Thursday, October 27, 2011

Apathy and Its End


Apathy is a curious human reactionary achievement such that everybody believes they understand it and can note when they see it, but few grasp the many forms it takes, instead often applying it as a verbal condemnation to all those who have a different opinion or as a label for the newest generation of young people. Initially, the reaction to apathy is physical, as if it was some kind of disease to be dealt with and the medicine prescribed is action. Get the person interested in an activity and the apathy goes away, engagement of the body seen as an immediate remedy. While certainly the apathetic individual often conforms to the image of a slouching befuddled videogame-playing teen, I do not believe this is the whole picture and conflates lack of activity with disengagement. Action can often blind the person to the reality in which they actually reside, mistaking physical movement for awareness; for it is lack of connection that apathy is truly about, the ceasing of a conscious engagement with the world in which one finds him/her self.

The first myth to be abolished here is that activity equals engagement, as if the quantity of frenzied movement signifies some kind of connection between the individual and the community or ideology or family. If activity equaled awareness, then young children who are taken to every imaginable camp and sport event by their mini-van driving mothers would feel a connection and yet it is usually those mother-daughter relationships in which a quiet talk in the evening generates the closest of feelings. If activity equaled awareness, then the poker or game nights for men would engender knowledge of the personal lives of the participants, when in fact many don't know where the others work. If activity equaled awareness, then those at political rallies, screaming and gallivanting like it was a concert (which considering recent rallies, the similarities arent all that different), would have an appreciation and knowledge of the topics and questions being discussed by those they support, but in fact few can articulate a single point beyond the casual puerile talking points given to children posing as reporters. If activity equaled awareness, the gyrating forms at church so distraught with the contemplation of their sin, their bodies become like marionette dolls would be able to present their religious position with the knowledge of a scholar, but in fact few have opened a Bible or know even the rudiments of their movements history. 

I hazard to voice here that without deliberation, without consciously placing the metaphorical self into the stream of life's events and trying to see the relation that one has with every other conscious and unconscious instantiation of creation, then action is simply a haphazard attempt to fill a biological need, a gut reaction without meaning. This position entails that all the baseball catching between father and son, all the phone calls one makes for a political party, the house parties one throws for church groups and even the amount of sex one has with wife or significant other, is all for naught if the action is not seen as a contextual engagement with the people involved.

It is apathy of the mind that I have in mind here: the apathy that makes critical thought wrong. This mental disengagement reflects a world in which education is merely about getting a career instead of understanding the world, that makes us judge with all the power of the ignorant when we pass the bum on the street, blindly follow a movement (conservative or liberal) without a sense of self-ownership, or ignore the rising world temperatures and the growing lack of drinkable water this creates. It is apathy of the mind that mistakes vengeance for closure and supports the continued cycle of death in capital punishment and the invasion, militarily or diplomatically, of sovereign countries without knowing the nuances of the social situation. It is apathy of the mind which results in the continued division of humanity by refusing to give up on particular forms of ancient religions that harp on our continued absence from the divine and need for authority.

Some who read this may mutter about liberals and their atheist ideological cousins. To that, I would reply that the surest sign of apathy of the mind is in the ease with which one classifies those one meets, whether personally or in writing. While categories are useful, they are also limiting and it is precisely limitation that apathy of the mind refuses to acknowledge. When thought is constrained by authority and questions are discouraged by a conceptualization of deity or political ideologue, then the world loses its rational nature and the possible becomes synonymous with the fantastical rather than the imaginative. The reality is that our fantasies do not set us free, they constrain us with their ignorance of natural conditions. Conscious imagination looks at our inability to fly and creates airplanes, looks upon human different fomented by religious demarcation and declares we are as one with the universe, ponders disease and comes up with research to cure it and looks upon a world continuing towards destruction and offers new forms of energy, conservation and living in balance.

Knowing limits is not to be limited, it is to acknowledge the constraints of our current way of thinking. Merely postulating that such is not the case will never lead to the end of apathy if we do not also engage with the full power of our consciousness, individually and collectively.

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