Monday, September 08, 2008

Heart of blankness?

Last Monday (1 Sept.) Charlie Brooker wrote, somewhat dejectedly, of his 'crippling' internal blankness of soul - that is, a kind of indifference to life: hobbies, culture, his [enviable] job, essentially failing to take an interest in the day-to-day running of his own existence. Or rather, not so much 'failing to', but not being motivated enough to bother. While this sounds a totally depressing outlook, this was not a suicidal confession, nor a cry for attention, because as he quite rightly pointed out, that would require the presence of extreme emotion, and it is a lack of emotion, on any level or at either end of the scale, that seemed the fundamental basis of his terrible 'personal blankness'. A failure to engage with anything, and the lack of will to do something about it.

It is not, looking around, an uncommon predicament. Certainly I have felt sheer listlessness towards day-to-day life: turning up to work on time, mustering the right attitude to going out when it's cold, wet and you've not really got the money, putting the best effort into University work, that sort of thing. In the early years of the 9-5 grind, the transition from carefree party-attending socialite and part-time student to responsible, council-tax paying young adult tends to manifest itself into disillusioned yuppie living for the weekend. Even counting yourself as a yuppie - young, upcoming - requires a certain aptitude that, when faced with the hard work needed to achieve the status, often seems overly difficult. And what we are fed into our daily diet of living tends to appear disinteresting as well. Take television: the latest series of Strictly Come Brother Factor on Ice offers nothing: people perform to the cameras, audience pays money to vote, people pretend to care, someone wins, brief elation, no one cares. It passes the time, I guess.

Music, my deepest love, isn't quite the same, but it requires the strength to locate and enjoy good music to counter the ease of being fed the same commercial, MOR fodder through TV, radio, internet that somehow pleases people enough to pass the time for them. I'm one of the few people I know who will shell out £8-£12 on an artist's album rather than download it, even in full. I've bought 17 CD albums that have been released this year, and two further albums that haven't.

I digress, though; which is something that Brooker himself was wont to do during his downbeat ramblings. Apart from his trademark laconic self-deprecation, he pondered serial killing, mused at length on the 'glass of water' conundrum - half full, half empty? - and practically reviewed a (to me) totally unknown film for the opening third of the article in order to get underway. For a relatively short piece, which surely cannot be too taxing given his licence to meander so freely, and might point to why he feels no sense of achievement in his professional career, it certainly didn't pack much of a punch. Maybe he couldn't be bothered to try.

It amounted to a collection of thinly tied together jabs at himself, a biting cynicism at his own life. Having taken passing interest in Charlie Brooker's media bits and pieces from time to time, it seems that this makes up a large amount of his output: inward-looking criticism with a touch of humour that the reader can relate to. But that's easy, anyone can do that, and many people can do it a lot more succinctly, and with more wit. The article, in the end, read like the bored musings of a faux-depressive, lacking in direction. Of course, this was exactly the type of person Brooker claimed he was - it's just that since most people probably feel like that at more than one stage in their lives, and since it was written with about as much emotion and illumination as the black and white text it appeared in, Brooker's non-cry-for-help proved a pretty dull read.

It's obvious to me that Brooker's direction-less article was a little-needed insight into a no-doubt common anxiety many people will come across, since I seem to have been affected by the same condition - I read the article last Monday, but despite wanting to write a riposte, it's taken me more than a week to actually get round to doing it. I just couldn't be bothered.

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