October 27, 2009

I’m not the world’s most avid blogger. As a matter of fact, I’m a somewhat skeptical and reluctant participant in the excesses of digital escapism. Je mehr Zeit ich bei Cyberspace verbringe, desto mehr will ich Kugelschreiber und Papier in die Hand nehmen, mich weiter in die fuenf Sinne vertiefen. Wir werden allmaehlich durch unsere Technologie verarmt.

However, I didn’t title the post what I did to drone on about the sinister side of computers and the Internet. I actually started it because I’ve been thinking of a double-standard of Gen-X, a dishonesty about youth and the significance of acting / becoming your age. Many of us continue to indulge in the stuff of our childhoods. Look at the fascination with building huge things out of Legos, or the ascendance of comic books into a major art form. However, there’s also the fact that we are the children of the Boomers, and we have inherited their problem with death.

Many of the Baby Boomers have a truly unhealthy fascination with youth, to the point that they will indulge in all sorts of expensive disfiguration to reconfigure themselves into what they believe will match the evolving, but always youth-worshipping, dictates of American culture. After all, if you’re not young and virile, you’re done, past, passe – old. We, as a society, are so busy hurrying off into the next great thing the future has for us that we have no time to bother with all this business called contemplation, wisdom, ‘being’ and so on.

Take yoga for example. When it was first brought over to the United States by a few well-intentioned Boomers in the 1960s, it was still relatively close to its roots. People wanted a different way, a way that wasn’t about the surface, the Joneses, the consumption of new appliances dictated by the post-war economy. They wanted something new and, reactionary as it may have been, chose the not-America, not-superficial, not-Christian, not-materialistic as their guiding concept. So, yoga comes to America. What is yoga now? Well, it’s crazy popular, but to get it there – to co-opt it into just another service to be consumed by vain, youth-obsessed idiots – it had to be relieved of what made it attractive in the first place. Now yoga is an alternative form of ‘workout’, for those who don’t ‘do’ spas and gyms. Now it’s like going to a pub instead of a bar.

The introspection and inner awareness and spiritual aspect has been minimized to the point of no longer feeling threatening, no longer posing a possibility of knocking you out of your groove and on your ass. Now you properly accessorize with your mat and your blocks and your tension straps and your chic, stretchy pants and you use yoga as the whip it was never intended to be, to punish yourself and escape yet again from knowing and feeling what you are. Ever wonder why the more meditative and possibly moving schools of yoga don’t really get much traction in the United States? I mean, hell, you can’t even find Kundalini in Seattle, one of the supposedly ‘progressive’ cities in America.

Another area where Gen-X lies to itself comes from the opposite end of the spectrum. Yoga got its spiritual teeth pulled. Plastic surgery, on the other hand, fell into disfavor. The grotesqueries of cutting your body into new shapes was for that previous generation, and we’re more enlightened than that now. Are we though? While the scalpel may have been eschewed, the desire to shape and modify – and remain youthful – did not.

The example I’ve been considering the last while comes in the form of a brush-on biochemical aimed at women, ironically similar to Rogaine. Rogaine was for dealing with a supposedly unsightly inadequacy afflicting 60% of all Caucausian men in their lifetimes, a ‘failing’ that would certainly dry up the bed-notching opportunities, and perhaps require emulating the circumstances of Miller Lite ads way more than would be healthy. Baldness. Some brilliant marketing types got together and tried to figure out other desirable body hair that might be found inadequate and the merry-go-round stopped at: eyelashes.

The product in question (no, I won’t name it and unwittingly serve the marketers) – if you watch TV or streaming media, you’ve probably been assailed by its images of a successful woman entering middle-age who, somehow, has ‘managed’ to remain beautiful – promises all the usual things appeals to vanity do. You’ll have friends who like you. You’ll get invited to social events. You’ll hook up with a hot member of the opposite sex. But, hey, here’s the catch: you have to keep using the shit FOREVER. Like Rogaine, the benefits of this miracle substance are lost if you stop using, sort of like heroin. God only knows what your eyelashes will be like going cold turkey off the boosters.

As I said earlier, problem with death. While we won’t do knives, we willingly addict ourselves to the pain of painting our bodies with tattoos. We inject Botox, a small zone of crossover between the Boomers and their offpring. We invent diseases and syndromes so we can take new and disturbing substances to banish them. We bake ourselves in tanning beds. We sit for hours in unmoving morasses of cars, trapped in the clogged arteries of our vital urban organisms. Why? Because we are free and we are individuals, and we aren’t like anybody else. We’re going to win and nobody can stop us. Look at the proof! House-flipping, changing lanes like an imbecile at 90 miles per hour, and cursing those who might not be as fortunate for their laziness and leeching. We are invincible, and anyone who says different has to be shouted down! Any wrinkles that might appear must be erased! Any flab that might creep in because we spend most of our lives bent at 90 degrees in front of a screen must be banished with six-pack abs!

I had hoped we, the generation of disaffection, total annihilation, wide-eyed and staring into the maw of the apocalypse, denizens of punk and hardcore, would have been stronger. I had hoped we wouldn’t fall for this crock of lies served up to our vanity. Gravity will have its way. You will have to work harder, more often, for less. You will have to watch what you eat and how late you stay up, or risk paying a price unheard of when you were fresh-faced and 20-something. These are facts, and yet the bummer aspect of becoming middle-aged seems to be the whole enchilada to those considering it. There’s no talk of the joys of parenting. There’s no pleased musing about how much smarter you are now than you were as that inexperienced and impulsive party kid. There’s no time made or taken to appreciate that life is longer than you can imagine, and becoming shorter than you’d like. We are all a ball of multicolored yarn, and it is in our unravelling that our true beauty is revealed. Gen-X, I am disappointed in you.