I realise on Valentine's Day I should really be writing about true love and smoochiness, but guess what?
In the words of every single three and a half year old ever, I don't wanna.
This is mainly because I have written a fractured fairytale which covers it quite neatly, and which I want you to read in addition to this post, but also because I truly don't like Valentine's Day so unless I make it part of Pulp Fiction I'll trash it entirely, ruining it for people who enjoy it, and making an enemy of the big St V, which is just bad juju.
(Read the story. You'll understand. Note the blatant cross-promotion - good, huh?)
So; no 'let's do it, let's fall in love' with the educated fleas on this one. I wanted to try and get out of my head a little about how to deal when we find the digital wheel of toxic destiny has rolled our way, and good old karma, the keystone cop of the cosmos, gives us a slap when it is perhaps - for a change - unwarranted.
We live such open lives. 24/7, we just don't switch off. In fact, it's hard to hide even if we want to. What with the constant surges of email, texts, messaging, FaceTime, Skype, QuickChat, it's gotten to the point where, unless you are on a flight (and that won't be the case much longer), it's pretty difficult to close off from the world, let alone our own busy little brains.
In what can be viewed as both a positive and a negative of the Age of White Noise, social media has given us the opportunity to invent new selves - sometimes, it seems, a hundred of them, to be used for different people, situations, even moods. It has given us the chance to smile when we are crying on the inside, if we aren't feeling very brave, or if we feel like we need to put on one of those hundred different selves. It has allowed us to share our despair, our wonderful happiness, our big thinking, and our dreams.
But what it has also done is laid us bare to criticism and a lack of care, both in our own actions and those of others. We cannot hide from hurtful situations. We cannot hide from what we say and do, and sometimes - achingly, angrily, and agonisingly - we cannot hide from what others say and do to and about us.
John Lennon was a wise man by the time he died, and he knew what was what when he said the words 'instant karma's gonna get you'. The Buddha had his own time of mortification - imagine what it would have been like if it had been fed back to him on Instagram, and Facebook, and Twitter? I wonder how Siddartha Guatama would have coped with being seen as a weirdo who went on hunger strikes, and couldn't help reading about himself on all the news sites. Because that's what we do. We stalk our own online misery. With the interwebs at our fingertips, ingrained in every brainwave and heartbeat, we cannot help but watch when the shit goes down on our own lives. We try to puzzle out why this person is now connected to this person, and no longer connected, coincidentally, to us, when we know - because we have yammered on about it for hours - that five minutes ago there was no relationship there for the simplest of reasons; because neither side actually liked each other.
Which leads us to an even bigger pile of self-actualising alarm.
The thing they now have in common?
Is the thing you always wanted them to have in common...
But it's been turned on its head, because you aren't a part of this particular IKEA flat pack of internet power-plays. All the components are included. They don't need a spare Kate-shaped alum key 'just in case'.
So how on earth do we cope with going from being a vital component in whatever new online object is being built, to accepting we have to take the cosmic sting, irrespective of whether it's been earned or not? Sometimes we don't quite understand exactly what we are looking at when it comes to this new creation, and suspect we may have accidentally constructed it ourselves - but didn't realise, because the instructions were in a language we didn't, and still don't, understand.
This may sound cryptic. It isn't meant to. It's pretty simple, and it's pretty real.
If we choose to live our lives facing outwards to that ribbon of light and hunger that constitutes the online community, we have to take everything it brings - the good, the bad, the celebratory, the conciliatory, and the downright ugly - even when it hurts like hell, and we don't see the virtual king hit coming. What we need to attempt NOT to do is make ourselves doubly vulnerable for the broken bottle slamming onto our psyches by constantly inspecting that new friend-shaped furniture which doesn't have space in it for us.
And when the karma hits the fan?
We grimly clean up the mess, try hard not to say 'but I am pretty sure I didn't make it in the first place' - and just keep going.
After all, even Buddha took a while to find the Middle Way. So us ordinary little non-divine humans?
We just have to keep karma.
And carry on.
Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.
Siddhārtha Gautama Buddha