January 1st, 2021
January in ProspectI begin the year with a renewed sense of purpose inspired by the grand and the small. Global movements march in the greatest cities of our time, and my dad looks after the footpaths in the countryside around his village home. Brexit™ has begun, with three years of plan-making and a colossal impact that we are only seeing the beginnings of now, and a Christmas card arrived from a friend across the ocean. On the same day (Christmas eve-eve) the case-count in the UK reached new heights, and my brother got a job doing something he really cares about. I recently watched the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogies, and grew sad knowing I’m unlikely to be able to prove myself with the heroic deeds of warfare (thank God). A similar feeling takes hold of me at the end of Marvel films, when I wake up and my suspended disbelief takes a hit of reality, remembering super-powers ain’t real. But there are other ways to prove yourself a hero. The world is getting faster, rapidly gaining pace in every corner of humanity. Transport, communication, fresh food, random impulse buys and online shopping are delivered with mind-blowing speed. Friendly arguments are ended with a quick Google search in a world where you don’t really have to remember anything. There is a dark core at the centre of the civilisation I see today, a black hole into which all good things are sucked up and drained of their life, sapped of any seemingly promising intention. People are lost, art is lost, music is lost, relationships are lost, money is lost, passions are lost, days and nights are lost, lives, real lives are lost. I was lost (though I am found). Let me lay out the problem from my terms. I write because I must. In these UNPRECEDENTED times, I keep my creative spirit alive through the words I splurge out onto Pages documents. December has been my worst month of writing so far, with more than twenty empty days. In amongst the process of this project I had lost sight of its purpose. Whole winter suns rose and set without a word written, when it might have been so easy to open my laptop had I only found the mental strength. Instead I spent time thinking about nothing, and enjoying the lack of pressure I had been putting on myself, the imaginary reader had taken over priority as I began to share work on the internet. Let me lay out the problem in clean terms. I am in constant shock at how completely manacled and utterly enslaved I am by the bright white devil that is social media. No matter how much I try to break the habits, instincts remain. I open a browser, hit F, hit enter, and wait to see if any notifications or messages pop up, in the mean time I’m distracted by a listicle on my timeline, or a meme about something I’m not even vaguely interested in. Another tab open, hit I, hit enter, and wait to see if any notifications or messages pop up. In the mean time I’m distracted by someone’s story, or a picture posted by someone I haven’t spoken to in years, and probably never will again. Another tab open, hit T, hit enter, and wait to see if any notifications or messages pop up. In the mean time I’m distracted by more listicles, more clickbait, more antagonism, more arguments, more disgrace, more anger, more putrid filth from the fingers of people too cowardly even to call their local radios. Even in the writing of this passage, even as I ingeniously and poetically lambast the websites that suck out my soul, I have found myself absentmindedly heading back to those very pages, revelling in them and the way they feel like home. Sickening isn’t it. I gain absolutely nothing from 99% of the time I spend staring at social media, waiting, begging, desperately needing a little red box to pop up and let me know someone out there is, unprompted, thinking of me. How often do I let someone know, unprompted, I am thinking of them? Rarely, if ever. Over the ten days I spent at home for Christmas I didn’t go on my phone much, I went for walks with my parents and brother, we watched films together, played board games. With that complete wholesomeness combined with a double bill of Scrooge and The Man Who Invented Christmas, I started to feel like perhaps I had lost sight of what it meant to be a part of this world. In the last months I have often commented on the lack of community I have been feeling, and finally I have found a sense of relief, and a real mechanism for change. Nature never disappoints, it is humanity’s bed-rock, and it is the unending song of our muse. Beyond that? The answer, for God’s sake, is to talk to people. Open up, let them in, all of that Drama School nonsense. Start with yourself, do not expect or desire others to change you. So, this year, I take a vow on the fore-lives of my forebears to reduce the amount of time I spend scrolling aimlessly, plumbing the depths of the internet for some non-existent jewel that has no doubt already been found by a TikTok star with millions of followers. I have friends who don’t have T or I, some who don’t use social media at all, and are no less happy for it. In my line of work, there is some expectation for you to sell yourself online, but I am early on enough to be able to avoid that (hypocrite). For now, I face the nudging glowing demon in my pocket with that renewed sense of purpose, inspired by the grand and the small. I feel as though I’m hacking away at the side of a sloping hill of a problem (and one which has already been tackled by many others), rather than putting my back to the mountains of humanity’s sins and heaving against the issues that threaten to topple the earth’s natural order. I’ll get to that, in time. Remind yourself what it is that makes you happy, and do those things, eat those foods, talk to those people, sing those songs, and go to those places. Breath the air that makes you feel alive, believe you are a better person and your small world will thank you. The wider world will too. If you need me call me, no matter where you are, no matter how far. I might not be there, but I’ll be there.
©2007-2021 Benedict Esdale