Sunday, April 29, 2012

The privacy hype

In my book, privacy is a feature of youth. There is vulnerability when you are young that demands some kind of a protective filter around the young life. Privacy might also be critical to the professions of stealing, spying, politics or the building of a financial empire. Celebrities certainly need to guard their personal spaces with ferocity, considering its commercial potential. It can also happen that an exclusive family culture will presuppose a very private closeness.

But it has stopped bothering me as much, this paranoia for privacy.

I used to be a fierce closet person, too proud to share my private world with anyone but those closest to me. In the Advertising Agency I worked at, they called me the “locked jaw”. I could talk about books, ideas, events but try and get me to admit to one original, emotional thought from the deep recesses and I would turn “touch me not”.

Some of this stemmed from a sense of loyalty to people in my immediate radius. Some came from diffidence at what people might think or say. A bit of it was born of my own basic sense of fair play and belief in positive thinking. Why vent or bitch or criticise, was my internal logic! It did not seem there was much to gain by reinforcing any conflicts or self-doubts. At some level in my mind, it was also an admission of personal failure to air difficulties or speed-breakers, thus.

Over the years though, all through the milestones of becoming a wife, a parent, a professional, a citizen, I have seen and experienced enough to begin to realize the authentic oneness of being. There really is, barely a soul out there, who has had it easy in her lifetime. A mixed blessing has been and will be the universal signature tune of all human melodies. Ups and downs, highs and lows, heartbreak and ecstasy, ebb and flow are the paths life pretty much follows for everyone.

Was there a weak phase in your life for instance, when you felt you needed someone the most and they abandoned you emotionally?  You are not alone.

Were you ever dropped off in a strange city to find your way back home by your new family? You are not alone.

Did you pour your life into a child who fixes you with an angry glare today so your blood feels it has turned white?  You are not alone.

Did your educated and outwardly progressive husband yank your hair before chasing you around the dining table? You are not alone.

Have you ever felt claustrophobic and friendless in your seemingly ordered, outwardly peaceful existence? You are not alone.

Do you yearn sometimes for someone to hold you by the hand, look into your eyes and say, “I see you? You make a difference. You matter!” You are not alone.

Are there moments in your life, when you sit down and imagine what it would be like to run away and hide someplace far off? You are not alone.

There is this common human legacy of pain and aloneness that is truly egalitarian in nature, sparing none, infecting equally. And once you have absorbed this immutable, the self-created, psychic, emotional and mental walls of privacy begin to peel off, one layer at a time. And it is just as well because there is help out there.

A recent college reunion comes to mind. There we were, the six of us, meeting for the first time as a group, after 1983. We travelled in cars, sat around dining tables, hung out in homes; there was no need for any pretence. Each of us had been through our private hells and heavens but in recalling those years, there was oneness, a sense of acceptance and belonging which was ultimately very empowering.

We live today in a world obsessed with privacy but the truth is it is not even practically feasible anymore. Picture for one moment, the airport body scans, the online personal data storage, the chat rooms, the social network sites….what privacy are we talking about?

So reach out and hold a hand, reach out and shake a shoulder, reach out and wipe a tear, reach out and belong! 

There is great liberty in the loss of privacy.

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