- All things solemn and serious are sidelined and buried
How long does it take for a book to delight us? Well, way more than it takes for an Instagram post to sedate us, more than a TikTok video to placate us, and more than a facebook post to keep us engaged.
Welcome to the age of instantaneous gratification where we just can’t wait to be satiated as soon as possible, with as little effort on our part. Anything that is sensational, everything that is dismal and all things horrid have every iota of our attention. If it is rotten bad, shamelessly sensational and sheds light on some scam or scandal, we have all the appetite for it. On the contrary, if it demands time, understanding, hard work and attention; we shun it pronto.
We, the self-proclaimed epitome of creation hoot when we see someone being made fun of his missing leg, we howl when we hear the fictitious tale of elopement being attributed to someone’s sister, we savour the nasty innuendos, covertly-sexual insinuations and allusions that disparage other human beings. We revel every time someone falls; every calamity that has befallen someone else is an opportunity to giggle at, as it didn’t choose us to be its victim. Our glee, it seems, lies in all things abusive, shallow and horrid. Television made us all into passive voyeurs. Our cell phones have turned us into abrasive, active Peeping Toms.
Our capacity to laugh with the one who said or did something amusing and witty has diminished. The likes of Shakespeare, Shaw, Mushtaq Ahmad Yusufi or Ibn-e-Insha would fail (and have indeed failed) to attract many of us as they demand their reader to actively ponder what is being said rather than bombarding the criminally passive hoi polloi with all the trash talk and sheer nonsense. What makes us tick, tells us a lot about ourselves. It defines our dreams; it prefigures our dilemmas. What makes us laugh, tells us what we find funny. What jolts us to tears, tells us our capacity for empathy.
The likes of Shakespeare, Shaw, Mushtaq Ahmad Yusufi or Ibn-e-Insha would fail (and have indeed failed) to attract many of us as they demand their reader to actively ponder what is being said rather than bombarding the criminally passive hoi polloi with all the trash talk and sheer nonsense
In our day, we loathe tragedy as it aims to make its viewer ruminate all things transient and ephemeral. The death of a hero tells us that life, no matter what happens or who perishes, marches on. Comedy gives us a breathing space so that we don’t keep on wallowing in the bottomless pit of sorrow and rue. Well, we’ve lost that sense of proportion. We want every programme to tickle us sadistically so that laughter trickles out every time we sit in front of our beloved idiot-box whose sole mission is to dumb us down to the level where we parrot the jugats we hear to fix a friend who is wearing a new tight pair of jeans or recently tied the knot. Instant Gratification; we live for it, like a junkie loves for cocaine and heroin.
I went down the memory lane couple of weeks back, when I clicked on an old clip of Zia-Mohiuddin Show on YouTube. His guests were two nurses and Mushtaq Ahmed Yusufi, the ace humourist of Urdu literature. During the whole show, Mr Yusufi kept on punching his one-liners, making witty observations, asking shrewd questions but not once did he degrade, humiliate or blurt out a sarcastic comment. Majority of us don’t find his brand of humour ‘satisfying’ as it does not offer cheap laughs and shallow amusement.
Television and our cell phones have become pacifiers for those who find life nothing but a bundle of never-ending boredom. The monotony of existence, we religiously believe, can be best endured when one is either laughing their lungs out, shopping their wits out or dining their pockets out. Two hurrahs for our world that wants us to spend what we’ve earned and parade it in front of folks who lagged behind and feel all haughty and super ‘classy’ about ourselves.
Maria Popova, author of newsletter Brain Pickings, beautifully encapsulated the way out from the reality of living in the world that lives by the maxim of instantaneous gratification. ‘Chance and choice converge to make us who we are, and although we may mistake chance for choice, our choices are the cobblestones, hard and uneven, that pave our destiny. They are ultimately all we can answer and point to in the architecture of our character’. The only way out from the allure and attraction of instantaneous gratification is to cultivate indifference from things, sensations and achievements that have neither depth nor wisdom. All that aims to grab our attention, whatever its price and even if it is for the briefest moment must be shunned.
Till better, more sagacious angels of our nature triumph and rescue us from a world so dystopian that even the likes of George Orwell and Aldous Huxley would be thunderstruck and gawk around for saviours, let us just live and die in the service of His Lordship Instant Gratification. Or as Vladimir and Estragon concluded in Waiting for Godot, ‘Nothing to be Done’.