Monday, December 23rd 2013, 0028h.
Facebook, dear babies and gentleflock, is a drug. And as with any drug, it leaves you craving for more. Every time you see a little thumbs-up ‘like’ icon, endorphins are secreted within your dainty little brain because you feel acknowledged and accepted – even perhaps loved. It’s merely a game of popularity that you are playing with yourself; thriving on the attention of others and their “approval” of you. When you are spending too much time consistently tapping into the illusory world of ostensibly loving, popular acceptance and affirmation that is Facebook, you likewise experience a sort of mild depression and peer-related angst when you share something and hardly anyone (or no one) likes it or comments on it.
It’s a ridiculous waste of time and emotions, because the truth is that most people generally don’t care about what you think or what you have to say. They are just scrolling Facebook (probably like you) looking for little easily-digestible chunks of melodramatic, analgesic gossip and fables, like a young child sitting with eyes glued to a television and watching cartoons; the longer the child sits there in that drug-like state of mind constantly needing more entertainment, the more difficult and emotionally painful it will be for the child to be removed from that environment. Essentially, it’s a matter of greed: needing more and more; wanting, wanting, wanting; me, me, mine, me, and mine.
What I’m saying is not that Facebook is evil or a completely selfish and greedy use of your time, but that it is a place/thing where overuse leads to an addictive approbation of self-grandeur, not to mention that probably only one out of a million things that occur on Facebook lacks the label of “a completely unproductive waste of your time.”
As we continually connect to more and more people, we inversely disconnect from our real relationships, and they grow thusly shallow. Aristotle said, “A friend to all is a friend to none.” Now, I doubt he was thinking of Facebook when he said that, but there are various ways you can interpret his maxim. The more time you spend trying to be a friend to everyone, the less time you are actually giving each person; so the term “friend” gradually becomes more of an “acquaintance.” A true and deep friendship takes time (and I’d wager typically physical presence): you create memories and inside jokes and memories of inside jokes and inside jokes of memories; you talk in real-time about anything and everything; you laugh together; you eat together; you listen to music together; you go places and have new experiences together; you overcome challenges and grow together. In all, you (hopefully) learn to love life more from the unique experiences you share.
Seeing as I just started this blog, this is a throwback to my status update on the Facebooks from a few days ago.
Currently in Bhaktapur, a culturally rich and ancient city about 15km to the East and slightly South of Jyatha, Thamel, Kathmandu, where I stayed prior to journeying here. This morning as I was eating breakfast on the third floor of the little guest house I'm staying at, I stood up with my cup of masala tea and walked to the edge of the brick wall serving as a rail. I looked out into the streets and observed the people walking up and down the brick road: a man possibly on his way to work; a woman dressed in a business suit with a briefcase; various people stopping to purchase fresh produce at the quaint market stalls; and tourists, with their stereotypically mundane outfits and seemingly oversized cameras strung around their necks like every other tourist, who invoke a certain level of pity within me for their loss of learning from the lack of engagement with their surroundings - instead (as I have noticed with the vast majority of them), they seem to be isolated in their own world and moving around in a sort of impenetrable sphere of their own cultural reality, merely passing through briefly like a will-o'-the-wisp only to return home unchanged and unaffected by the stark contrasts of another people's reality in comparison to their own.
I then turned my gaze to the beautifully sunlit rooftops with their little gardens of colorful flowers and noticed a young girl of maybe 15 sitting there on the crest, drinking masala tea in the morning warmth. On the next roof over, a middle-aged woman came and rested her forearms on the rail, hands clasped, as she leaned over and - likewise to myself - observed the people passing by. A distant and pondering gaze that I'm all too familiar with. The young girl stands up and walks near the edge, playing with the flowers absent-mindedly for a short time before walking back across the metal sheets of roofing and down a hole into her home. Just another morning.
I can't help but thinking of how strange it all is. I'm in this new and uniquely magnificent little city, and everything seems to have some mysterious aura around it as if it came right out of a story. Brilliantly vivid and completely different from anything I've seen, and yet here's this girl, estranged from all the beauty I'm witnessing. For her, I'm merely an extra on set; just a person at the restaurant across the street; a two-dimensional character with no depth or meaning; just another face. She has her life, her past, both nostalgic and painful memories and her friends, and I have mine, but they exist disregarding each other. And although I observe this, it's not unlike my own estrangement from the uniqueness of where I live. In fact, it's very much like the disconnect I experience when I'm home.
Which brings me to one of my observations of why traveling is so wonderful: it shakes up the settled dust of monotony. Day after day we do the same things, go to the same places, eat the same food, waste our time in the same ways, and thus we lack any sort of new neural stimulation; life just becomes a constant repeat, a gradual blur, a state of déjà vu. We crave for something to change, but we fear the very thing we crave. Our world becomes small and our feelings numb, and apathy ensues quickly. As I have noticed, in repetition lies monotony; monotony, boredom; boredom, laziness; and laziness, apathy. And that is the worst state of feeling (or lack thereof) to be in. Simply living in a comfort zone is not living at all; it's just dying without excitement.
Wednesday, November 20th 2013, 1610h.
I’m sitting in the restaurant of a small guest house here on Freak Street in Kathmandu. The room is dark and has little green and red lights scattered all over everyone and everything. Only a few moments ago, it was completely filled with local people, mainly guys, who all seem in their early 20s. Currently it remains half-filled. Hookahs and smoke everywhere, and I sit attemptedly cross-legged at this small black table only 12 inches or so off the ground. Stan, my French friend who I met and have been traveling with for 3+ weeks, sits opposite me sketching and drawing in his Moleskine. Our hookah is ‘Watermelon with Mint’ flavored. The weather is slightly cold, so I’m wearing a long-sleeve shirt, something I’m not a frequenter of. My feet are still cold, however, and going numb at this point from my sitting position (I never have been too good at this whole criss-cross-apple-sauce thing).
The two of us are staying at this guest house with my sister Isabel and an Israeli girl named Netta, who we met about a week ago in Bhaktapur shortly before heading to Chitwan for a few days. Isabel flies out of Kathmandu to New Dehli and then to Chicago tomorrow evening. Stan, Netta, and I plan on taking a bus to Darjeeling tomorrow night, after which we will head to Kolkata.
Originally, I was going to stay in Nepal a few weeks more before heading to the far south of India, but plans change. Nothing on this journey has been or is set in stone, and it’s a wonderful thrill to be constantly and sporadically changing my plans. I’ve never been the kind of person to detail every moment of my life into the future, because I feel there are too many variables to everything. I may make goals to achieve, but I take things one day at a time. Not to mention my love for flexibility in my scheduling; the ability to pick up and be off on another adventure at any given moment. There’s an inexplicable level of joy and excitement to shift gears immediately and be cast into the mystery of something new and unknown.
Yesterday held the elections here in Nepal. Almost every shop was closed, and there were no taxis driving around, so there was a desertedness and calm to everything in a way I haven’t yet experienced on my travels. We’ve experienced the results of slight political and civil unrest, strikes and protests the last couple weeks. Our bus to Chitwan from Kathmandu last week was stopped for over an hour due to a bomb discovered on the road that military personnel had to disable. A local explained to us that many bombs have been planted all throughout Nepal because of this whole election thing, but he said most of them are fakes designed just to scare people. There are, however, some small ones that have gone off, but no one has been seriously harmed as far as I’m informed.