The animal world has developed through evolution ways to protect itself from predators as well as advertise it’s mating capacities within it’s species. Humans are no different. We utilize possessions, artifice and now filters and online identities to protect ourselves as well as advertise our greatness. We even use our resume’s and political affiliations to identify ourselves as being this or that..to label ourselves as of a particular tribe, to fill a box. But what if all of these things are just distractions or defenses? What if looking outward is a way not to look inward? With the ubiquitousness of social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram these shell personalities are magnified. We all have avatars: images which describe us as smiling faces at our best moments. We are at times caricatures of ourselves. We post pictures of our cars, our houses, our hot upgraded bodies. Every vacation we take must be documented and photographed! We are the 2.0, 3.0….7.0 versions of ourselves but it seems as soon as we have attained the latest best version, our cellphones remind us the latest upgrade is available!
It has been proven in studies that the more active a person is on social media the more unhappy that person is likely to be. Why in the age where the “collective unconscious” has become a real strobing web of information do we feel lonelier then ever? With a few clicks one can broadcast his/her thoughts/desires/questions (or brain farts, lol Facebook!) to humanity with a into the ethernet. We have the knowledge of the ages at our fingertips and can have almost any product we want delivered to our doorstep..but what about wisdom? They say the eyes are the window to the soul, but what if these eyes are viewed through a screen on Snapchat with a woodland critter filter? Nowadays doe eyed girl or sexy puppy dog eyes have whole new meanings! Can one make a soul connection with a half Bambi counterpart? Lol! What will ground us in our bodies and keep us from living in projections of what we could or ‘should’ be?
I got to looking at Hermit Crabs in glass cages at a pet store one day and immediately saw a correlation to human behavior. They sit in cages full of painted nautilus shells with little fake plants and sticky rhinestones so they can decorate themselves. As the crabs grow they can vacate their house and move into a snazzier newer model. These shells are not only defense mechanisms but are also advertising to the opposite sex. The male with the blinged out shell can showcase his foraging skills, showing he is a hustler and a provider. In the wild they may fight each other for a particularly awesome shell, even if a crab is already living in it and the loser will be left homeless. I had a hard time figuring out which shell had a crab inside at the store though because for the most part, at least in captivity, they hide or sleep. Only upon me poking one gently (not nice, I know) could I see a set of eyes pop out to investigate and flash a warning claw to retreat back into the darkness of his/her home!
Again, I was reminded of human behavior and how reactive we can get when someone lifts our veil, gets too close, or challenges our perceived notions of self. With the advent of social media, online dating and even the dark web, we now have infinite more ways to disguise ourselves. We are also bombarded at every turn with online advertisements telling us our shell needs a makeover, it needs to be bigger/shinier..someone else has it better and we must take their shell. Why do they get the bright shiny thing we really should deserve? They are taking “our” resources, it is us against them! America in particular has also become much more polarized in these forums, forcing one to chose sides and pick identifying shells. The whole “Let’s take our country back” “Make America Great Again” shell sucks…what actually fills this shell of a nation beyond clashes of symbolism and cultural totems? But what of the darkness inside? What are we becoming or growing into?
While art may be about creating desirable bright shiny objects and some may argue it is a commodity..I believe it actually relieves the vicious cycle of shell to shell existence. A hermit crab’s shell is not indicative of what is inside, it is purposefully deceitful as nature’s defense mechanism. Art is kind of like painting the veil onto the veil…like if the crab took a paintbrush and painted a beautiful crab onto his/her shell and said that is who lives here! And what? Come and get me predators..I can take it, but ladies and gentlemen, I’m here inside and I’m one badass crab and I ain’t boiled yet! Art cuts to the core of an issue and describes it in ways that words cannot. Art does not seek to just advertise virility or social status but the state of survival of the soul. It seeks to tell a story not to conceal the softness under our exteriors but to reveal it. Somewhere between the exoskeleton and the wear and tear of sand that invades the oyster’s innermost parts a pearl is formed. There are pearls of wisdom to be found but they cannot be found in the flashing bright pop up world.