“Chill.” It’s the newest member of the American young adult vernacular, and one that needs to be seriously redefined, if not thrown out altogether. So, what even is “chill”? Well, I’d say that it’s generally considered to be a desirable quality, especially in people. Synonyms and/or related words include: cool, laid-back, down-to-earth, easygoing. Sounds pretty innocent so far, right? I mean, who doesn’t want a cool, easygoing, laid-back, “CHILL” individual to hang out, grab a beer, lay by the pool, possibly have a romantic or sexual encounter with?
So, let’s get down to a proper definition. According to the 6th entry of “chill” found on the ever-reliable urbandictionary.com, a chill person is one who “does whatever they feel like doing…(and) can be liked by anyone.” Another definition reads that chill people are “relaxed and go with the flow…they don’t get worried about the little things.” Of course, these qualities are certainly not decidedly negative…at least on the outset. But what does it say about our generation of thinkers, doers, and lovers that values such as “chill” are not only appreciated; they are prized and sought after highly? What does it mean that we value characteristics such as “well-liked” and “relaxed” and “unworried” over “outspoken”, “passionate”, “caring”, “intense”, “thoughtful”, “emotional”?
Well, I can’t say for sure, but I think it means something along the lines of we don’t want to be inconvenienced. Passion hurts; there’s no way around it. It’s polarizing. It’s consuming. It requires work. Sometimes it’s really, really disappointing. And sometimes, it makes you go just a little bit (or a lot) crazy. This isn’t easy or “chill”, no doubt. But I think caring and investing ourselves deeply is an integral part of the fabric of our human lives. I mean, even animals have to do it. Do you think a mother bird about to lay eggs gets the option of procrastinating on the complex and time-consuming process of building a nest because she just doesn’t feel like it, or it’s too much work, or she just wants to “chill” in her tree? No; if she chose to forgo such a crucial task in favor of laziness and self-indulgence (if such qualities were said to exist among birds), she would miss the opportunity that lies at the cornerstone of her evolutionary significance.
That analogy may have been silly or far-fetched, but it has a point: we humans, in our excessive complexity and brilliance, have (to our detriment) found ways to bypass the hard work and care and involvement that is crucial both to our continuation as a species and, strangely enough, our happiness in the here-and-now. And the experiences in which we all want so badly to participate, such as high achievement and romantic love, actually cannot logically coexist with “chill.” As long as we’re seeking pleasure without willingly accepting the pressing needs, the crippling self-doubt, the tremendous inconvenience and sacrifice that are essential parts of the process, we never really know true success or love. We acquaint ourselves only with shallow enjoyment that eventually blows away like a leaf in the wind, gone forever – until we find something or someone else which whom to repeat the vicious cycle.
“Chill” is pretending not to care. Passion is declaring that you care in no uncertain terms.
“Chill” is a band-aid. Passion is a surgery.
“Chill” is arbitrary and ephemeral. Passion is enduring.
“Chill” makes us prisoners to our ever-changing feelings and desires. Passion makes us free.
“Chill” dies. Passion is eternal.
“Chill” makes us feel good. Passion demands us that we, and the people and situations in our lives, be truly, truly great (which actually doesn’t mean that we feel good all or even most of the time).
“Chill” is easy but grows painful over time. Passion hurts but grows beautiful over time.
Sure, “chill” may be enjoyable today, and it may temporarily or superficially spare us from pain, confusion, and disappointment. But when we’re on the proverbial deathbed reflecting upon the quality of the lives we lived, will we honestly garner any sort of sense that we lived lives of achievement, depth, and meaning upon concluding that our lives were “chill”, or “relaxing”, or “laid-back”?