Way back in 1993, I realized that Americans and the English don't use the word "jaded" in the same way.
"I feel so jaded," said an English friend of mine, and since we were feeling exceptionally fragile from a late night (you may infer that excessive amounts of rich food and alcohol were involved), I realized that she was using "jaded" to refer to her physical state of being. Worn-out; weary; fatigued. At the time, I didn't realize that jaded could mean physical weariness -- so I assumed that she had used the word incorrectly. However, after many years of consorting with hung-over English persons, I began to realize that this is standard usage.
Americans, however, tend to use "jaded" as a way of referring to their mental or emotional state. We feel "jaded" when we are world-weary. It can take two forms, really -- one being cynicism, and the other being a sort of dullness or insensitivity brought on by a surfeit of indulgent experience. They are slightly different meanings, actually, but they tend go together -- or at least they both reside on the same side of the emotional spectrum, directly opposite of optimism and innocence. F. Scott Fitzgerald's fictional world always comes to mind when I think of the word "jaded." He was the master when it came to describing the brittle world of "been there, done that, yawn."
Today I am feeling like both kinds of jaded.
Last night was a late one, as I had driven up north of London to attend the annual awards dinner for Sigmund's company. I find these occasions incredibly wearing: all of the polite small talk with total strangers, exacerbated by the need to be charming lest my husband be judged by his work colleagues (not to mention his boss) as having a boring wife. It is a personal sickness of mine to feel that I singlehandedly have to keep the conversation going and draw out the wallflowers. (When I "overheard" a series of sickly silences at a neighboring table, it was all I could do to restrain myself from immediately going over to them and trying to kickstart the conversation.) Perhaps because of my inability to just "chill" in social situations, I get quite worn out if we've been out too much. Throw in the drinks, the lack of sleep, and the early morning dash across four counties to collect my daughter from Saturday school, and it all adds up to me feeling much the worse for wear.
When I am feeling listless and headachy, as I was this afternoon, I like to do a bit of reading. Cookbooks, rose catalogs or magazines are usually the best thing for me when I am under the weather; unfortunately, rather than choosing any of these lighter options, I decided to catch up with some "hard" news. In retrospect, I would say that reading the Saturday newspaper when you are physically jaded is bound to make you feel mentally jaded as well. There are a lot of sad, depressing, anxiety-making things going on in the world, and I think that it is probably better to confront these challenges when one is in robust health.
Last night I was sitting by a Nigerian man, and he felt moved to defend his country to me -- although I certainly wouldn't have dreamed of criticizing it to him! He spoke passionately about the intelligence, determination, and resilience of his people -- and also of their many accomplishments. He claimed that Nigeria's only real problem was that it was governed by bad, corrupt people. The thought of his country's leaders, with their personal greed and their callous disregard of the needs of their people, caused him to shake his head morosely. What could he say to that? And what could I say to him? Why can't human beings seem to make any moral advancements? We couldn't answer this question.
There are so many examples of truly vile leadership in the world that it is difficult to not feel jaded about any equation that includes people, money and power.
I don't often talk of the wider world in this blog, but I am feeling really down about the tragic chaos going on in Burma and China. The sheer numbers involved in the horror almost make it more difficult to conceive. Of course, what is so depressing about both tragedies is that they are being made so much worse by various forms of cupidity and stupidity. Burma's rulers, in particular, are acting so inhumanely to their people that it beggars belief.
As I read the newspaper, it was impossible to ignore the pleas of various aid agencies to donate money toward the relief effort. Should I send money? I am in two minds about it. Because although I feel compassion for the people afflicted, I can't help but feel cynical about pouring my money into that endlessly needy maw. How little of our money ever gets to the people who need it, and how much of it is either wasted in bureaucracy or used to line the pockets of various profiteers?
It is so difficult to figure out how to be a decent citizen of this world. It isn't surprising, I suppose, that most people just opt for self-interest -- or the concerns and needs of their own little patch. Hopefully it won't last long, but I'm feeling awfully jaded right now.