No, this isn’t one of those indictments on the state of the “social media sphere” for the past year, but rather a reflection on weight.
“Lay your burden down,” the old blues refrain goes, and somehow for many of us that’s the same refrain for this year. For me, 2011 was not a year to wallow in despair or bask in glory, hype the highs or lament the lows, curate them every now and then… those are things that bear too much weight for things that are really important. Things, people, events, and memories that are worth their weight. Things, people, events, and memories that are worth bearing.
Milan Kundera, in The Unbearable Lightness of Being, wrote a little nugget of wisdom that I’ve somehow carried throughout the years: “Necessity, weight, and value are three concepts inextricably bound: only necessity is heavy, and only what is heavy has value.” This year, I stopped believing that completely. There are a lot of things that have, in time, become valuable to me. There are things that have no worth in others’ eyes that have become valuable to me. And the world works because of that: we weigh things not according to the concrete but the abstract, and nonetheless real.
When we lay our burden down, that’s when we know what things in that burden weigh the most.
It’s the end of the year, and this is usually a time to catalog things, to frame our achievements, to reflect on our failures and whatnot, hoping for more blessings in the year to come. This year has been one for trending topics and controversies and viral incidents, promising to ignite the fires of revolution and stopping the motor of the world. Yet here we are: in a world buffeted from all directions by the winds of change, it’s that comfortable cradle of the mundane and the predictable that shields us, lends us a bit of perspective.
Maybe we like to think that the world and all its affects – society, economy, communication, politics, and so on – travel faster than ever before. Some of us feel the need to keep up and keep the pace because we don’t want to get left behind. In our urge to fly with the times we shed a lot of weight in the process: sometimes, the weight that keeps us grounded and perhaps even sane. Things like common sense, taste, fun… and yes, love. And in shedding all that weight our perspectives become as twisted as the world around us: the urge to be number one, the urge to be influential, urges that twist us to be just like all that information around us. Fleeting, temporary, flighty, always connected but never grounded. Or of being so up there already, but indeed, not carrying weight.
So I guess it’s time to weigh: lose the things that don’t have valuable weight and hang on to the things that keep us grounded. Carry a burden every now and then, not for the sake of self-mortification but to have enough to keep ourselves weighed down in spite of the tides of change. Or that the weight of the world is too much for one’s shoulders to carry, and that it should be shared. Laying your burden down doesn’t mean surrender, but reflecting on all that weight. What should be lost, and what should be gained?
And that sometimes, it helps to just stop… and take a load off. So to speak.
Happy New Year, everyone.
* – Yes, that’s The Band song covered by Jack White, The Edge, and Jimmy Page in “It Might Get Loud”