My belief appeared in its present form very recently – it had had several iterations before, but it solidified when I went to see the biggest movie of 2008.
It was late summer, and I went to see the mega-blockbuster, “The Dark Knight”. Apparently, everyone loved it. I didn’t. As we left the theater, my thought was, “Well, that was somber.” The tone of the movie, the messages it projected, the ideas it espoused, the same things that three hundred and twenty million dollars worth of moviegoers before me had liked, combined to make an unsettling movie that I disagreed with.
Yet every week, I could watch its profits rise as I read Entertainment Weekly, ultimately topping out around $521 million. Who were all these people still going to see the movie, probably for the third or fourth time? Then, I realized. Collectively, they were, and are, the zeitgeist. It was then that I decided – the way that I can best define my belief is thus:
I believe in defying the zeitgeist.
Zeitgeist is a German word meaning ‘the spirit of the times’, but this translation is too innocuous to convey the full atrocity of the zeitgeist. It is all that is bad about the culture of today, condensed, distilled, and amplified. Like the Borg of Star Trek, it rushes far and wide, shoving people who fall victim to it into its hideous mold. I have seen several people shoved through the zeitgeist, their personality spit out, mangled, on the other side. This beast must be defied.
However, before something can be defied, it must be defined. I needed to meet the zeitgeist, to know what I was up against. This confrontation happened in a harmless blue classroom, plastered with posters and filled with my classmates. It took but one question from the language arts teacher to summon the beast. The question was, “Are there any values or ideas that everyone should care about?”
The responses that this question elicited, and the ensuing discussion, hung in the air, giving the zeitgeist form and face. The warp and woof of its being, woven from threads of indifference, became encased in an impervious hide of illogic. Its mind was vapidity, its eyes cold slits of prejudiced blindness. The breath that streamed from its nostrils was their words;
“This is stupid and boring”
“No-one in the class cares about this”
“If it’s not entertaining, it’s not engaging”
This was the zeitgeist in its purest form – who better to define the spirit of the times than ‘trendy teens’?
As we stared at each other, the zeitgeist and I, my resolve became stronger – I would uphold my belief and defy the beast. And I did, not succumbing to it. I still see the beast sometimes, lurking in newspapers or slithering across students’ tongues in Spanish Class. In fact, the zeitgeist is everywhere, and will remain so. By defying it, I intend not to destroy it, but to change its nature for the better.
This I believe.