Live Beyond Your Memes by Polly McGee
Back somewhere in the 80’s electronica performance world of the US, Laurie Anderson released the song/spoken word ‘Language is a Virus.’ Like all her work, it was way before its time and speaks to a condition of self-cherishing that is only amplified by our ever navel-gazing social vortex. As it was then, so it is now, and will be forever potentially, as the samsara of our own humanity is where all suffering comes from.
Is exactly like
Where you are right now
Only much much better.”
Which is kinda Facebook and Instagram all over right? The subtle anxiety about how everyone else is having a waaaaaaay better time than us in their amazing lives rubs us from a blister into a gaping wound. All the while in the paradise of now that is overlooked, we are drowning in the sea of 'better soon when I have' [insert thing/person/place/job].
Of course that’s where I was at for so long. If only I knew my PURPOSE, I’d be super super happy, and let me tell you, that happiness was never where I was, it was always over the horizon in a new state, or a new company, or with more qualifications. Never right now. I was that shipwreck, floating towards salvation, sails torn and my generator on fire. I never stopped to actually look at what paradise actually was, or more importantly where it was. Which was of course right here.
“Well I dreamed there was an island
That rose up from the sea.
And everybody on the island
Was somebody from TV.
And there was a beautiful view
But nobody could see.
Cause everybody on the island
Was saying: Look at me! Look at me! Look at me! Look at me!”
I love these lyrics. Television was just beginning to really tap into the cult of reality and celebrity. Substitute TV for social media and it’s the same story. Sometimes when I look at Instagram and Facebook this quote exactly speaks to how I feel. We’re all in there fighting it out for our small square of attention and existence. As someone said to me recently – who am I if I don’t have this?
We are all the islands, isolated and alone, connected by a tenuous non real-time link of our likers and followers in a surface view of our island homes, with no glimpse as to what lies beneath the water, out of sight. The non real-time is important, as what we see in those posed and filtered photos is a fixed moment in time, its curated and staged then captioned, and can only every represent a loose account of what is really going on.
When we are saying Look at me! I don’t mean we are asking for attention. We are asking to be seen, to be heard, to be loved, to be acknowledged. We think that is an outside job, that as we amass people who want to view us through their small, limited screens, the pain of invisibility, the sadness of being alone, the anxiety of not being enough will disappear in the roar of the crowd.
What we should be saying is “Look in me, look in me, look in me.” Only we can be us. Everything is much much better when we move through the instantaneous desire to have things fixed by others, and take on the long, slow lifetime commitment of making change. But that sounds and is super hard right? Right. It sure is. But is hard the right word? Easy isn’t making you happy right now, and easy is the reason that we keep reaching for the bottle of secret sauce off the shelf, rather than carefully brewing our own master stock, letting it age and ferment perfectly, knowing that our divine reservoir is always available and gets better and better with age. I feel like we forget we can get back to our own basics, but to keep that metaphor of food production going, we have to plant a seed, and then take it all the way through to harvest before we can savor the efforts.
Who does that now? We just grab something out of season from cold store and wonder why it is so tasteless.
Back to Laurie Anderson, language, and the genesis of this post, born from a growing dis-ease with the juxtaposition I see with the people in pain all around me, and the candied memes they are gorging on to feel better. Words have power. Real power, overt power and subtle power. As ideas and phrases whiz by us on our various superhighways, it shocks me sometimes what we accept passively as wisdom, like and share, and don’t really consider more deeply. The language of positivity and self-help is an industry. An industry also full of people who are just like us - suffering. But content is king and we all (myself included) churn it out to keep on the top of our feeds and keep people addicted to the promise of taking the pain away. through our magical products and services.
Let’s look at my favourite example of this in action. It's a meme I see pop up in all kind of feeds in slightly different disguised, that entreats you to 'become the best version of you'. WHAT. THE. FUCK. There IS no best version of you. Period. There is only you, right now, in this moment. It's companion meme is the one that wants you to 'Live Your Best Life' - clearly not the fucked up steaming pile of oh no that it is right now. No way. Your best life is on that shelf just out of reach, next to all the people on Facebook who are doing just that.
Welcome to illusion. To your life as a work of fiction, a future creation that doesn’t exist. So in liking that meme or sharing it without really engaging with its meaning, you are yearning for something that isn’t real, an illusion, and ignoring the real you, right here. The focus shift is to where you are right now, how you are feeling, perceiving, what you are doing, and interrogating how that is for you and what sits under these beliefs, then fixing that stuff up.
How does that happen? Self-challenging where you are attaching feelings of whether situations negative or positive, and why. Lots of meditation to clear the dust of the mirror of your true nature of self. Being and acceptance with what is. No wonder people are unhappy if the best version of them is off in the distance with their best lives and they are stuck with the shitty loser of the present. Do you get what I’m saying? By looking to be abundant, healthy, happy, in love, successful future you of the meme, you are simultaneously crushing current you, the very you who is charged with doing the work to get to future you. How can s/he pick up tools and kick it if you are already not good enough.
The mind is complex, the self is complex, we are complex, and we have to challenge a lot of what we have learned and accepted. We need to become a paradox rather than a linear progression, but we need to start with completely accepting what IS, not what was or might be.
Is [exactly like]
Where you are right now.