Indifference.

A strange 1,000 word response I penned to the following writing criteria: choose a single word which you believe to be important in contemporary society, and explain why you feel it is so important.

 
 

Merriam-Webster

Indifference (noun):

1. Absence of compulsion to or towards one thing or another.


Origin: Latin word

Indifferentia (abstract noun):

1. Want of difference.

 

Let me begin with a poem; a tale of sorts, that may help to place into perspective the true definition of this wildly misunderstood word:

The word indifference has changed significantly over time. But is ‘changed’ really the right term to use? Maybe altered is more accurate, or: transformed, evolved, distorted, butchered. Personally, I would go with misconstrued.


This is not to say that it exists in this plain of mistakenness alone. It is not unreasonable to propose that every word ever conceived by the human race has transformed from its original constitution. Indifference is, however, a word that’s connotation changed for the worse. It has been senselessly beaten from something positive and ever clarifying to something inherently negative. Why? My guess is that it was done out of fear of the truth. People are scared of indifference because it highlights a want of difference and individuality. Plainly put, it scares people. It makes it difficult to label and categorise another when you are met indifference.


When you consider the origins of the word, only then can you truly appreciate its intent. At its earliest conception, the Latin word Indifferentia implied that we humans craved and searched for uniqueness. It was built upon a truly genuine premise that every entity in our galaxy was distinctively inimitable. This bestowed an inherent value to each person. To each animal. To each living organism. The primary subject was the individual being spoken about. It had little to do with comparisons, just a primal need to be true to one’s own sense of self. Then it began to change.


The word’s demise was most likely foreshadowed in 1921 when a prominent Austrian psychologist by the name of Willhelm Stekel penned the following sentiment: ‘The opposite of love is not hate, but indifference.’ The death of indifference was later signed, sealed and delivered by American Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel who furthered Stekel’s perspective by adding: ‘The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.’ Using the word in such a horrible way would surely sour the minds of millions. But then again, if someone as inspiring as this Jewish Holocaust survivor, turned famed political activist and professor were to say to me that the sun was the moon and the sea was the land, I would change my perspective instantly as well. Much like the people of this era who so hastily jumped on board with Wiesel’s mawkishness. But that doesn’t make it true. The sun is the sun and the moon is a great ball of cheese. Well, at least, that’s what Wallace and Gromit believe if you are in the business of being susceptible.


One prime example in a context more appropriate to its true definition was when it was used by Ceasare Pavese. A completely unknown entity to me; however, known to Wikipedia as the renowned 20th Century Italian poet, novelist and literary critic. He wrote: 'Perfect behaviour is born of complete indifference. Perhaps this is why we always love madly someone who treats us with indifference.' He couldn’t be any more accurate. To level with yourself, and to throw away unhelpful comparisons is exactly what we must do. It helps us not, to pretend and act as if we are amazed by every single facet of this earth. Because the truth is: we are not. We are all so very dissimilar and it is this want of difference that should drive us. The need to feel connected to the things we love and disconnected from the things we don’t is the most important aspect of our lives.


Indifference empowers that which we love.

 

It was a strange stimulus and, if I had to be perfectly honest, I found it incredibly difficult to write. Let me know what you thought in the comments below. As always, I appreciate you and your thoughts.

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