I'm Just Saying…

January 4, 2014

Against Depth

The beginning of a new year always brings a slew of online articles advising how to start off on the right foot. These quick start guides provide handy blueprints for looking inward, reflecting,  and resetting priorities. These articles speak to our own resolutions to find what matters, do what matters, and make a successful quest for a deeper life. Depth can take many forms: getting in touch with your inner feelings, developing “emotional intelligence,” and learning to make more meaningful connections.

Here’s my problem with that.

First of all, depth always means a change of diet. Why? Depth and Devil Dogs can’t co-exist in this world? I’m not a deep person unless I’m eating flax and kale?  How am I supposed to go on a quest for depth if I can’t get out of the bathroom? I’m just saying. Next up is meditation, the practice of mindfulness. In order to be deep I have to learn to be “present,” at peace with my life as it is.  Look, I don’t have a problem with being a tad less Type A, but I don’t think living like “The Big Lebowski” is going to help my artistic endeavors. For the record, I like meditation but every time I attempt it I nod off. Therefore, I don’t equate meditation with depth, I equate it with Sominex. I’m sure I’m doing it wrong. But these aren’t the things that really upset me about the holy grail of depth.

I take exception to the idea that depth, be it social, emotional, or mental, is such a great thing. Further, in the push to acquire a sense of gravitas about life, we have taken a dim view of shallowness. I admit, we did it to ourselves. It’s no secret our culture has changed from celebrity to celebreality. We went overboard on our shallowness, we jumped the shark, nuked the fridge. By our blatant overconsumption we rendered impotent what was so coy and fetching about all things shallow: its spontaneity, its piquant off-the-cuff cuteness. We are no longer taking a brief, naughty peek into someone’s private life. We’re tuning in to a scheduled reality show about a real person living a fake life. From the Kardashians to Honey Boo Boo, Housewives, Sister Wives, family drama, friendship drama, and relationship drama, everything is scripted and planned. You see how this can suck the joy out of the experience.

And then there was Miley. “Twerkgate 2013” was a watershed moment for shallow. Believe it or not, it was not the media frenzy, not even the act itself that highlighted the problem. No, it was Miley’s interview after the “twerk seen ’round the world” in which she pronounced, “Me and Robin the whole time said, ‘You know we’re about to make history right now.'” History. History? That is the shallow of all shallows, n’est ce-pas? Let’s look at this idea of “making history” in context, shall we?

Marie Curie:    First woman to win the Nobel Prize for her research on radiation phenomena – 1903.

Golda Meir:     Elected Israel’s first female Prime Minister – March 17, 1969.

Miley Cyrus:   bumped and grinded her backside up against a man’s genitals at the MTV Video Music Awards – 2013.

I can see it now: someday Doris Kearns Goodwin will write a non-fiction masterpiece covering women who made history. I’m sure the three M’s will be included: Marie, Meir, and Miley. I’m just saying.

I freely admit I am not part of the solution to this issue and I have been subject to more than one crisis of conscience. For years, I was a walking, talking database of celebrity factoids and innuendo, a card carrying gossip whore. Any time someone wanted to know who was getting married, divorced, or cheated on in Tinseltown, I would hear, “Ask Jill, she knows.”

That’s just, like, so, embarrassing.

So I quit. Cold turkey. I got down to the serious business of depth. I read useful books and “literature.” I read Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, a man whose shallowness proved to be the death of him, literally. Still, the questions came. No one believed that I had changed. I was insulted. Incensed! Indignant!! No, I do not know what happened with Miley and Liam. I do not know how much post baby weight Jessica Simpson has lost. The names of Brangelina’s kids? Can’t help you! Sorry! Too busy watching C-SPAN and reading David McCullough’s 1776!

And then… I faltered. I did. I weakened. I began peeking at the online entertainment pages. I read the headlines, perused the pictures. It was then that I had another revelation: shallow, like time, waits for no man. I didn’t recognize the faces. Who were these people? When did they come on the scene? Except for the Old Guard (Depp, Brangelina, Clooney) I was a lost soul. Then I saw a beacon, a botoxed guardian angel… Kim Kardashian. My strength returned, my eyes lit up with hope at the sound of that nasal twang…KimYay!!! I was saved. My friends, at that moment I baptized myself in a sea of vapidity and recommitted to a life of shallowocity. I have to tell you, that night I slept like a baby. My mind was as clear as the sky on a cloudless day.

No, to commit to a life of depth is not as simple as a bowl of Great Grains and a few Oms. My deeper, serious, focused heart wants to follow a path of depth and meaning (without the flax). But my brain, my brain wants to soak up E! News and find out if Tori and Dean are going to make it (fingers crossed!). It’s a real problem. Here’s the question: is it possible we need the shallow?  Is it an integral part of how we unwind, dream, even relax? Perhaps the shallow is necessary so humans can take a few precious moments of downtime where the brain doesn’t have to be engaged. At all.

Perhaps we can have our depth and sneak in the shallow too. As we begin 2014 with a clean slate, can there be compromise? I’m willing to do my part. I pledge to turn on C-SPAN… during commercials… I’m just saying.



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