“Profound: 1. having or showing great knowledge and understanding; a profound thinker.”
In the midst of plagues, coups, and killer cops, readers may have noticed a proliferation of Profundity. Apparently, that’s because mass media newscasters (as well as Influencers) are overwhelmed by a seemingly endless tsunami of Big Events, many of which actually happened, and everyone seems compelled to answer the Eternal Question: What Does It All Mean?
Mere facts are insufficient. Consider the query: “Why is COVID-19 (a.k.a. The Hoax) wiping out humanity, crushing economies, and closing my favorite bar?” The facts, repeated 24/7 on every news outlet, go something like this:
The Hoax is a virus. A virus is a germ. If Hoax gets inside you it can make you sick and/or dead. It does that when another human exhales invisible Hoax-filled drops of moisture and you inhale them, or touch something with Hoax drops on it and then lick your fingers, pick your nose, or rub your eyes. To avoid dying from the Hoax, humans must stay six feet away from all other humans, and ideally six miles.
But facts lack Passion. They don’t throb like an Event, a Happening, or even a wine-tasting. Americans are unmoved by unadorned facts, especially those that seem to conflict with popular religious texts teaching that Plagues come from a loving God, not bats.
Americans demand Profundity, without which Life is Meaningless.
For example, 2 + 2 = 4 is a fact, but not Profound. It does not convey or explain why 2 + 2 equals 4, who decided it should, or why they decided it. There is no selfie documenting who was present when 2 + 2 first equaled 4, or explaining how Life might be better if it equaled 7.
And it does not explain What It All Means.
That requires Profundity at a level not seen since Moses got his Stone Tablets, or the apple smacked Isaac Newton on the head during his nap. (Which, BTW, was not of the same apple variety that Eve ate, getting everyone evicted from the five-star Garden of Eden.)
True Profundity requires riveting language; it must be somber in tone, redolent with emotion and passion, and/or a catchy gif. Signs of impending Profundity are phrases such as: “Not since (insert long-ago date) have we seen . . .” or, “If (insert name of famous dead person) were alive today . . . ”
Amateur Profundity, however, resorts to superfluous alarm-bell adverbs or adjectives, especially words like “literally.” It is not enough to report that “A family died after their car. . .” Modern Profundity only happens when “A family literally died after their car . . .” Medical science confirms that one dies by becoming dead; if one can avoid becoming dead, one will not die. One might say that becoming dead is the ‘literal’ definition of ‘die.’
Nonetheless, “literally” is heavily used by amateur Profundits to appear Profound, e.g., “I was literally blown away when she told me.” By itself, “blown away” is mere hyperbole; modern Profundity requires that one be literally blown away.
Why? Well, if one is only figuratively blown away the event would lack Profundity because . . . well . . . because blowing-away would literally only happen figuratively. No actual explosion, body hurtling through space, up-rushing tornado of wind, etc., etc.
For accomplished Profundits, a blowing-away is particularly Profound if one was “absolutely literally blown away.” That is Existentially profound.