I think I was doing the dishes. I might have been sweeping, but I'm pretty sure I was scrubbing a pan when Mumford and Sons came on and I heard the line, "If only I had an enemy bigger than my apathy I could have won."
That is a good line. So good, in fact, that it made me put down my brush and dry my hands, so I could grab my phone and a make a note to explore that line. It evoked something large, something huge; I got the message, but I needed to digest it.
The idea here, that apathy itself is an enemy that dwarfs to many others, is something I know all about. Hell, I'm a writer. I sit and stare at a blank page for an hour before deciding I didn't want to write anything anyway, only to take a walk and come back to sit in front of the same blank page for another hour. I can't tell you how many times I've done the dishes (might have been doing that when this song came on...) just to escape my desk for a few more minutes. I'm scared. Doing things is scary.
No one ever tells you that, but it's true.
Doing just about anything you give half a shit about is scary. When you care about something, when you've set a goal and assigned yourself to some task, you have introduced the possibility of failure into your world and that is immediately scary. There's no failing when you're doing the dishes. There's no shame to be had in watching Netflix (well, maybe a little, but that's not the point). It's so much easier to dive into those shallow tasks, those empty, unfulfilling, comfort-food nothings than to embark on a quest.
You can be eaten by a dragon, and your quest is a very sudden, charred, failure.
I've noticed this theme in a few other places since this has been on my mind (anyone seen Alfred?) and in my musing, I've decided that apathy is one of the greatest threats humanity has ever known. Yes, I decided it. Regardless of anyone having noticed it before I did, I have decided that it is fact. Now.
It's easy to conjure up all the what'if scenarios that bloom from this despondent seed - what if Einstein hadn't cared what 'E' equaled? What if George Washington had never crossed the Delaware? What if Ash had never decided to catch them all? - but this line got me thinking about all the little experiences that can so easily be lost to apathy. Sure, I struggle against apathy in my writing, but the shame of giving up on that dream overshadows even that.
But I've always liked to draw. How often do I pull out a sketchpad? I'll give you hint, it's jsut often enough to have filled eight pages, and I won't tell you how long ago I bought that... I wanted to learn a language. I started learning Japanese. I hit that pretty hard for a few weeks, and then let it fade. How many hobbies, where there's not even any real pressure, do we allow to be swiped away by the paw of that very lazy bear that is apathy?
How many books will go unread because they're out of reach? How many family meals will go uncooked because it's easier to order a pizza? How many vacations will be postponed because it's hard to get the time off work? How many walks will not be taken because it's a little cold out and you'd have to get a jacket but your jacket's in your car and you don't want to go out the front to start your walk and you'd have to walk around the whole building and that's just too much of a hassle?
How many painters will never pick up a brush? How many mothers and fathers will never be because there's too much planning needed to have a child? How many lives will be looked back on with regret, not for the things done that shouldn't have been, but the opportunities passed by?
We can't let apathy be the biggest enemy we face. Fear of missing out on life, shame at giving up on our dreams, the possibility of looking back on your life with disappointment, of seeing a canvas left blank and a page unlettered and a chance at love missed. These should be the bigger enemies.
They are long-term, though; they can wait. They can be placated for a while, can't they? Failure is immediate, isn't it? Maybe that's the real issue. We just want to feel better for a second, and we can forget our shame at having to try and fail if we just lose ourselves in a season of Friends or a case of Coors or your Facebook feed.
We can't let those enemies, fear and shame, become smaller than our uncaring (don't worry, I'm not being preachy - I'm saying this to myself in the bathroom mirror right now).