Remember that part in 10 Things I hate about you, when one of the bimbo sister’s friends has a lightbulb moment of philosophical grandeur and says:
“I know you can be OVERwhelmed, and I know you can be UNDERwhelmed…. but can you ever just be… WHELMED?”
It’s a stupid line, I know, but somehow, it’s become a very real question to me in the past few days.
Is it, in fact, possible to just be whelmed? Because if it is, I have an idea that we are all in danger of becoming and staying just that!
You see, when I think about it, most days are characterised by varying degrees of being over- or underwhelmed by things. Not in the hectic bi-polar kind of way, just in the normal everyday win-some-lose-some ordinary kind of way.
Overwhelmed by the extravagant menu, underwhelmed by what you chose.
Overwhelmed by kindness, only to be underwhelmed by indifference a short while later.
Overwhelmed by people’s expectations, and underwhelmed by their appreciation.
Overwhelmed, underwhelmed, overwhelmed, underwhelmed, over… okay you get the picture.
Lately, I have to admit, I have mostly been overwhelmed… by everything.
- By suddenly being a grown-up with a full-time job,
- by earthquakes and tsunamis on the far side of the planet,
- by uprisings at the top of our continent,
- by relationship fails,
- friendship regrets,
- an overflowing wardrobe that seldom yields a suitable outfit,
- monthly tension over waning funds,
- the constant overflow of information that I am convinced I will never be able to process properly in 1 billion years – Google, Twitter, Facebook, blogs…
And, quite frankly, it’s just tiring and burdensome!
A feeling, I’m embarrassed to say, I only realised I shared with the rest of humanity while listening to Gareth Cliff’s show on 5FM sometime last week.
They were discussing the 7.1-on-the-Richter Scale quake aftershock that hit Japan exactly a month after its devastating 9.0 catalyst, when Gareth uttered a sublime and profound truth.
And, I paraphrase:
Perhaps we are just not meant to be so constantly hyper aware of all the events that keep taking place all across the globe. If this suspicion is correct, well, basically we are steadily but surely heading for a mass nervous breakdown.
Sounds a bit dramatic, I have to admit, but I couldn’t agree more…
Living in the information age our incurably curious, but oh-so-fragile, psyches have very little defence against the constant bombardments of news news news. And as we all know that comforting little mantra ‘No News is Good News,’ can just as well be jumbled around to say ‘Good News Is No(t) News.’
So, with an indigestible amount of bad news being shoved down our throats every day, I guess something’s got to give.
You see, as relational beings who are naturally inclined to care, we’ve been wired to let others’ pain resonate within us. But when we constantly have to sympathise with people beyond our capable reach… I think that God-given ability to care starts stretching, wearing thin and eventually tears.
Resulting in a numbness… a cold and deathly state of being constantly… whelmed.
Something I’m pretty sure no normal human being would ever want to be!
This makes me wish I could just smash up my computer screen, throw my phone into the sea, shut down all my social media accounts and go hide in a little cabin in the woods.
But, well, I just can’t.
I have a far too severe case of FOMO to ever become a proper hermit…
And besides how will that solve anything, help anyone, or make anything better? It won’t.
So, what are my options then?
I think there are two: community and simplicity.
By building community – starting perhaps with family and friends, then gradually incorporating neighbours, colleagues, widows, orphans… prisoners – we are not only able to help, and be helped, in an effective and measurable manner, but we are also strengthening our ability to care further afield.
Compare a lonesome little me paying R500 into a relief fund account to my whole community working together to pay R10 000 into a relief fund bank account… Incomparable!
I guess that’s what you’d call Ubuntu.
As for simplicity…
In short: if I donate half my wardrobe, give away ¾ of my cutlery and crockery, tithe faithfully every month, whittle away at my Facebook friend list, shed a few of the people I follow on Twitter… well, I’d still be abundantly blessed and probably much less burdened.
In the words of Bruce Chatwin’s fascinating account of his research among the Aboriginal nomads, Songlines…
The idea of returning to an ‘original simplicity’ was not naive or unscientific or out of touch with reality.
‘Renunciation,’ I said, ‘even at this late date, can work.’
‘I’d agree with that,’ said Arkady. ‘The world, if it has a future, has an ascetic future.’
Or perhaps as King Solomon himself:
“I ask you God, to let me have two things before I die: keep me from lying, and let me be neither rich nor poor. So give me only as much food as I need.” – Proverbs 30:8
I’m all for it!