Well, here it is, my first submission to the blog universe. Look out folks! Check your sensitivities at the door, because this promises to be a bumpy ride. Actually, to be fair though, I have attempted blogs in the past, back when it was first becoming cool to say “Hey, you should check out my blog.” Back then, I was in university, so all I really had to talk about was where I was going to drink that night (I ran a pub, so there wasn’t much question about that). I also attempted one while I was teaching English in Korea a few years ago. It was going well…for a while.
It was a great outlet into which I could vent my many frustrations during the cultural adjustment period that most foreigners go through whilst adapting to a new country. I was able to use humor to keep my friends up to date on all of the day to day happenings that drove me slightly bonkers, which they were unfortunately missing out on. It was short lived however, once I eventually adjusted and settled in and found I was having less and less to vent about. I didn’t seem to want to update them on the plethora of amazing food, sites, and activities in the country, just the annoying kids who ran onto an elevator because they thought it would make it go faster, or the general fear of the Korean population that fans would kill them in their sleep if left on overnight.
That’s one interesting oddity about the human race: people are more inclined to write about things when they have something to complain about rather than when everything is peachy. Or maybe it’s that people are more inclined to pay attention to things that are sensationalized or expressed in a rant. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not like all we see is an inundation of hateful musings from thoroughly unhappy individuals on a constant basis. In fact, there are plenty of heart smothering pieces of literature jammed down our throats and dangled in front of our faces every day. Everything from those love poems of the Romantic Authors, to the news story about the little pet lobster who can snap his claws to the tune of My Fair Lady, to every episode of Sesame Street, all the way to the Facebook comments congratulating you after seeing that your status says “Made Tang.”
It’s just that writing tends to be a very emotional pastime. That is to say that emotion spurs creativity. And, while happiness is a more powerful emotion than pain, anger, or frustration, it is not something we necessarily wish to be rid of, as we wish to be with the latter three. Writing, for most writers throughout history, has been an emotional outlet through which they could express that which was consuming their heart and soul. Those romantic poets, they were just trying to ease the pain in their hearts caused by the immeasurable love that they felt for some milk maid. Since they needed to get rid of this pain somehow, they chose writing as the means to do it. With every quill stroke, the pain in their hearts subsided a little.
In school, we were introduced to some of the most beautiful pieces of literature the world has ever known, written by men and women hundreds and thousands of years ago. This is a great example of people writing about feeling happy, right? No, I discount this group from participation in my exercise because the love expressed in most of those writings is wayyy over the top, and thus must be overly exaggerated. I mean c’mon, some of those people still used leaves to wipe their butts…if a moderately attractive girl gave them a nipple twister they’d do cartwheels. Life was hard then, it wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns. With plagues and wars decimating the population, good women were at a premium. A lot of these things were the modern day equivalent to a well executed pick up line. Good on them for having such spirit, but times have changed and these days, it is highly suspect if you claim to have found such happiness (if no one else can be happy, neither can you). While Hollywood still pumps out those romantic comedies like the Octu-mom pumps out babies (I had to get at least one reference in before it got old), it is generally accepted now that that premise is nothing more than an unattainable dream.
I don’t know how we became so cynical and jaded (I mean, we even have toilet paper now), but something has seemed to rip that desire for happy literature right out of us. These days, we don’t trust anything that is presented without some sort of dark side. If there is a happy story on the evening news, it’s usually just viewed as filler, or some attempt to not look like the earth is going to hell in a hand basket. Instead, we thrive on tabloid news about this celebrity or that one getting their new adopted pygmy brother-in-law drunk while dangling them out a window and punching their boyfriend, and we oddly don’t feel safe and satisfied with a news report unless it’s delivered with some heaping morsel of terror (whether real or fabricated… see Fox News).
No, these days, we don’t regularly write a letter to the makers of the chocolate chip cookie we just ate, to let them know it was delicious and that they should keep up the good work. We would be typing one up at a thousand words a second though if we didn’t like the way the cookie crumbled (do not pardon the pun) into our beer when we tried to dunk it in there.
I guess this sort of fad explains the popularity of people like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, and Glen Beck. These guys live pretty high on the hog thanks to America’s incredible appetite for sensationalized news (Instead of saying Bernie Madoff was going to get life in prison, CNN’s headline: “Madoff will DIE in prison”). And it’s not just the right wingers keeping these guys employed. People from all sides tune in to see what they have to say (some because they agree, and some because they want to see what’s going to come out of their mouths next). For that matter, folks like John Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and Chris Matthews also do quite well thanks to the same group of people.
While Stewart and Colbert are comedians and present the news in a satirical way, they still end up in the mess with the radical news thugs. I am a fan of comedy. I think it allows us the ability to look fear, hate, and evil in the face…and smile. It helps us prove that so many things that we are told are important in life are actually quite trivial. It reminds us that life has a lighter side; a side that we need to focus on more than the negative. Because, after all, as a famous saying goes, “Hate begets hate.”
Now, I’m not saying that the news should be all kittens who can rollerskate and chimpanzees who build orphanages. I’m not saying we should all go around and thank each other for everything that goes right for us every minute. I am just asking the question: Why do we thrive off of the sensationalism and negativity? I really hope to hear back from people who have an interesting point of view on this topic, and hey, if you can throw a little humor in there too, we’re all better for it.