To get what I want from the woods, I have to lose my skin. All the habits, the defenses, the infrastructure; I have to lose that whole armor of self-protection that I believe I need to live.
It is not our fault that we defend ourselves from the world. It hurts. This has always been true. And in defending ourselves from the potential hurt we defend ourselves from the potential joys. This is universal.
But this morning I am thinking of how it is true in the particular, true of my time and my place. Our life in pixels requires that we develop some armor. Where else have you seen people saying such obnoxious things? Here we are constantly tossing off unprepared address, performing our dress rehearsals, making criticisms of all kinds: the legitimate and searching as well as the wantonly destructive, and in 140 characters, what is the difference? Some of the most harmful misunderstandings in my life to date have emerged from a careless email. I know that the cruelest thing I have ever said was via text.
In this digital age, the skin grows thick. In art, too, and entertainment, I have heard the voices getting louder. I have seen the increase in expectation for shock and shift and bounce: the sheer emotional volume we require in order to feel. We want our thrill as deep and wild as possible. We want a monologue written before a suicide. (A real one, please.) We want sudden, and bursts. Death, wearing lipstick. Something to break through all the numbness, and the noise.
The cost, as well as the cause: a thicker skin.
In Norse mythology, it is said that it took three gods together to create humankind. Odin gave us souls. Hoenir gave us the will to think and move. Lodur gave us feeling and warm blood. It is that last gift, Lodur’s gift, that we keep trying to give back.