A Vintage Life Lines from 2015.
When I told a friend about a party I attended awhile back, she asked about the food. I told her it was all too spicy, even the things that didn’t need to be, like the crackers and the chips.
“That’s just this younger generation,” she complained. They don’t like anything plain.”
Recently, my husband and I ate lunch at a popular Hattiesburg restaurant. After we ordered sandwiches, our waitress asked if we wanted fries.
“No,” my husband said, looking down at the scary menu description of the restaurant’s “Signature Spicy Fries” and shaking his head. There were no “regular fries.”
We tried to talk while we waited for our meal, but the music was so loud we couldn’t hear each other.
I guess that was in retribution for not ordering spicy fries, and I guess loud music didn’t matter to the people around us, all of whom were ignoring their lunch partners and tapping their iPhone screens instead of chatting.
We used to eat at a certain Mexican fastfood restaurant frequently. I went in not long ago and ordered my favorite chicken quesadilla. When I got it, I discovered that they had changed the recipe, loading so much stinging orange goop onto it that I couldn’t taste the chicken.
I won’t be going back.
Since then I’ve noticed fastfood and restaurant menus advertising items that were “tangy, super spicy, extra hot, diablo, and Call the Firetruck.”
In hot countries where meat spoiled quickly without refrigeration, hot and spicy ingredients like curry, jalapenos and chili peppers were originally added to meat dishes to cover the taste of decay. The spicier the meat, the closer to rotting it had been before serving.
I’m sure that’s not why cooks add those ingredients today, but I’m not taking any chances on biting into a hamburger patty that’s decomposing as I’m being distracted by a flaming jalapeno. I avoid the “Spicy Menu.”
Food isn’t the only culprit creating sensory overload in our culture.
Teenagers attend concerts where the music is played at the decibel level of a NASA blast-off. They ride around in cars with heavy metal or rap music pounding so loud that when they get out their eyes are dilated and they can’t hear.
Little kids have no sense of direction anymore. Once they get into a car for a trip with their parents, they never look up or out or have any idea of which way their destination lies.
Instead of trees and flowers and farm animals, they follow only the fidgety images on their game screens. They are so addicted to their electronic devices that if you force them to unplug for a few minutes to see nature’s wonders or have a conversation with the family, they go berserk. Better to plug them back up to their “fix.”
We adults are no better. We’re addicted to the waves of information coming in on our iPhones and laptops. We don’t experience real life anymore, we experience “virtual life,” where our relationships are all on Facebook and our travel experiences require only the swipe of our finger across a screen to see whole countries passing by.
We can’t just breathe plain air anymore. The aroma industry has convinced us that air is bad. We must scent it with vanilla, lemon, baked apple and patchouli, which they will be glad to sell us in the form of $5 plug-ins or $20 candles.
The result of modern living is sensory over-stimulation. We have too many sights, too many sounds, too many smells, too many tastes. too many textures.
Young people will tell you that they like it that way, that life without the constant bombardment of the senses is “boring.”
What sensory overload really does is render you numb to the less intense sensations around you. After a certain point, you can’t see, taste, feel, smell or hear the subtle things at all anymore.
So there’s no appreciation for the simple taste of an apple, no enjoyment of a quiet afternoon reading in the porch swing, no joy in being alone, no rest in simply staring out the window at the trees--all things the brain needs to function well.
A more harmful result is that over-stimulated children can’t be satisfied. More and more stimulation is required for them to feel normal. They can’t be still long enough to get involved in homework and learn from it. They can’t concentrate long enough to read and comprehend a written passage. They can’t hold a reasonable conversation and resent your trying to engage them in one.
They take drugs to provide themselves with a whole new level of stimulation.
Don’t let me interrupt your swiping through Facebook blurbs to share this with you, but I have a feeling that real life is decomposing as we munch on our super jalapenos and watch the emoticons dance across the screens of our phones.