When I think back to my college days, only three years ago, I was on top of the world (or so I thought): president of this, vice-president of that, lunch with a CEO, dinner with a CFO, and the list goes on and on. Back then, I really only had a singular thought: do whatever I can to get ahead. It was a persistent desire to always be the best.
Now that I have been out of school for some time, am I irrelevant? While I used to organize mass events to create social change, am I now just part of the masses? Why is it that so many people in this world, and especially in the United States, can relate to feelings of under-accomplishment and unworthiness?
It wasn't until I lived in Bavaria, Germany that I learned to ride a bike -- I even found some solace.
I just couldn't figure out the gears for the life of me! Higher gear meant peddle harder, but it was because it was too easy in the first place? Lower gear for when you're going up a hill, but shouldn't it be higher because you're going higher?!
But maybe this is life.
Søren Kierkegaard said something along the lines of not understanding why certain people seek materialism, fame, prestige, and fortune if we are simply going to die. While some may see this as a grotesquely mundane thought, it is the truth.
I often thought of this during my time in the Allgäu, in Bavarian Swabia. My lifestyle back then simply felt more whole. I would wake up in the morning, ride my bike down to a local farm to get fresh unpasteurized milk, and drink it on the terrace while struggling to read the local newspaper. This was a place where the neighbors would get together at night and drink beer and roast Wurst (sausage) and Stockbrot (twisted dough) over a Lagerfeuer (campfire).
And I barely know my neighbors' names back home...
During the days, I would ride my bike to the local lakes (being from New York, I never swam in a lake before), enjoy some Brotzeit (a snack of bread, cheeses, and meats), and go to Oma's (grandma's) house for some coffee and cakes. I was eating more, but found that the ingredients were purer and healthier than I was used, so I luckily didn't gain more weight; I was much more physically active as well.
It was a place where family and friends meant everything. People weren't just chitchatting through life, but actually living. I remember growing up and placing superlatives on everything. "This was the best meal I've ever had," "that was coolest thing I've ever seen," etc. Is it too easy to blame American society and media on instilling these counterproductive views on needing more and more and bigger and better? When did finances actually dictate how we live our lives? Is that even living?
When I think of that society, I think of Albert Camus' absurdism. There will always be this impossible conflict of seeking value and meaning in life, but not being able to find it. Is it too bold to say that we're not able to find it because of this modern mainstream mindset and lifestyle?
Just six hours ago I watched a video Jason Silva posted on his Facebook Page about having FOMO or Fear Of Missing Out of the present moment that's being lived. Cognitive ecstasy and cognitive eureka are among the descriptors he uses to express moments when you are simply inspired, and that's why we feel the need to document them on Instagram and Snapchat and the like. I would say that these feelings of overwhelming power cannot be captured on social media, anyway.
But why this need of posting our every happenings on these social media platforms? Do we have FOMO because we truly have this nostalgia over the present moment, or is it because we truly do not want to feel irrelevant?
I say the latter. That's why we are incessantly becoming Sisyphus while seeking our next follow or like or share.
I think we can use the metaphor of changing gears on a bike for how we are riding through life; sometimes you have to change gears depending on the landscapes. The path may not always be straight: it could be long and narrow or short and winding, but there's always a path, and we are all on it together.
There is a profound quote by Charles Bukowski on being awakened by an alarm clock, dressing, force-feeding, fighting traffic, making money for someone else, and then being told to be grateful for it. Is there more meaning in this world than following this systematic version of life? Until we break away from these feelings of relevance, accomplishments, and worthiness, we'll not truly be alive and living.
In the Unterallgäu, the dialect they speak is called Schwäbisch. My favorite word in their dialect is Schompa, an adolescent cow. I get so much joy speaking this word to the locals and having everyone burst out in laughter.
So, am I irrelevant? Honestly, who cares.