Vine videos can cause existential despair and self-improvement is masturbation.
There might be something noble, in a sadly myopic sense, in the second statement. The pop culture masses will recognise it as a scathing insight from Tyler Durden in Fight Club. You remember the scene. They’re on a bus looking at an advert of a male underwear model. Ripped and packaged in muscles and a hundred percent cotton.
Edward Norton’s character is lamenting the gym mentality of being crammed under fluorescent lights on sweaty equipment just to look good in your undies. Within this paradigm self-improvement does seem a bit narcissistic and defeating. The irony is that Tyler Durden was more cut than any model you can recall, but let’s blame the director rather than Chuck for this intended oversight.
But increasingly it seems that any notion of improvement, a deep profound improvement of who we are as people, is marred from the start. We live in a world where rather than try to become better at things, we create situations and fixes that make our mediocrity and shortcomings easier to deal with. We talk about being better. But this just means we move faster towards temporary satiation at a cheaper rate.
This melancholic realisation today, my cadres of the forlorn, comes from Vine videos.
Twitter’s six second video service, far from being a tool we should all clutch at for commercial gain as we have been told we should do by those in the know, is indicative of a much greater crutch in our lives.
Six seconds of video. Admittedly some of these clips are funny. It forces the maker to tell a story in a tenth of a minute, which is not easy. Well not if you want it done well at least.
The point is not the maker, but the watcher. The consumption of six seconds of video is considered ideal, because no one has the attention span to deal with anything longer – seven seconds and more.
We must change the technology, the delivery, the style because people can’t focus on anything anymore.
Doesn’t that seem like a bad solution? It’s the wrong way around.
It’s like dealing with people’s increasing levels of unfitness by placing a human conveyor belt between your lounge, kitchen and toilet.
It’s like increasing the production of diabetes medication rather than avoiding that bag of fizzers and mini chocolate bars.
It seems, and one feels that there should be a “hell yeah” in this crescendo, that rather than continue to placate the paucity in attention, we should reject it. Burn the crutch. Fight the good, long fight.
We should read a book that we struggle to understand. That we cannot read at 11pm lying in bed, but instead need the fresh mind of the morning to grapple with it. We should watch a documentary that ends with us in tears of profundity, but only if we could last the 60 minutes to that beautiful moment before the closing credits. We should listen to an album from the first track to the last and marvel in its composition and order in which it was intended to be experienced. We should try writing a poem for someone we love and spend enough time on it to realise the power of our thoughts as well as our emotions.
We need to train ourselves to be better. To focus longer. To challenge our feelings and opinions over a longer period. We need to avoid saying well that’s the way it is, so just deal with it.
Self- improvement is masturbation. But maybe that’s true only if you have a puritanical interpretation of masturbation. Maybe with a little love and attention with a desire to increase your longevity, far from being a bad thing, your wanking might take you all the way to an intellectual awakening.
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