Time Gets Us All
Everybody's gotta go sometime.
This thing all things devours;
Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;
Gnaws iron, bites steel;
Grinds hard stones to meal;
Slays king, ruins town,
And beats high mountain down.
-JRR Tolkien, The Hobbit
If I've seen it once, I've seen it a thousand times. People seem frustrated with 2016. It's been a stressful year. An emotional year. A year filled with political angst, with personal hardships. Celebrities we've known all our lives have died this year. Let's face it: 2016 sucks, right?
Well, it's just another year.
That's right, I said it. In the grand scheme of things, 2016 is just a unit we use to measure the passage of time. Those pithy little letters you write to 2016 on your Facebook page don't really amount to anything. Time doesn't give a shit about you. It doesn't care about your feelings. It doesn't care about that celebrity you hadn't thought about in years, but suddenly loved so much once they started pushing up daises.
This year, millions of people were in great angst over the election of the next President of the United States. Billions of dollars were spent on election campaigns for (possibly) the two worst candidates in the history of American politics. But only time will tell whether the 2016 election will be recorded in the annals of history as a colossal mistake, a colossal success, or just a big batch of 'meh.'
My personal hope is that, a hundred years from now, 2016 isn't really remembered for much of anything at all. Just mark it down as another boring, bland year.
Part of the reason why 2016 just seems to feel so much worse than other years is that we (as a society) seem to have given in to the media's manipulation of our emotions. We can't seem to agree on what constitutes 'fake' news vs. 'real' news, but we've all chosen our sides, and we've all chosen the media sources that agree with us, and we allow those media sources to shape our worldviews through whatever made-up crisis they decide we should panic over on any given day.
Cop shoots a black guy? PANIC!
Liberal college professor calls for 'white genocide?' PANIC!
Trump appointed who? PANIC!
Clinton's emails said WHAT?!? PANIC!
Another Hollywood celeb died?!? PANIC!
Someone's tweet hit me right in the feelz?!? PANIC!
If anything, 2016 was The Year Of The Media. It's rather ironic, in an era where news media are trusted less than they ever have been in the history of news media, but it's true: we don't trust the media we don't trust, but we end up trusting the media we trust way more than we should. But the modern media machine has taken the adage "if it bleeds, it leads" to beyond-ridiculous proportions. Every new news story, no matter how trivial, is a "BREAKING NEWS ALERT." Masses of Americans turn to modern media to find out how they should be offended today - whether it's the Left finding offense in some micro-aggressive tweet, or the Right finding offense because someone they disagree with chose to protest the wrong way, it seems that our culture has changed so that everyone just has to be offended over something, no matter how inconsequential.
Blogs and news sites craft headlines designed to get us worked up and angry, meant to divide us and keep us coming back for the latest updates...and as a society, we seem to be okay with that, as long as the outrage reinforces our worldview and originates from our chosen media outlets.
Put it all together, and it made 2016 a drawn-out, drama-filled year.
But take solace in this: One day, we will all die. The mortality rate among humans is right around 99.99999999999 percent. Time catches up to all of us, and regardless of whether the rest of the world things we left 'too soon,' when it's your time, it's your time.
So what do we do to make things better in 2017?
Start by getting your face out of the media. Between the 24-hour news cycle of cable TV, a million-and-one news websites, and our Facebook and Twitter feeds, we are drowning in a sea of irrelevant information, always twisted to the right angle to get us worked up over nothing. Turn your filter on. Find the stories that matter. Focus on things that lift you up, and disregard the things that just piss you off. Social media has become a massive vehicle whereby large groups of people can nitpick other people's lives. Never before have so many people been so interconnected, and had so little of substance to say. Try turning it off for a few days, and see how it feels to live real life for a change. Sometimes, ignorance really is bliss.
Don't get so emotionally invested in the words & actions of people you've never even met. When someone gets all 'offended' and tries to micromanage someone else's life via social media, tell them to shut their pie hole. People aren't perfect. Everyone sticks their foot in it from time to time. Learn compassion. Acquire common sense.
When faced with a choice, do the decent thing. If you can't say something nice, keep your trap shut and move on.
If you really want to make the world a better place in 2017, quit looking at everyone else, and look to your own life. Do what you need to do to get yourself right, and then, once you've worked yourself into absolute perfection, you can start telling others how they should live.