Thursday, May 05, 2005

Clinging to the tattered web


Herewith, more still (day three) on this thread of the "web" that connects us - psychologically, physically, naturally, technologically, spiritually....

"Reach out and touch someone." So the AT&T ad slogan goes.

And we talk about keeping in touch, but you know it and I know it: our "touch" these days seems/IS more "virtual" and fragmented than it used to be. Sure, we might make the rounds more - and more often - but, as before on this blog, I have to question the content and quality of that connection, that "touch." We're not really reaching out as physically close family, friends and neighbors - we're "instant messaging" and calling on the go Go GO.

(OK, I know - just can't give up on this theme, no, not quite yet, it seems - so much to talk about here - and the thread has proved popular.)

After writing yesterday's blog, I had to go back and look at the two books I mentioned, "Future Shock" and "For Common Things: Irony, Trust and Commitment in America Today."

"For Common Things" is so beautifully written and so apropos to the "deep hope" of this blog, I feel compelled to give you a few paragraphs from its Preface to sample:

"This book is a response to an ironic time. Irony has become our marker of worldliness and maturity. The ironic individual practices a style of speech and behavior that avoids all appearance of naivete – of naive devotion, belief, or hope. He subtly protests the inadequacy of the things he says, the gestures he makes, the acts, he performs. By the inflection of his voice, the expression of his face, and the motion of his body, he signals that he is aware of all the ways he may be thought silly or jejune, and that he might even think so himself. His wariness becomes a mistrust of language itself. He disowns his own words.

"In answer to all that, this book is a plea for the value of declaring hopes that we know to be fragile. It is an argument that those hopes are no less necessary for their fragility, and that permitting ourselves to neglect them is both reckless and impoverishing. My purpose in writing is to take our inhibition seriously, and to ask what would be required to overcome it, to speak earnestly of uncertain hopes.

"To do so requires understanding today's ironic manner. There is something fearful in this irony. It is a fear of betrayal, disappointment, and humiliation, and a suspicion that believing, hoping, or caring too much will open us to these. Irony is a way of refusing to rely on such treacherous things. However, there is also something perceptive about irony, and sometimes we must wonder whether the ironist is right. The ironist expresses a perception that the world has grown old, flat, and sterile, and that we are rightly weary of it. Nothing will ever surprise us. Everything we encounter is a remake, a rerelease, a ripoff, or a rerun. We know it all before we see it, because we have it all already.

"What has so exhausted the world for us?...."

Now, I'm reminded of an even older book, mentioned previously in this blog, the one that helped get me fired up about this theme 20-25 years ago. That book is Daniel Boorstin's "The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America" (Vintage Books, 1961). So this theme has stood the test of time and won't go away, not as long as we creep and leap away from closer familial and communal connections, earnest, up close and personal. We've given up the comforts of the Tribe for the insipid passivity of the TV. We are confusing contentment with movement, trading adoration for mere agitation.

The pre-packaged, overly advertised world has caused in us a backlash of ironic defenses: we have turned toward being more self-aware, more selfish, less political, more materialistic, more style and surface oriented, less earnest, more wary of the "news," the "facts," and the virtues based on awareness and goodness. We are even, as it were, "at two" with nature - the fragile nature of our surroundings and sustainance - no longer observant of its provisions, its lessons and its bounty. We are caught in this web that is at least far-flung if not downright fractured socially, tattered technologically, and psychologically, spiritually in need of repair and renovation.



At 5/06/2005 10:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not all of us, not all of us.....


At 5/06/2005 12:43 PM, Blogger Rhesus Pieces said...

I don't believe that we are more selfish or less political or less earnest. The web and its ability to bring the world to us is working to put us into contact with more.

The web has brought us greater connection and communication. I remember hearing that there were more natural disasters in the world. There aren't. We just know about them because we are so much better connected than we were ten years ago. The distrust of the news you speak of comes about from being better connected. We see information from multiple sources, not just from Walter Cronkite on the evening television news. We see reviews of the news we do see. Since anyone can publish these days we have potential for alternative sources, some good and many bad. We have to evaluate and reconsile these sources.

The political parties know this communication is outstriping other communication mechanisms. They want in.

We know much more about so much more than ever before. That puts us into contact with our world.

At 5/07/2005 12:43 AM, Blogger Lawrence said...

Yes, anon and rhesus, some of us still do "get in touch" and communicate with amazing richness and resourcefulness.

: )))

And yes, the web can be a great resource and a part of that richness. But are more of us closer and/or better informed? Let's continue to consider: expediency or worth? quantity or quality? novelty blather or innovative thinking?

At 5/08/2005 8:05 AM, Anonymous rq said...

"Novelty blatter"--I like that expression. The web is prone to a lot of blatter, and hundreds of hours are spent in front of the computer pounding out blatter rather than being out "there" seeking knowledge and wisdom and enjoying the experience of living , rather than trying to convince someone else that YOU have "the answer". I know I don't have "the answer", only MY "answer".

At 5/09/2005 8:01 PM, Blogger Lawrence said...

Not sure what "novelty blatter" is; I said "novelty blather." So perhaps the pun is yours - i.e., we're pissing away our lives here? Yeah, so true, many may be, but done well, bloggers' discourse such as this is like calisthenics for the mind - so that we can improve our answers - yours, mine and OURS. Many of these problems require collective and cooperative wisdom and willpower.

Thanks for hanging in with me.


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