T/W: Mentions of suicide in the content.
Last night my mom, my sister and I sat down, two bottles of wine at the ready, giant popcorn bowl, homemade bibimbap in our laps and Netflix on queue for a marathon of their reality TV show Love is Blind. Neither one of us is a Reality TV watcher, but since we personally know one of the ladies, we figured we MUST watch.
We were ready to laugh and make fun (and we did), to rail at the ridiculousness (did that also) and to roll our eyes at the facility with which these strangers “fell in love” and shared “I love you’ s” (we did a lot of that too). What we didn’t expect was to find ourselves reflecting on how society has made loners of us all.
It was a little heartbreaking listening to their stories repeat, how hungry for contact, love and acceptance they were. Are they all given the same script? Or as a society, are we really that lonely? We watch one participant after another ‘fall in love’ over the most tenuous of connections, a favorite childhood book, the love of a sport’s team, their agreement on a simple stance was enough to have their souls reach out for each other as if they had been looking for a connection for always. The superlatives flew right and left “Never felt so understood in my entire life”. “I’ve never felt so seen” “The most profound conversation of my life” “The happiest I’ve ever been” It made us wonder how the people in their life feel about those type of comments. Do they feel betrayed by how easily everything that was meaningfully exchanged after years of friendship and relationship could be surpassed by a five-day connection with a stranger?
Are the participants truly that lonely? Do they really have no one to share thoughts and feelings with? Kenny and Kelly shared such a moment. With Kenny saying he went through something really hard (without telling the viewer what) and Kelly saying she understood and through the glass partition (they can’t see each other and are in different rooms) they had a meeting of souls, like a visible meeting of souls and they both start crying, at how lonely they have felt for so long with no one to talk to and share their fears. No one. Not a single person they felt they could talk to. The cynic in my wanted to roll my eyes, but my heart was raisin sized and I ached in sympathy for them, how sad, how unbearably sad to cry for sheer loneliness. All the lonely people… where do they all come from? Tale as old as time.
I sat there with my mom and my sister, my husband in the other room with the door closed to drown out our screams, laughter, arguing and giggles and it made me realize how damn lucky I am. Even when I was turning into a different person in 2016 and anxiety took over my life and depression loomed over my head and I fought it, I felt I could talk to my sister and my best friend and my husband. And after I leaned into my love of BTS more than ever I got a new pool of people I could count on in my fellow ARMY, who I KNOW would answer my phone call to listen to me cry, if I had to. And while my immediately family doesn’t understand my feelings for BTS I never for a moment felt like I couldn’t go to them.
A few weeks ago, a German journalist was interviewing the amazing Stephanie Rosenthal who in collaboration with BTS and Noemi Solomon curated the Connect BTS exhibit at the Martin-Gropius-Bau, a modern art museum in the German Capital of Berlin. The journalist attempted to scoff and put down the exhibit because her opinion was that the entire message behind BTS’ career (that of healing through music, loving yourself, accepting others, be the change, etc.) was naïve and simplistic. She posited that the average Berliner was too savvy, too cosmopolitan, too old, too smart, to enjoy an exhibit called “Rituals of Care” and that a music band from Korea knew nothing about art in order to get involved in art making and they were using the museum as some sort of publicity stunt. As if BTS the most famous musical act in the world right now needs to resort to stunts for publicity. Thankfully Ms. Rosenthal handled the interview with aplomb and annoyance.
The Festspiele published in their page about the exhibit:
“The performance program spans experimental choreography, healing practices, sonic installations and collective gatherings. These interdisciplinary works and practices explore the necessary conditions for coming together and tending to environments, to physical and spiritual worlds and to other beings. Through a range of somatic techniques, queer re-imaginings and indigenous perspectives, these performances offer radical acts of care and repair”
With the passing by suicide of Caroline Flack, a former Love Island UK tv host, I feel like the message BTS puts out is more important and relevant than ever. Naïve it is not. Caroline herself once said, “in a world where you can be anything, be kind”. I wonder if that German journalist would consider Caroline’s word naïve and simple as well.
Why do we feel the need to be cynical about everything? Why call the idea of mental healing through music and caring acts for others naïve? What could be more mature and elevated than kindness? It made me wonder if striving for empathy is a lost cause with half the world doing battle against it. Are we doomed to hurt each other and scoff at positive messages and roll our eyes at the naivete or people who hope to change? Are we supposed to be like SouthPark’s Cartman and revel in our indifference of society what happens to our fellow man and laugh at those who still care?
Not only that but the idea that being kind means being a Pollyanna it’s perpetually put out there. As if being kind and thoughtful means accepting abuse and being walked on by others. If she, as a journalist, had done a little bit of homework before dismissing BTS’ message she could’ve learned in their discography that they are not beyond fighting back. Just take a gander at their Ddaeng, or Cypher series 1 through 4, or Idol, or even Mic Drop. Where they don’t take abuse and refuse to turn the other cheek.
While watching the Disney live action of Cinderella I remember clearly her mother telling Cinderella the most important lesson she could leave her with before passing, “have courage and be kind”, how kindness was a type of magic that some people didn’t understand and how she had it in spades, more in the little tip of her finger than others in their entire bodies. We see Cinderella take abuse after abuse after abuse, trying to live up to the advice given by her mother until she is ready to break down and can’t take it anymore. And her kindness in a moment of despair when she was done with the world, gave her fairy godmother the opportunity to send her to the fated ball.
Life is not a Disney fairy tale, but I think we can all agree we need less not more cynicism. More, not less caring. More and more kindness. I feel sometimes like the entire world It’s screaming it, shouting in pain from the rooftops, in workplaces, in our own homes in our small circles and our varied communities. And we turn a blind eye and cover our ears because it can be so taxing to care. It is so much easier, so much faster to turn back, and be cynical, to laugh at the person on TV falling in love with a stranger and saying I love you and desperately seeking to be understood.
Caroline Flack seemed to have it all. She was high in the normative beauty spectrum, thin, white, abled, successful, presumably wealthy, and still she lost that battle, her family loved her, her coworkers, the people she worked on a daily basis spoke wonderful things about her and still she felt so alone and so broken that suicide was the only option in her mind. It’s kindness and care for others really a naïve goal, then?
I want more than ever to practice the message that BTS is constantly reminding us of. I don’t want to put any more meanness in the ether. Instead of cussing out my new coworker who seems to hate me without reason I am going to be kind to her, and maybe make her think twice about being mean to me and others because she is receiving so much good from the universe. Maybe she is insecure and unhappy, maybe she needs a hug. Maybe she is just lonely. Maybe she has no one to talk to, no one to turn to. I would be a raging bitch too if that was my life. I am so very wealthy in love and family, in friends and people who care for me. I can afford to be kind to her, whose circumstances might be difficult without me not knowing.
So, call me naïve, call me silly. I will practice what BTS preaches, what Cinderella’s mom advised. I’ll be courageous and I’ll be kind. Because, FUCK!! there’s so many sad lonely people, who live inner turmoil and hardships we know nothing about, and I don’t want to be another grain of sand in that mean ocean. I don’t want to be another reason someone feels badly. I don’t want to scoff at people asking, begging for kindness.
And don’t take me wrong, I will continue to watch the show with a healthy dose of cynicism and a side eye for the rapid I love you, but I won’t laugh when they cry, because they may be faking but they may not they may truly be that lonely and even if they faking. I am a sucker for criers. My heart immediately turns into a raisin. This is not my natural disposition, I tend towards cynical and sarcastic myself so it will be hard, but I am going to do it. I challenge you to try the same.