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Friday, October 31, 2014

The Wieght of Various Cynicisms

So as I said in my little blurb about myself, I'm currently a college freshmen. Though I only just started at my current college this past fall, I'm actually in my second semester. The bizarre world of post-secondary education is no longer a shiny new distraction for me, but I haven't been around long enough by a long shot to "know it all" about the college scene; not by a long shot.

 One thing that I learned last semester, and am learning again all over, is the importance of picking my companions wisely. As someone very Pauline in devotion, I ought to have known better. I ought to know better now, but I don't. How often have I read his epistles, especially 1 Cor 15?  

Paul the Apostle
32 If at Ephesus I fought with beasts, so to speak, what benefit was it to me? If the dead are not raised: “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” 33 Do not be led astray: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”
-  1 Cor 15:2-33

Thinking back to my old school, rather rurally situated and of a generally friendly environment, the obvious thing that innocent little me had to worry about in this respect was pot-smokers, and those few guys here and there who were perpetually hung over. Beyond that, I didn't really think twice. If someone was willing to acknowledge my existence, it was good enough for me! I befriended seemingly normal human beings who didn't have those particular outward vices, if maybe they were a little cynical.

One group of friends in particular (only a little at first, then more as they grew comfortable around me) seemed to conversationally oscillate between the ordinary and the vulgar as if the two were equally valuable parts of life; First as a joke as food for thought, then as a proudly flaunted lifestyle. I learned very fast that their cynicism and vulgarities, though expressed in with all the laughter and smiles associated with the typically wholesome, weighed on me heavily. It didn't help that my more that my delight in the childish, my silly humor and fondness for the ordinary made more of a novelty than a someone they would or could take seriously.

I don't know if it corroded my morals, only time will tell, but it did work heavily on my peace of mind. Frequently, I would find myself walking away afterwards with feeling fogged; how long can you sit silently and smile, craving some human conversation amid the dirty jokes and tragic humor? Friends who went in for shock value. When the jokes tired them, they seemed to think it funny to make me uncomfortable, and moved from raunchy humor to overtly hinting at or even thoroughly describing their own 'adventures.' Somehow, I always felt like a failure whenever I'd have to leave, or step in force the conversation onward.

Its not failure, but in my teenage brain it seemed like it. Eventually, I did realize they weren't good for me, and I did walk away. Seeing them later on, I saw changes those friends. And no, I don't think of myself as having been the cause. A terrible act of violence had happened locally in the meantime, and the whole community was in shock. Though changing them was never been on my mind, it appeared that in the face of "cruel reality" becoming an ACTUAL reality, they were tired of vulgarity. I don't know that it lasted, but there was a moment. Even in the midst of universal heartsickness at the event, hope was welcomed, re-connections were made, and the safety of friends was celebrated. Shock didn't have center stage, life did.
Shock didn't have center stage, life did.

Its not that I'm an ignorant innocent; I'm not. They delighted in shock, for themselves and in others, and pushed my boundaries for amusement. Sometimes, I'd enjoy it, and I almost always at least tried to. Eventually, we become anesthetized to even the seemingly ridiculously terrible, seeing the merely terrible as an impersonal source of amusement. When I look at our culture in America today, I thank God that there somehow, through our dulled sensitivities, some people can still mourn.

Here, its a little different; the friend situation, I mean. Instead of outrageousness for the sake of outrageousness, Their tragedy is pleasure, and they radiate an "eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die" style of cynicism that at first glance always looks happy. This time, I didn't feel, its not a few pals or a whole group I'm feeling the need to avoid, just several people. But when new, but already fond friends walk in that larger crowd they happen to share with those less desirable influences, it became hard to balance hanging with friends and not letting that same fog come over me while around their group. And it has; their hedonism doesn't make me happy.

Its hard to fool myself even far enough into believing they are happy; no one peruses something so ardently if they already have it. Their impulsiveness looks, for all it's worth, like my own, but where some find they can't help falling in love with, and rushing to meet, each new part of life, they seem to dart around more often because they grow progressively more bored with what's already there. But then they laugh as they throw the old amusements away, and smile when they find a novel one.  It becomes hard to remember the difference.

Like most, I gravitate towards charismatic people, and anyone with that ability to laugh in while dealing with piles of schoolwork will definitely have some magnetism. but am beginning to recognize the pattern,  and how even knowing their influence on me, I still probably don't always chose to walk away when its best. Recently, one of those 'friends' went on and on about how eager she was to try smoking pot one day, I thought she was sarcastic until the others chimed in, flaunting their own experiences with it. Then they turned around and began encouraging me. That's when alarm bells finally went off. And this was one of the girls I had thought essentially alright!

I'd come full circle. Even when I was "naive," (a whole semester ago... [I say with self-effacing sarcasm]) I knew better than to hang with people who would 'lead me astray.' I guess I had vague ideas of what that meant, but drugs--  oh ho ho! One of the big things! But did I get up and leave when they did? Nah. I sat around defending my non-drug use, made poor jokes about caffeine being a drug, and tried to move it onto a safer topic where I could somehow, conceivably, showcase my equal coolness. Definitely not a good influence on me, and I felt heavier than ever later on.

...friends to be the Pusheen to my tiny 'Tato...

I'm not going back to hang with them. I wish I could give them a moment of wholesomeness, like I never managed to give my old schoolmates. I have no clue how I can, when even back then, when caved less and smiled more, I didn't make a dent. It is the farthest thing from my heart to wish for a similar calamity, but I'm afraid if it did, they'd take it as a sign to "party harder."

But for myself, I'm not going to wait until I'm spiritually deadpan and worn away by their epicurean philosophy to protect my spiritual and mental health (and safeguard against my need-to-please personality).Its time to disconnect now. I don't mind saying "hi" to my friends among them if I see them, especially if they are going out of their way, but its time I find something worthwhile to do with my time. Finding friends who have a dearer, more resonating silliness might be a place to start.

I'm praying, to St. Anthony (and good old Paul, too) that I find such friends. As for the rest of this crowd, I'm can't help but have my doubts about them, wondering if they are like the other girl, the one-day pot-smoker, underneath their decent exteriors. I know that the longer we hang together, the more difficult it will be to find new crowds as others start to feel the same about me. But who knows? Maybe they are tired, too. Perhaps some of them will defect with me.

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