Towards the end of my teens, I suddenly developed obsessive interest in the state of the world. I watched the news and saw the devastation that humans were causing to the planet and to each other and I was incensed. I sat in front of the television set only to hiss at the evildoers, and to be mad at the world.
When my anger was sufficient to boil a storm, I decided that anger and idealism were the only weapons I needed to change the world. So I set out to right the wrongs. I set out to stop war, hunger and disease.
Inevitably, I soon realised that my goal was infeasible in my lifetime. So I scaled down. I started jumping into the middle of verbal fights to defend the rights of the weaker man. I started social media confrontations over injustice. I came down on cruel people with loudness and severity.
Instead of finding relief in my active stance at making the world a better place, I found myself heavy-hearted and empty at the same time. I ended each day feeling more frustrated and powerless than I did the day before.
So I decided to change. And I chose apathy. I radically distanced myself from bad news. I stopped giving time to information that offered nothing more than painting humanity in a bad light.
I limited my social media presence. I also carefully unselected people whose attitude towards the world tended towards negativity, from my social circle. I became an inactive participant or left places and groups where problems were discussed and no solution was offered.
I learnt to let go. Like really let go. Even in the little things. I learnt that not everyone was deserving of emotional response. So where I would have asked why they didn’t show up, I just accepted that they didn’t show up. Where I would have sought an explanation, I started to ask for only the bottom line.
With that attitude, my sense of entitlement was soon gone. I learnt that the world didn’t owe me anything and no matter how fair, kind, and just I was, I could still get dealt a very bad hand. I stopped questioning every circumstance and just rolled with the punches.
I realised that while careful planning is an important part of being an adult, it isn’t sufficient to control how you end up. So I learnt to be at peace in the midst of failure, taking comfort in knowing that I did my absolute best.
But most of all, I learnt that I wasn’t God. I couldn’t get people to change, to do better. At best, I could inspire change but that was it. So I decided that it was okay to be small and play small. And if I couldn’t get people to change, it was enough if I didn’t join them.
Being apathetic seems like the cowardly way out, and maybe it is, but it is also the blissful way out. I know because I’ve never felt better.