamic in congruence with their hierarchy. We must remain diligent as not to allow our every-day interactions to be reduced to signified results with little to no significance.
I implore you instead to consider your roles as signifiers, catalysts and sources of questions. I am not attempting to provoke a revolution, but perhaps a reform of thought congruent with the fluid, postmodern climate of our country. Allow your conscience to be collective, to be a vessel for a communal sense of pride embracing people of all types. Question authority, question the rules, question the messages and even the medium through which you receive them. Question your professors, question the material, question technology and the need for it. Keep asking. You are unique, particularly in your capacity for critical thought and analytical process.
As westernized styles of living are funneled through the pipeline, don’t just be a hungry mouth on the other end. Plug the hole, look up the pipe, and take a good look at the other end. If you can’t see the whites of their eyes, can’t determine the human qualities that motivate the delivery of the fodder to which we are exposed, perhaps it is time to begin shortening the pipe. Or reversing it.