Knees Are Not For Jerking (or Reactions Are For Earthquakes and Science)
I was skimming my YouTube subscriptions today like any responsible blog author whose turn it is to write a post would do when I stumbled across a video called “Teens React to My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic”. As a brony and a pseudo-fan of the “Kids React” series, I decided to click through and see what reactions the teens in question might have when presented with a sampling of my favorite cartoon. This is what I saw. I’m not sure why I expected any better from something called “Teens React”, but nevertheless, the sheer mindless hatred of some of these young people surprised me. At first, of course, it made me angry, but that faded quickly. After all, those kids don’t know me. Their words have no power to alter either my sense of worth or my actual worth, and really, they were mostly clueless about the topic at hand. The real trouble here, the thing that bothers me still, is how this video exemplifies my generation’s love affair with the almighty reaction.
Here’s what I mean: if you say something to a teen or twenty-something, all too often they will take their first, most primal response to that something and latch onto it with an unbelievable tenacity. We just aren’t interested in crafting informed opinions anymore, because reactions are easier. Why question a stereotype when it’s such a convenient way to label people? Why take the time to dig up the facts when assumptions are available instantly? Why get to know someone when the cover of the book is so ripe for judging? I saw it, I thought it was amazing, so there you go. It’s amazing. Don’t try to tell me why you think it’s mediocre, you’re clearly wrong. Now that over there, that’s just bizarre and unacceptable. Why? Well, that’s just how it seemed to me when I took a glance. And why look at it any longer than I have to? It’s dumb.
There are times in life when reactions are useful things. For example, if an earthquake hits, your reaction would likely be to scream in terror and attempt to preserve your life. That is exactly what you should do, although perhaps not in that order. Knee-jerk reactions, however, are never a good thing. That’s not to say that they’re never right, of course. Maybe someone strikes you as a creepy guy, and it turns out that he is a creepy guy who admits to hiding under your couch while you watch TV and throwing squid at your ankles. Then again, maybe that guy was just having a bad hair day or he lost a bet that required him to paint his face pink and walk on all fours for an hour. The point is, you can’t live a life based solely on reactions. Your knees are there to help your legs bend, and when you let them jerk about pointlessly you usually wind up looking like a psychopath and kicking undeserving strangers in the face.
So unless you’re in the middle of a natural disaster or working on an important science experiment, set the reactions aside and take a minute or two (or however many it takes) to get the real story and form a real opinion. After all, like it or not, your words have the power to hurt and to heal, and when you toss your reactions out willy-nilly you wind up saying more hurtful things than healing. Maybe the people you’re insulting will never hear it, maybe they’ll be devastated by it, maybe they won’t even care, but no matter how your reactions affect them, living a life of constant mindless reacting is going to hurt you and your ability to think for yourself. Don’t let your life become You React to Everything. Live thoughtfully. Live graciously. It’s the only life that’s really worth living.