I have several friends writing online who consistently shock me with their content, wording, or the novelty of their ideas. Being shocked by the boldness of others is an attribute we usually assign to the older generation or to people who have no sense of modernity or humor. It’s possible I fall into this camp. I have always found myself right at home with people 50 years my senior, with my sense of comfort diminishing as the age of the person approaches my own. Perhaps I am really an “old soul”.

The concept of novelty or shock-value seems central to human behavior. Most of us are wired to be interested in anything new, and dismissive of yesterday’s already stale fare. News, weather, celebrity gossip, movies. Without this stuff we would be stuck doing The Same Old Thing every day. My concept of hell goes something like this: I wake up and go to the same old job at the same old place with the same old people doing the same old thing. Like the vision from “Joe versus the Volcano” but on an eternal, ever-liver-tearing Prometheus scale.

Most of our human history is an attempt to escape the ideals of the parent generation for what is (obviously) better and more correct. What this amounts to is a cycle wherein the old is rejected and the new ushered in, except that the new was new two generations ago and is just refashioned and reformed. Classical:romantic, nationalism:individualism. What our parents has done is never interesting. Only our grandparents were holy. The “Greatest Generation” after all!

After a few generations of grandparents we lose track of which generation was in our vibe and which opposing; all people in the United States born before 1800 were God-fearing constitutionalists and vowed enemies of King George, or whoever that bad guy was. History is written by the whiners, the rest try to actually live their own lives. Without the shadow of long-dead white guys interloping.

It’s a well known fact that the world has never been more evil. At least not in the last 10 years, which is as far back as most of us can remember clearly. This is, after all, the Great Recession, deeper and steeper than any seen since… 2001. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised to see former millionaires, lined up at the soup kitchens and burning now-worthless stocks and bonds for winter fuel. Just like the Great Depression, only worse because now everyone’s depressed as well. It’s all the chemicals in our diet.

Did you ever have a dream of doing something really great, like seeing the world, or buying that car, or going to that college? And then you did, and then you did bigger stuff, and pretty soon you found that what used to be Unattainable was now The Same Old Thing? Congratulations. You destroyed novelty and replaced it with ennui. You pity those that never tried, but was attaining the dream worth losing it forever?

When we are shocked we open our mouths, then oddly we put our hand over our mouth. I think we might be afraid of letting something out of our heads. I think this thing is Shock. If we lose Shock, we lose everything. Someone who is incapable of being Shocked is incapable of feeling novelty and excitement. They are in hell. They are the living dead.

So I’ll go on being shocked by the bad grammar, expletives, and chaotic thoughts of online blogger friends. Maybe I’m just trying to hold my soul in for a little longer, before it disappears into the nothingness that is adulthood.

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