Spontaneity gone mad

This discussion is a spin-off from a Facebook post, because not everyone I interact with is on Facebook (though it seems like almost everyone is) and I wanted to flesh out the point a little.

There is a motivational statement that goes : “Work like you don’t need money, love like you’ve never been hurt, and dance like no one’s watching”. On the face of it, this looks like the sort of advice guaranteed to lift your spirits in an instant, and to urge you to live life with passion and spontaneity. There is nothing wrong with that if you are so depressed that you cannot squeeze even one iota of joy out of your existence. But most of us have a lot of joy mixed in with all the dissatisfaction in our lives, and know that there is a thin line between spontaneity and irresponsibility. Being passionate about your work is good, but you DO need the money, especially if you have a family to support. Loving deeply is good, but sometimes people don’t love you back the same way. What then? Dancing with abandon feels good, but you have to face people the next day who may have witnessed your performance and found it lacking. The point is that all our actions have consequences, and sometimes I find that we are in more danger of forgetting this than we are at risk of depression induced by low spontaneity.

This is especially clear when we move into that realm of micro-drama: the Internet. Everyone is a celebrity for at least the 5 seconds that it takes someone to read your status update. Our conversations are watched by many. I am too mired in Internet research to engage in either utopian rhetoric or moral panic over the Internet, but the fact that discourse in cyberspace is complex has been well established.

Recently I saw this updated version of the above-mentioned motivational quote on Twitter: ‎”Dance like the photo’s not tagged, Love like you’ve never been unfriended, Tweet like nobody’s following!”

On the face of it, it is the same as the original in spirit. Yet on careful observation, you recognise in it a lesson in circumspection. If the photo IS tagged and the wrong person sees it, you’re doomed- especially if you can’t dance for nuts. It’s worse if it’s a video. If you have ever been unfriended, you know how awful that is. This is made worse by your experience of unfriending other people- you know why YOU did it. Experience should teach you something. Disregarding the lessons learned is childish, and ensures that you will perpetuate the self-sabotage. And lastly, my own research has shown me that audience on the internet is a very complex and transitional concept. You NEVER want to assume no one is watching!

But do we really want to live our lives always looking over our shoulder in fear and missing what lies ahead? I think that, as with all things, balance is crucial. We are born looking ahead. We are told to look behind. It is our life experiences that teach us how to set up mirrors around us that help us keep an eye on both. Every person you come across, every event you encounter, sets up a new mirror that provides views both refreshing and reassuring. You see yourself from more and more angles, and as you learn about yourself, you learn about your environment. I have known both pain and joy- sometimes they have chased quickly on each other’s heels in intense bursts within a short period- and have cried and laughed in quick succession. I was born impulsive, and learning to deliberate my thoughts, actions and words is still work in progress. I HAVE worked as if I didn’t need the money, I HAVE loved like I’ve never been hurt, I HAVE danced like no one is watching. But I DO need the money, I HAVE been hurt and people ARE watching me.

And therein lies the lesson for me.

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