“Love has come to rule and transform. Stay awake, my heart, stay awake.” ~Rumi (1207 – 1273)
I recently watched the trailer for a film coming out in late 2013 called Midway. It is the story of the Laysan albatross that makes its home on Midway Island in the Pacific, some 2000 miles from the nearest continent. The albatross are beautiful two-toned gull-like birds that inhabit the island as their nesting and breeding ground. It is their oasis in the vast “desert” which is the Pacific Ocean.
The purpose of the film is to expose a terrifying phenomenon happening to the birds. By the thousands they are dying from ingesting plastic waste that we have dumped in the ocean. Over the years, mankind has used the ocean as a giant trashcan. Our waste is now being consumed by fish, crabs, and various ocean life, as well as birds. The plastic fills their bellies resulting in eventual death. The visual of dead birds with stomachs full of plastic waste is disturbing and heartbreaking, but the film’s message is, even more, a metaphor for where we are as a society. The narrator asks this crucial question during the trailer, “Do we have the courage to face the realities of our time and allow ourselves to feel deeply enough that it transforms us and our future?”
As those words floated in the air around me it stirred a theme that haunts me for this age, this generation. This question – will we allow ourselves to “feel deeply enough?” I see it all the time, people unable to feel. Nice people, good people who have somehow become almost completely desensitized to their own emotions. They look perfectly normal on the outside, but inside they have very little real reaction to things that should cause them to feel; to weep, to sing, to revolt. It is as if the nerve between their heart and the rest of them has been severed. I see this often in men, but women can also be affected. The frightening thing is that when we don’t feel then we lose touch with the value of things, with what is important, and how to love and care for something. If you do not feel then you become capable of things that are inconceivable otherwise.
There are many reasons why people want to avoid their feelings. Trauma, abuse, invalidation, neglect; these things and others create pain and sadness which we typically want to avoid. But I see another thing happening in our culture – people’s hearts are becoming hard in slow and subtle ways that they are barely aware of. I can’t say for certain, but I wonder if the sharp edges of what we “consume” emotionally are causing internal damage, even severing our feelings, just like the birds that consume deadly amounts of plastic.
If we feed ourselves things that are false and fake, things which are the emotional equivalent of “plastic,” then it could make us sick. Let me give you a simple example with big consequences. We are constantly bombarded with messages about what life should look like. We consume thousands of images every week telling us the car we should drive, the home we should have and the way we should look. Once inside us, these images create a friction with our reality. They rub against our peace of mind and sense of contentment. We can end up cut to pieces inside over the conflict between reality and the world we think should be ours. Let’s take this example even deeper. As Americans, we regularly feast on violent and dehumanizing media – from prime time television to pornography. What does this do to our hearts?
I want to also consider the sharp edge I am most worried about because I see it infiltrating every area of our lives – the basic disrespect people have for each other. I see it in politics, race, religion, sexual preference, and on and on. I see it among people of faith and people who hold no formal beliefs. I see it in interviews, on Facebook, on television, and in the grocery store. We are losing all sense of good and proper boundaries of respect for each other – regardless of our beliefs, religion, or politics. In addition, modern media shovels fear and hate at its consumers and those people, in turn, spew it at others whom they are now subconsciously or overtly afraid of. Often there is little or no truth to the media that has been consumed. It is PLASTIC. Our consumption of what is fake has devastating consequences. Our mimicking of disrespect – lethal.
Watch this trailer and give a little thought to what I have said. Give thought to what you consume on a daily basis. What are you eating unintentionally while your heart longs for emotional nutrition? Is your heart awake? Can it feel deeply?
What affect is your emotional diet having on your health?