Ever since I was a child, I have dwelt more in the world of fiction than in the one before me. During the times that I do emerge, I feel restless. It is as though the definitions of real-life confuse me. As a reader, I am supposed to have read certain types of books, acquired and retained knowledge that I may have actually forgotten. I am either supposed to have a rebellious edge or compliant contentment. My opinions have to be strong and stubborn or they are deemed complacent or lacking.
Where is the room to be human? For confusion or not knowing?
“So you have read all the Potter books, did you like them? Oh, a fan then! So you must remember every dialogue and plot twist that took place in that world? Oh…so you didn’t like it then…”
“Do you like rock music?” “Huh! Just the one song? That doesn’t count then, really.”
“What about politics then? Surely, you aren’t truly literate if you don’t understand, or at the very least, offer your fierce opinions on the matter! Of course, joining protests give you additional gold stars, especially when it helps cancel out that thickly buttered privilege of yours.”
It is this need for definitive characters, to convert our self-image into a brand that both inspires and defines success with aesthetic ease, that fuel today’s social media, and blurs into our everyday lives. This practice of ‘brand aesthetics’ is what nurtures our innate guilt for being alive. For we all have a store of ‘original guilt’ within us, stemming from our knowledge of the damage caused by our mere existence. More and more has this feeling become a collective thought, leading to a collective restlessness (In 2018, U.K launched more vegan products than any nation). We try to alleviate this by doing conscious good, trying not to do harm, or merely by shrouding ourselves in denial. Since none of that works, we then turn to channel this guilt into other rivers of thought. Thus spring the thoughts of productivity, accomplishments, success, and of building a brand aesthetic that fits within the image of a two-dimension character.
The more we compress, the more we spill. The idea of finding oneself, or detangling ourselves from our social media account is then our attempt to detach from that brand aesthetic and revisit the artist that created it in the first place. Understand the guilt and know of its truth and origin. Equal and opposite reactions are law, and with guilt, the law dictates hope.
As of this evening, I am both confused and in the unknown. The world around me mimics the novels I read, the dystopia feeling all too real. Thus stripped off our normalcy, the feeling of guilt is bare of its various diversions. Guilt is no longer focusing on my body fat, work ethics, lifestyle choices, relationship worries, or unacceptable personality traits.
Having always mourned the loss of our universe at our hands, we are now grieving our personal loss while our planet heals. Even as we grieve, we find the beauty in the little things, in the experience that is life. Because for once, we are not the ones doing the damage.
It is at this paradox that our guilt inverts to meet hope.
And despite the oddity, this makes sense to me.