I don’t know whether it’s that I’m simply getting older or the world is really an angrier place.
When I use that phrase—“the world”—I’m thinking primarily of the online space in which many of us sort of live and kind of move and have at least a portion of our being. Sure, there are links and blog posts and poems and stories to be found where the syncopation of grief and gladness are a truly magnificent thing. But on the whole, the social media score is one of outrage, an out-of-control violence via words.
What is happening to our country, and our universities? It sometimes seems that everything is coming apart. To understand why, I have found it helpful to think about an idea from cosmology called “the fine-tuned universe.” There are around 20 fundamental constants in physics — things like the speed of light, Newton’s gravitational constant, and the charge of an electron. In the weird world of cosmology, these are constants throughout our universe, but it is thought that some of them could be set to different values in other universes. As physicists have begun to understand our universe, they have noticed that many of these physical constants seem to be set just right to allow matter to condense and life to get started.”
And again, it may be that I’m simply getting older, but who in his right mind wants to listen to that? I remember several years ago a phrase that was making the rounds: “compassion fatigue.”
Compassion Fatigue is a state experienced by those helping people or animals in distress; it is an extreme state of tension and preoccupation with the suffering of those being helped to the degree that it can create a secondary traumatic stress for the helper
It was during that time when everybody and his grandma were advocating for a cause, all legitimately good. But the pleas were so numerous and, honestly, at times overwhelming that it wore folks out.
Normally good-hearted, uber-compassionate people sighed and said, “Too much. I need a break.” People backed off, and a number of organizations floundered for a while.
In a not-exactly-but-somewhat-similar way, that’s what I currently feel in my aging bones. I’ve got outrage fatigue. I need a break. Truth be told, I think we all do.