Ghosts in Shells

By Sonya Rehman

Earlier this month I wrote about intimacy and how the notion of it is fast becoming the Holy Grail of our times, the unreachable, yet ultimate need/desire of our emotionally flailing generation.

I’ve been thinking about it, quite a bit actually. Intimacy and connection, i.e. And then, just the other day I watched a brilliant movie called ‘Her,’ that blew me away. Okay, it didn’t blow me away per say, but its overall storyline did manage to have a deep impact on me.

I’m not going to give too much away, however, *spoiler alert: the movie is about an ordinary, sensitive guy who feels too much, goes through a terrible break-up and then finds solace and love, real love, in something fantastical, unreal. For the protagonist, the connection is a spiritual one, and over time, it begins to heal him, prying his hardened heart open like a stubborn pomegranate.

A still-shot from the movie, 'Her.'
A still-shot from the movie, ‘Her.’

The reason why I feel the movie will resound with a lot of us, us 20-30-somethings, caught up in familial and societal demands/pressures, is because, I think, we’re currently going through a terrible, extended patch of isolation, alienation. And you know what? Some of us don’t even realize how isolated we really are. The sad part is this: the pace of the world has made us lose ourselves in this nasha of time and routine. We’re constantly projecting into the future, more than ever. That hollow, self-satisfying thought of; yes, tomorrow, tomorrow’s another day to make it work – tomorrow I’ll be the happiest I’ve ever been. The present doesn’t even count anymore.

And because we’re so connected, plugged and tuned in to ourselves, thanks to our damn phones, scrolling through email, Facebook, and other social media platforms, the conversation is not shared anymore. We’re living in our heads more than ever before. And we’re full of it – full of ourselves. Having conversations with ourselves, in intimate relationships with no one but ourselves. And that’s why it has become so difficult to extend ourselves, open ourselves to external events that require, heck, demand emotion, a reaction. But the thought is terrifying. The public display of emotion. Good old heart to heart communication: frightening.

Emotional depth, what’s that? I’m not a wuss, I’m an emotionally stable man/woman of the world! Real emotion is beneath me. It repels me. The horror of actually putting yourself out on the line. Ghosts in shells, that’s what we are. Morphing into this new, high-tech race of Cyborgs with little circuits for souls. Hearts like remote-controlled devices. Controlled. Immense embarrassment about our human-ness. Such repression. Emotional toxicity. Perhaps this is precisely why our generation is dealing with, rather, trying desperately to combat, psychological ailments. Our parents never had it so rough, why? Because they were out there, living lives, full lives. But here we are, indulged in, warding off boredom, madness, psychosis and paranoia like real, live demons. And it all roots back to a lack of connection to people. The fear of intimacy. The faith in technology. The safety in computer chips and circuitry. Is there any way out of this wonderful, sublime alienation? Is anyone there?

Paperazzi, Pakistan Today



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