An issue has been gestating in my mind for quite some time: When did we become a culture where the facade mattered more than the substance?
Now, I almost hear you shout in protest, "That statement is too vague!" To that I urge patience, my dear readers.
An example: Have you ever been to a restaurant and loved the decor, the art and the atmosphere and then, once the plates of food arrive, you realize that the steak is dry, the potatoes are rancid and the waitress looks like a broken-down car. That is a concrete example of the idea I'm trying to understand. We have become a culture where if everything looks good, then it must be good. This whole conundrum actually stemmed from watching Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares. After watching episode after episode of owners with beautiful restaurants who hire chefs who don't know a tomato from a raccoon and drag down what could potentially be a very earnest and valuable business.
This can be true in restaurants, bars, doctors offices or even politicians! Everything is flashy and well-presented, but has no real substance, no real meat. There once, if you can believe it, was a time where ideas were the currency of man. Before the age of the internet, before even the advent of readily available information, there was a time where the intellectual man was considered the pillar of the community. No one worried about what kind of car Kanye West was driving, they were pondering the philosophy of man and the meaning of the universe.
Everyone is so afraid of offending, that we have stopped asking the difficult questions and really understanding the matter at hand. We would rather glaze over the subject, without the barest amount of deep investigation, if it would mean not rocking the boat. We are so afraid of ideas that we have almost abandoned them. I say almost because there will always be those men for whom ideas are the world. Even colleges, once the source of great debate and investigation, are now no more than a factory for future men chasing the almighty dollar over the almighty idea.
Just because something looks good, it doesn't mean it's not rotting underneath. We are so fast to choose the good-looking package over the one with a few nicks in it. Flip through the pages of People Magazine or even Time, which once held a shred of dignity but now has become a marketplace of tainted "pop culture" ideas, and you'll see that we care more about the divorces and drama than we do about the state of The Supreme Court.
My plea to you is take one day in the near future and think, really think, about ideas and matters of substance. Don't go to the restaurant down the street that has perfect white walls and bad clam chowder. Go a few blocks more and go to the dive that serves the best cheeseburger you've ever had. Don't go to the resale shop where everything is sparkly clean and smells of bleach, go down the street to that little hole in the wall that might hold a treasure trove of antique gold. Don't sit there watching a sitcom that feels like it was regurgitated out of a machine, find an old movie that has charm, character and persons of ideals, speaking of issues. Put down the Bruno Mars CD and pick up something you might never listen to (I would suggest you take a listen to this wonderful song from Stephen Sondheim's musical Follies, for example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=deJj3jFAHuY.)
Taking one more step than you'd usually take can open up a treasure-trove that could change your life. Life-changing ideas are what I live for and it's what refills my motor every single day. I will never stop as long as there are new things to discover, things of substance and true character.
You never know, your new passion might be right down the road.
But you need to travel that road to discover it, and what a beautiful journey it will be.