Serial Killers

Serial Killers

My eyes are bloodshot and puffy, my skin is a paler shade of white than I’m used to and I’m sure I’m wearing yesterday’s clothes?! This is what happens during a House of Cards (season 4) binge. I’m ashamed, I am an addict, I can’t turn my attention away from the Machiavelian machinations of the power hungry Underwoods.
The psychology behind the narcissistic- sociopathic characters is masterful, the writing slick and the acting more than accomplished. But, I can’t help feeling even as I stuff as much of it into my exhausted mind after a full day’s work as I can, that I am ingesting something fundamentally unhealthy, that I shouldn’t look at it too closely in case I lose my appetite. This form of low level information processing is like eating processed food that tries to distract you from the dastardly fine print of its label filled with carcinogenic preservatives.

In 1843, Marx wrote that “religion is the opiate of the masses”, 173 years later I dare to state that religion has been replaced by Series! Want to write a few pages of that book you promised yourself you would write by 45? Nah, why don’t you just lie back and watch another installment of that great show you’ve chosen as your new best friend for the next week. Need to talk about a thorny issue with your partner? Rewrite your CV, complete your overdue taxes? Perish the thought! The Devil no longer carries a pitchfork, or wears Prada, her name is Claire Underwood and she has a really complicated relationship with her mother.

Watching my mind wriggle out of the responsibilities it has in order to get its ‘fix’ has become farcical. I suppose I could consider a 90 day series fast, you know…to teach my mind a lesson after its gratuitous gorging at the trough, but I’ve just got three more episodes to watch and then I’ll pull myself together (?)

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Is there anybody out there?
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Is there anybody out there?

I read a fascinating article the other day about a psychologist called Douglas Vakoch who is the Director of Interstellar Message Composition at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). What a fascinating and rather odd job title.
Douglas has the difficult task of responding if beings from another planet sent a message to us through deep space…Think about that for a moment, how would one man respond to an interstellar collect call for seven billion humans?

Most often messages to extraterrestrial audiences have focused on human strengths. Take the Voyager spacecraft’s interstellar message – in over 100 pictures of life on Earth, with an emphasis on human presence, there were no depictions of war, poverty or disease.
Why not? Who determined what humanities ‘best side’ was? But perhaps it is precisely an emphasis on our vulnerabilities that may be of the most interest to extraterrestrials. No matter how narcissistic Humans are, we most certainly will not be the most intelligent beings in the galaxy, if we make contact. Humans have only had the capacity to communicate with radio for less than a century – a blip in the 13-billion-year history of our galaxy.

Perhaps it is not the beauty of our symphonies that will set us apart from extraterrestrials, nor our moral perfection – living true to our ideals of altruism.
If we wish to convey what it is about us that is distinctive, it may be our weakness…our fears…our unknowing – and yet a willingness to forge ahead to attempt contact in spite of this that truly reflects our unique contribution to a much greater whole.

The article got me thinking about the space that exists between people here on Earth. How every individual could be seen as Earth, separated from others by what can sometimes feel like infinite space. Struggling to communicate, or understand, believing that we are always essentially alone and unknown.
I see so many lonely people in therapy, good, caring, aware souls who truly believe there is no one out there that will understand or accept them for who they really are.
As Humans, we appear to be so invested in categorizing each ‘other’ in order to make sense of our personal worlds (think race, class, gender etc), that we think we’ve got the ‘other’ all figured out. We roll out our ‘best selves’ with a marching band (much like the images of Humanity carried by Voyager), showing our ‘shiny parts’ not only to others but also to ourselves in an effort to defend against our whole, beautiful, damaged selves being truly witnessed. Disconnected from other living beings through our resistance to sharing our vulnerabilities with one another we drift alone and unknown in a sea of possible connection.

Perhaps we will be the intelligent species that has the most exquisite balance of joy and sorrow of any civilisation in the Milky Way. And it is the fundamental facts of human existence such as these that might best be explained not only to other civilisations, but with great courage to each other in an effort to be truly seen and to finally realize that we are not alone.

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