Don't Stop Looking

If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is: Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern.

-William Blake

I’ve been thinking a lot about how we got to this point.

I’ve been asking myself “why now?”

I’ve been perplexed by the radically different ways in which people can exist in completely different versions of reality.

And I found myself thinking about how we experience the world.

Les Amants (Lovers)' Prints - Rene Magritte | AllPosters.com

The internet makes our lives really convenient, but it also streams all these painful realities to everyone, in real time. The natural reaction most people have had is to isolate themselves and to train themselves to ignore these painful realities. To build a wall so big and so wide that the scaries can’t get through. To push it away. To push it down.

Prior to CoViD, most of us were pretty good at drowning out the pain of reality. We could easily retreat into our own illusions and remain blissfully ignorant of the world around us.

So we create illusions. We tell ourselves stories. We build systems and communities and narratives that prop up these illusions. And somewhere along the way, we start believing these illusions. We end up forgetting the world and ourselves.

As we further dissolve the boundaries between our single physical self and our numerous digital selves, this line between reality and illusion only becomes blurrier. Muddier.

Over the last few months, as the world ground to a halt, we were suddenly forced to confront reality. The illusion stopped shimmering and beckoning to us, stopped inviting us to waste our precious, precious time on tigers and trailer parks and bullshit narratives. In the midst of a pandemic and an economic melt-down and a failure of leadership and a collective identity crisis, reality snuck up on us and sucker punched us all in the face.

What is the Ludovico Technique in "A Clockwork Orange," and how ...

It’s like a mass application of the Ludovico Technique - unable to close our eyes, unable to look away, unable to hide from stark and ugly realities about our world, but also about ourselves.

So why now?

Have we reached a critical level of discomfort?

Are there now enough of us who can no longer look away from reality?

Would the killing of George Floyd have had the same effect if it didn’t occur during a pandemic that was disastrously handled and resulted in 1 in 5 Americans being unemployed?

Our illusion was comfortable enough for enough people for a long time. But when the illusion became just as uncomfortable as reality, and when we were all forced to see the truth, the whole thing came tumbling down.

Terror and Desire The Temptation of St. Anthony from Hieronymus ...

aside: there is, indeed, a Hieronymous Bosch painting for every situation imaginable

So this is where I am.

We can’t stop looking. At ourselves, at our neighbors, at our companies, at our world. But mostly, at ourselves.

More confrontation is inevitable.

Not all of it is external. The most important confrontations will happen silently, in private, in our own minds. But the outcome is going to be explosive.

No amount of money will help you escape from reality. No amount of content can keep the existential angst from creeping in. So the only thing that we can do it to look at the ugly truth.

And when life is no longer easy and comfortable, when we can no longer hide in the illusion, and we find reality sucks, then we have to change.

It’s exciting. It’s scary. Don’t stop looking.

And maybe it can be beautiful.

You will not be able to stay home
You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and skip out for beer during commercials, because
The revolution will not be televised

-Gil Scott Heron