Just imagine for one minute that you are back in the days of your early childhood- crazy, new, awkward youth. These were the best days for questions brimming to the surface, days filled with new ideas and new experiences, and days where curiosity was the overarching theme. Learning held a unique enthusiasm.
We have grown from these times of stardust and wonder, haven’t we? Mostly it is the change of our insatiable search for answers to a certain gnawing complacency. I came to terms with this recently as I read one of my college textbooks. One word held me back from moving onto the next page. You see, it’s not that I was upset I didn’t know this word; it would be incredibly mistaken to assume us fallen humans should know everything on the first try. However, it was the realization that I read this particular word hundreds or thousands of times before without caring enough to look into its meaning. What’s even worse is that this was not the only word in my book that I was familiar with only by glance and not by depth. As I looked through the pages, I was glaringly conscious of the need to research- to start asking questions again.
In my earliest years, I distinctly remember bombarding my parents with questions daily. If I ran into an unfamiliar concept, I never hesitated to discuss its meaning as soon as the opportunity arose. If I read a word I didn’t know, I immediately needed to know it. If I wanted enlightenment on any terms, I sought it out like it was my quest. And when I think back on those times, it seems meaning was at the center of my tiny mind. Do not get me wrong; meaning is still a profound part of my seeking. It’s just that the questions are just a little harder to answer now.
This textbook occurrence made me reflect deeply. How was it that I familiarize myself with so many words and concepts yet still do not fully grasp the significance of their defining qualities? I knew the setting that these words fit and where they may relate. However, I was content in not knowing. I’d rather ignore and take the easy route than do what would be good for me in the long run. It made me ask a question again- Why have I stopped seeking this vital sense of perception?
A sneaking little word crept up in my mind. It is a word widely struggled with for many in this modern age. That word is “apathy.” Merriam-Webster online describes apathy as “a lack of interest or concern: INDIFFERENCE.” It was this kind of attitude that produced this type of predicament I was in, and many other life struggles of everyday men and women
Apathy, I believe, is preying on modern generations in significant ways. Where previous generations found their sense of community and fulfillment in church, in intentional get-togethers, in letters of length, in books of meaning, and people of thought and interest, we all-too-often replaced with immediate gratification. Social media imitates fellowship by displaying the best or worst of others’ lives. Shows replace books. Texts are sent instead of letters. Video games are played instead of art made.
Things have become brief. And while these things can offer a lot of good, they cannot possibly fulfill any long-term happiness or goals for us. In their base nature, they do not promote long-term peace, nor do they fill any void in our soul that needs things of consequence and substance- faith and meaning.
How then must we fill this gap between amusement and long-term goals?
One thing we cannot do is continue not to care.
First, we must be willing to throw off bad habits or attitudes that encourage this apathy that tries to entangle.
Think of the things you hold most dear: the people, the goals, the places. Now take the time to make a list of what you think is holding you back from them. When we know the common enemy of our motivation to learn and to do, we can start small with the practical replacement habits and attitudes to encourage our growth again. We, of course, cannot become reclusive to the modern world altogether (the whole point is the OPPOSITE). It should be the inspiration for your creativity and interest.
Blame my Reformed Baptist roots, but “everything in moderation” is a phrase that I’ve heard all my life. Adopting this philosophy, especially in media and entertainment, could be the best guard against this nasty apathy that sneaks upon us. Go on a media detox for a few days, or be especially cautious about what kinds of media you consume. While doing this, ensure you are incredibly observant in this time of the hobbies and interests you pick up to replace your typical entertainment overload.
Journal about it, if that helps you. Did it take a while to snap out of the urge to fill the noise? Your search for more unique and beneficial ways to use your time might be frustrating at first but will be overwhelmingly fulfilling in the end. You might even have found yourself with a little more pep in your step or a bit more perspective on what you wish to be doing!
Begin asking questions again.
Regard the little things as your mission. If you don’t know a word in your book, underline it and look it up in a dictionary. If you do not understand a concept, do all you can to research until you do while making sure you are using solid resources. Let curiosity be a burning force within you. Another important aspect of this is to remind yourself not to be discouraged if you don’t entirely understand right away. What we have forgotten is that all things of importance do take time.
Make sure the media you do intake is worth it.
Those who believe it is “sheltering yourself” to be conscious of the media you absorb are sadly mistaken. In truth, those who are mindful of how they use media can find themselves much happier than most in their day-to-day lives. The simple reason is this: media can affect everything from your mind to your mood to your worldview. Being selective is simply saying that you, yourself, are worth wisdom over irreverence and peace rather than chaos.
I now try to replace a majority of the fluff/gossip YouTube videos that I used to watch with reliable podcasts filled with history, theology, science, and any other topic of interest I may have. Make sure whatever you are watching is of worth to you. I quickly realized that when I did this, instead of my mind feeling numb by the time I finished videos or music, it left me feeling more passionate and excited to learn. Once you find the things you are passionate about, it will not be as much of a chore to read, write, or find better media.
Of course, this will not happen ALL of the time, nor does it have to be. Just make sure it is the overarching theme of your pursuits.
Comparison Kills Contentment
In the pursuit of an excited and passionate existence, we MUST realize our individuality’s value in our projects. The age-old quote, “comparison kills contentment,” is a phrase that is a comforting quote to me in just about everything I do. It is wise to get constructive criticism of your finished works. Though, there needs to be balanced, and make sure you know that the beauty in someone else’s work does not take away from the unique beauty in yours.
Experiment To Find What Works for You
You’ve heard it a billion times, but IT’S TRUE! I can give you all the tips you’d like, but it all comes down to your trial and error. For me, my perfectionism is the wild enemy that tries to come between me and my goals. For me, improvement is making myself finish the things I’m working on, whether they are up to my high standards or not. Find out that enemy that will try to step between you and the excitements of life. It may be pessimism, anxiety, some perceived weakness within yourself.
I cannot emphasize this enough. Just being aware is the first beautiful step to change! And news flash: I’m writing this because I need to work on these things, as well!
There’s No Room for Perfectionism
Do not be frustrated with the time it takes to learn these principles. Every day is a blank slate that we will be filling with new observations, new insights, new TRIES. You will have days where you feel really great and passionate about your life. You will have other days where you feel like you’re in a slump. Though, the difference is you try to build those habits that encourage growth and not self-sabotage. You have more control than you think in your life by building these small positive habits.
We cannot rely on pure feelings to buoy us or even help us make the right decisions. This is because feelings can be deceitful. Feelings can not want the best for us, at times. This is why we need to learn a good balance of logic and growth in what is good for us. These steps, if used as a starting point, can aid our abandonment of all the apathy that hold us back.
Some Questions for You
- What are some habits that help you stay engaged in the life around you?
- What have you noticed about yourself when you are more productive or interested in your life/work?
- Have you noticed your creativity expand as you become more in tune with good habits?
- Have you tried journaling through your creative/growth progress?
Until next time, readers.
H. B. Anderson
Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Apathy. In Merriam-Webster.com dictionary. Retrieved April 6, 2021, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/apathy