Monday, June 13, 2016

As Good As It Gets

A writer friend, whose work I admire, recently penned a piece on the changing nature of public discourse. Specifically, there's a lot more open hate in the world than there used to be. The hope behind making communication between people around the world was that this would enable greater connection rather than greater antipathy. Alas, the best laid plans...

I had a dream last night that I'd been transformed into some kind of alien species, with various features modified to suit my new environment. This is doubtless the result of a novel I recently read, but it was nonetheless disconcerting. The alienness was less troubling than the way those around me came to perceive what I was. I became something other and was even shunned by certain groups for daring to sit in the wrong seat.

Reading my friend's article after waking from this dream has had a curious effect. We see the world through filters, and I think about his disappointment at how increased access to information and communication tools has decreased our ability to empathize. I think about my own transformation in this dream and what it means to be the so-called other, to exist outside social norms, to be shouted at or ignored for not conforming to some preconceived notion of normality.

The convergence of these two events is coincidental, but their juxtaposition gives me pause. Awareness arises in mysterious ways, and perhaps I needed to be reminded of basic human decency, the way we all do from time to time.

Judging from the open hate that still thrives around us, “from time to time” might not be often enough. Seems we can do better if we try, but maybe I'm too optimistic. As the movie asks, What if this is as good as it gets?

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