We have a hard time living in the present. But we document the hell out of it. Photographs. Books. Film. Art. What are we so afraid of losing? What are we looking for? We're obsessed with keeping, hoarding, storing everything we think we—know. For what? It all ends up being a representation of what we experience in the present. Some way to take what's "here" and turn it into an object. Something we can look at, but never have again. Experience again? Live again?
Sometimes I think, the only thing we can know is how/what we feel, right now. Feeling is the experience of living, it's the the present. It's the where, the what, the how. Yet, our culture, has arrived at the notion that assumes truth is information. By literacy, by knowledge transfer, by image consumption, we take in as many bites as we possibly can from the surfaces our technology as if that feed is the only reason to live. We have become buried in our obsession with information accumulation. Wanting to know answers. To know truths. To know why. In the background, our knowing of being, feeling, breathing is pent up, locked away as far from our consciousness as we can keep it.
Shame, anger, and fear. Taught that feeling anything, expressing anything, venting anything is for those weak, unresilient, vain, ungrateful. People.
Instead, we live on the surface of everything. All stuff kept away in containers. Kept neatly in houses and clothes and words. It must have been hard to train the thoughtful person. The person who had time and openness of mind and freedom to dream up their own definition of life. The person who was not put in a box made up of gender rules, beauty rules, class rules, appropriate rules, polite rules, hours-per-work-week rules, clock rules, age rules, sex rules, sin rules, do not rules, should rules, success rules, good-better-best rules. Those people existed. There were hundreds of thousands of years human beings lived before the development of civilization. Before running water. Before agriculture. Before transit systems. Birthday candles and vacation. Medical insurance and home security systems. Pets.
When I read the phrase, "cultural conditioning," written by Philip Shepherd in his book, "New Self New World", I stopped. I wonder how much of my life has been shaped by the things I never think to question. Why should I? Why would I? Of course reading and writing is the most profound technology we have invented to date. Of course the internet and the cloud and massive information ingestion is what we should be doing. In fact, it's pretty typical for me to feel guilt when I realize how much I'm not consuming. All the stuff I'm missing every day. How ignorant I know I am and I'll probably stay. When I'm in a room with a person who can recite poetry at random. Or around political chatter. Or forget what a words means and I have to look it up for the ga-billionth time. I'm reminded. You're not doing enough, I think. You should. I think. You could. I think.
"Another type, called discrepancy verbs (or modal verbs), includes words like should, could, ought, must, and would. Discrepancy verbs are used when people suggest some kind of subtle discrepancy between how the world is and how it could, should, or ought to be." (1.)
Why are we constantly talking about what we should be doing? I started to catch myself saying this word recently. It fills up my entire day. Gopping mouthfuls of this and that word. I wonder why we even have a word for "should". Who may have made up that word? All this language didn't get in our heads from no where. And, also. Why is it that eskimos have over 100 words for snow?
1. James Pennebaker. The Secret Life of Pronouns. New York : Bloomsbury Press, 2011.