We tell people to face reality, and usually this means something negative — often about other people. I have certainly felt this jadedness in my own life more and more as I age. But it gets worse. Apparently, people enjoy “reality TV” as their entertainment.
If I had cable, the Lifetime Network would probably be one of my favorite channels. There movies often have warm, fuzzy endings despite the cold, prickly “realities” of the world. But even they are now getting into “reality TV.” I watch commercials as a means of replenishing my bonus points on a game I play without paying for them with money. Lately, there’s been this add for “Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition” on Lifetime which just blows me away.
Two mothers begin the commercial by saying, “This is your moment” and “You have to prove something to day.” Then you hear this woman with a horrible, gravelly voice say that “eliminations start now” and “I’m here to find a star”. In another seen Abby says, “You have to battle me!” and then begins to make grunting noises like she’s exerting herself physically. Abby’s final quote in the commercial is “Today is not your day.” As disparaging as this is, there’s more. One daughter is asked whether she can handle this competition , and she softly says, I Don’t know.” But the worst of all is a mother who says, “My daughter is better than your daughter, and your daughter, and your daughter! The whole commercial makes my stomach clench, and you’d better belief I wouldn’t be watching that garbage even if I had cable.
Do we really enjoy watching people knocked down, kicked out, fired, eliminated, etc.? Competition is one thing, and when “The Singoff” (an a cappella group singing competition) was on, my husband Phil and I enjoyed the competition, the music, and the behind the scenes footage. Yes, there was pressure to compete, but the show always opened with all of the groups singing a song together. I can only assume they wanted to encourage some colleaguiality among them. Phil theorizes that “reality TV” is away for people to be passive aggressive. Maybe I just feel too much. Part of it is probably that I had my share of verbal abuse, being yelled at, being shamed — whatever you want to call this — as a kid. Honestly, it happens now too. I’m really trying to work on standing up for myself and not letting others verbally walk all over me. It’s disturbing to me that people want to watch it, because all it does for me is makes me feel small.
I have a memory of playing with my dolls or imaginary kids as I was their teacher. I did nothing but yell at them, threaten them, shame them , and even beat them. My mom came to ask me to stop it. I imagine it was difficult to see her own child mimicking some of the behavior I was experiencing at school. That was over thirty years ago, and I know things have gotten so much worse.
Despite all of this, there’s a part of me which believes this unkindness is not “reality” or at least not all of the time. A friend sent me the following link, and whether you are a person of faith or have none, as bad as things sometimes are, it’s hard to argue with this as a piece of truth. I almost wrote “ideal”, but an ideal is something which is never true. The below is the other side of reality not depicted in these programs.
Just in case the audio can’t be heard, I’m going to reprint this as the end to my entry. I hope posting the above link is enough evidence that I am trying to give credit to the original writer.
There is a kindness that dwells deep down in things; it presides everywhere, often in the places we least expect. The world can be harsh and negative, but if we remain generous and patient, kindness inevitably reveals itself. Something deep in the human soul seems to depend on the presence of kindness; something instinctive in us expects it, and once we sense it we are able to trust and open ourselves. Here in Conamara, the mountains are terse and dark; left to themselves they would make for a brooding atmosphere. However, everywhere around and in between there are lakes. The surface of these lakes takes on the variations of the surrounding light to create subtle diffusions of color. Thus their presence qualifies the whole landscape with a sense of warmth and imagination. If we did not feel that some ultimate kindness holds sway, we would feel like outsiders confronted on every side by a world toward which we could make no real bridges.
“The word kindness has a gentle sound that seems to echo the presence of compassionate goodness. When someone is kind to you, you feel understood and seen. There is no judgment or harsh perception directed toward you. Kindness has gracious eyes; it is not small-minded or competitive; it wants nothing back for itself. Kindness strikes a resonance with the depths of your own heart; it also suggests that your vulnerability, though somehow exposed, is not taken advantage of; rather, it has become an occasion for dignity and empathy. Kindness casts a different light, an evening light that has the depth of color and patience to illuminate what is complex and rich in difference.
“Despite all the darkness, human hope is based on the instinct that at the deepest level of reality some intimate kindness holds sway. This is the heart of blessing. To believe in blessing is to believe that our being here, our very presence in the world, is itself the first gift, the primal blessing. As Rilke says: Hier zu sein ist so viel – to be here is immense. Nowhere does the silence of the infinite lean so intensely as around the form of a newly born infant. Once we arrive, we enter into the inheritance of everything that has preceded us; we become heirs to the world. To be born is to be chosen. To be created and come to birth is to be blessed. Some primal kindness chose us and brought us through the forest of dreaming until we could emerge into the clearance of individuality, with a path of life opening before us through the world.
“The beginning often holds the clue to everything that follows. Given the nature of our beginning, it is no wonder that our hearts are imbued with longing for beauty, meaning, order, creativity, compassion, and love. We approach the world with this roster of longings and expect that in some way the world will respond and confirm our desire. Our longing knows it cannot force the fulfillment of its desire; yet it does instinctively expect that primal benevolence to respond to it. This is the threshold where blessing comes alive.