January is often portrayed as the time for new beginnings. Resolutions, statements of intent, a hope that this year will top last year. 2016 was indeed a tough year for many of us liberal minded, music loving folks to have to swallow. In fact much of the year generated more of a gagging sensation than a swallow. There is much indeed to come to terms with on the whole fundamentals of living in this modern world following 2016.
But let’s not worry about the big important issues and lets focus on memes, gifs of cute cats, pictures of roaring fires and feet enclosed in thick patterned socks. Lets all grab a cup of virtual hot chocolate (courtesy of Pinterest), generate a funny face swap with your loved one(Snapchat) and listen to humorous renditions of popular songs (YouTube).
Superficiality has always been around. It wasn’t invented by Mark Zuckerplant or created in an air conditioned office in Silicone Valley (does it still exist or has it been replaced by Graphene Valley?). Wars, financial hardships, political unrest has often encouraged some to reach for the comfortable, the happy, the benign. When times are tough, humans often turn to the superficial and the nostalgic. It is easier to watch a much loved movie, listen to an old favourite album on vinyl (it’s so much better because they listened to it in the 1960’s you know), read a book you know the ending to. It’s less worrying to share silly sketches from a much admired comedy show, a profound yet somehow empty quote about life/love/friends/dogs.
I am the first to hold his hand up as a sharer of such things. I find it easier for another person to create the sentiment I want than think it up myself. Chances are, some other bugger will have got there before me. I am an incurable and proud romantic. I declare my love to those who I love. I smile at pics of couples kissing or holding hands. I laugh at clips on YouTube of stupid, silly, pointless acts of humanity. I am as shallow as they come.
The 1960’s and 70’s were carefree times when the world was a more innocent and joyous place. There were no lunatic dictators killing innocent people, erm apart from Idi Amin, Pol Pot, General Pinochet, Saddam Hussein, Gaddafi. We never had strikes or political unrest in the UK, I mean obviously! Everyone was happy with their lot in life because aspiration was invented by Margaret Thatcher and she really hit her stride only in the 1980’s (everyone knows that’s the case). Famine was biblical and didn’t bother anyone in the west because it wasn’t our problem then. It was OK to be sexist, racist and homophobic on TV because nobody stopped us.
There has to be a place however for the superficial. There is a need for the little things that sweeten the everyday existence. What some see as superficial is in fact deeply fulfilling. Some see art or poetry as just a waste of paper or wall space. Art in all forms not only portrays life through the eyes of the curious, it reflects the troubles,frustrations, passions of society. Good poetry and literature puts the voice and conscience of a society into printed words available for everyone to read, criticise, admire and refute. These are not superficial because life is made richer by art, writing, music. A good song can often speak for a person. The late great David Bowie spoke for millions of disaffected, uncomfortable misfits as well as touched an equal number of not so. His lyrics and persona made the world sit up and notice difference. He was said to not believe he was ever an originator but rather one who collected other styles and reinvented them. To some, his Ziggy Stardust, Berlin era or even Scary Monsters phases may have seemed just a bit weird and silly. He did however shine a light on the possibility of change and difference. It was as profound as the lyrics of Bob Dylan, the rise of the hippy movement in the late 60’s and the influence of pop art. There will never be another artist so influential to modern popular culture as him again. A big claim I know but I do feel I’m on solid ground with that!
Superficial must never be confused with such things. The superficial is small, brief, incidental. It sprinkles lightness into heavy days. It creates shafts of light in a grey leaden sky. If our lives were filled with only the serious, the meaningful and the profound, we would be in big trouble. An appreciation of the natural world and sharing that with others is a beautiful thing. We live in a remarkable world that deserves sharing. It is less invasive or harmful to take a photo whist out on a walk than to destroy or consume having never seen nature up close. I take hundreds of photos, largely of landscapes or the natural world. I am in awe of it and want you to be too. It may leave only a passing effect on you but it enriches my world.
So smile at a cute dog picture, a couple hugging whilst on a woodland walk, a predictable yet comforting quote written in mock handwriting. These are the fairy dust we all need to bring a little magic into our worlds. Now I’m off to make a nourishing and warming winter soup (then Instagram the finished product) and set the fire for an evening of cosy TV watching. Ta ta.