Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Carnage! And Other Distractions of the Soul

Every Sunday is family day – either my parents come to my place or I take them out for dinner. This Sunday, they came over to my place.

I love these family dinners. It is a great time to catch-up with my family. Though the first 10-minutes of this family time, were spent distracted by the goings on outside.

A car had crashed into the guardrail on the highway below and we were watching all the action unfold – from the safety of my lofty high-rise apartment’s windows.

It always amazes me how we human beings so easily become distracted by another person’s tragedy.

Rubbernecking – a term coined by cops, about drivers that slow down at accident scenes to see what all the fuss is about – isn’t all that uncommon. There is a rubbernecking law in Ontario, which allows cops to ticket anyone holding up traffic by slowing down too long to look at an accident.

Still, why the fascination with these acts of destruction, human suffering and potential carnage?

I have digital cable – literally over 500-channels – yet I’ve spent countless hours watching accidents on the roads below out my windows.


I think it is pure and simple fascination with the gross and disturbing. We all have it in us – it is part of being human. It’s why some of us find those medical shows, where they actually videotape an operation so intriguing. It’s what made daytime television trash tabloid shows like Jerry Springer popular. It’s why reality television shows like COPS, Cheaters, Survivor, The Bachelor and similar shows are mega-hits. It’s why we no longer cringe when we see war-torn countries on the news.

Truth is we never did cringe when we saw the bloodshed of battles in the news. We haven’t been desensitized to the horrors of the world – we’ve always been somewhat fascinated by it.

That’s just part of being human. It is a raunchy part of our humanity. This is a part of who we are – though we hide it deep within our darkest cavities.

It makes sense too – how else could we have survived as a species if we didn’t learn how to defend ourselves from predators and how to kill to be a predator for our very own survival?

Charles Darwin told us only the strong shall survive. In order to be strong you have to be able to stomach the gross, the horrific, and the tragic.

So our inner coping mechanism of stomaching these things is fascination and interest.

And that’s why my family dinner was distracted by a total stranger’s car wreck for a brief moment in time – out of our human fascination and interest.

Yeppers – I’m a rubbernecker. But so are you.

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