Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Perfectly Bearable Anonymity of Being

"When a society is rich, its people don't need to work with their hands; they can devote themselves to activities of the spirit. We have more and more universities and more and more students. If students are going to earn degrees, they've got to come up with dissertation topics. And since dissertations can be written about everything under the sun, the number of topics is infinite. Sheets of paper covered with words pile up in archives sadder than cemeteries, because no one ever visits them, not even on All Souls' Day. Culture is perishing in overproduction, in an avalanche of words, in the madness of quantity."

The Unbearable Lightness of Being, p. 103
By Milan Kundera
Published 1984

I haven't read this book, but it's high on the list of the many I want to. Regarding the book as a whole, I have nothing to base my opinions on besides this quotation, which will leave me either misinterpreting or simply reinventing his thoughts in my own way. 

Freedom or paralysis is inevitable when realizing the daunting "madness of quantity" in this world. For me, paralysis came first. I've been really hung up on this recently. I believe we underestimate the sheer quantity of everything out there; we know, but we don't truly believe. 

The madness of quantity keeps going on and on infinitely in all areas of life. No matter how diligently I aspire toward any specific goal, I will always be met with competition. I will always find someone farther ahead who knows more and can do better.  

Freedom, in its brilliant simplicity, was when I realized...that doesn't matter. In fact, it's better that way. 

The world became a richer place, in my opinion. It's like listening to music just to listen to it, without caring who wrote it, or who's singing it. Instead, to just take in the pleasurable ebbing and flowing of the harmonies and melodies as they collide, creating sounds that miraculously communicate meaning to me.   

Fame is the modern equivalent of immortality. To be heard, seen, or recognized--anywhere--prevents one from disappearing altogether. American society is built on a competitive culture, a culture that is spreading dangerously fast. Recognition, in whatever form, is just another part of the game. 

Yet, there is basis for wanting to be discovered. As Kundra pointed out, so much has been lost due to sheer numbers and inescapable anonymity. Not all can be famous.

I would argue there is absolute freedom in anonymity. When I can embrace my wisp-like existence, I am left content. It is true, my highly time-invested senior thesis will be buried in a cemetery of countless others after next year. There's not much I can do about it but embrace the process, learn, grow, stretch myself, and not worry about its impact on the world.  

Perhaps this is how I would define art (of life and other things): the creation of something for it's own sake, not your own or anyone else's. 

When my expectations dissolved, so did the person I was "meant to be". Somehow, this mysterious presumption had adhered itself to the back of my mind like superglue. I was convicted I really needed to go out with a bang. As a result, I spent a lot of time wearing myself out and feeling disappointed, guilty, and ashamed. Inevitably, I was failing (already!). 

Accepting one's mediocrity shouldn't equate to depression and purposelessness. Quite the contrary, actually. I strive to forget about myself. When I am taken out of the picture, there is nothing left. Nothing, except a pure, translucent reflection of the real Creator Himself. He is the noun, I am the verb. 

Dear reader, I encourage you (as well as myself), to enjoy the act of doing not being; of writing, not being a writer; of running, not being a runner. When the verb becomes a noun that identifies who you are, it changes your perspective. It confuses you. It limits you. Are you a mother, or are you mothering? Do you see the difference? One confines into a subjective definition (one that should be only His), the other compels into a developing action (one that can be yours). 

Do you define your actions, or do your actions define you? 

The former is merely a perception of who you believe you are; the latter is the reality everyone else actually sees.  


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