Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Love You, Dude, but I Need Myspace.

Stumbled across this article about egotism on the internet, which I found fascinating. I probably can’t nod my head too much in knowing agreement, since I have a blog with my name emblazoned in huge capital letters, across the top. But I can at least try to pass the blame. I don’t know how to customize the page layout I chose. So it’s not so much that I’m an egotist, I just borrowed the egotist template.

I’m not really too worried about whether this obscure page is a bad influence on my level of pride. I have come to update it only once in a great while, and I have only modest illusions that it’s an absorbing place to spend time. If an occasional update causes me to stop taking one tiny thing for granted in order to think about it for five minutes, and if I cause two other people to do the same—whether they have the same thoughts or different ones of their own—then I’m satisfied. It’s more in my everyday, non-electronic life that I face the challenge to exercise that underrated but oh-so-attractive trait of humility.

I went to the Twitter website that Michael Kinsley mentions, and it took only a second to get his point. The first person I ran into was Tom Coates, whose last post says that what he’s doing right now is “Finding other people frustrating, irritating, judgmental, superior, condescending and hypocritical.” I wondered if “superior” was just tossed in for good measure. Eight posts before that, he confesses that ”I hate using phones too. Really object to talking to people generally, in fact.” I think he might be missing the irony that he’s telling the entire world of people, or at least those who stumble across him randomly, about his misanthropy.

But that’s where I think computer technology removes irony. Or maybe more accurately, makes it so commonplace that to not have that consumerist, self-assured winking smirk of irony would be anachronistic and naïve.

Think about the idea of community post-internet. At one point, settlers began spreading across this vast, mostly uninhabited country, to some extent threatening the idea of community. While initially dependent on one other for survival, and then for companionship, getting along with and valuing your neighbors became optional once the wilderness was tamed, and technology (like motorcars) made isolation far easier. I’m just spouting assumptions here, the proof of which would be at least book length. Anyway, the farther along we go it seems, the more any concept of neighbor becomes little more than an annoyance. The true sign of arrogance that has diseased almost all of us, myself included, is the underlying thought, “I’m okay with myself, it’s other people that are the problem.” I like how Paul the Apostle turns that upside down: No. Actually, I’m the problem. Start there, and you’ll be surprised how much else just works itself out.

But once we had the luxury to detach ourselves from almost everyone else, something had to take its place, and it’s hard to look around and see that the something has been God. He’s the one who rhetorically implied that we are our brother’s keeper, after all. So the same technological progress that initially gave us the means to be as far away as we care to be, now gives us the means to reconnect, only artificially. What was a letter became a phone call and then an e-mail and then an anonymous posting on a popular website. While most of us have not completely exited the real social world, the internet at least makes us more aware that it is an available option. So when I’m talking to a coworker, I’m undoubtedly influenced by the fact that I just solved a personal problem earlier in the day without ever having to face the person, or use an audible voice, or be anywhere near them.

Where does it go from here? Let me know what you think. Preferably, over coffee. But if nothing else, send me an anonymous e-mail.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Lyrics I like:


You are my sweetest downfall.
I loved you first, I loved you first.
Beneath the sheets of paper lies my truth.
I have to go, I have to go.
Your hair was long when we first met.

Samson went back to bed,
Not much hair left on his head.
He ate a slice of Wonder Bread and went right back to bed.
And history books forgot about us and the Bible didn't mention us.
And the Bible didn't mention us, not even once.

You are my sweetest downfall.
I loved you first, I loved you first.
Beneath the stars came fallin' on our heads.
But they're just old light, they're just old light.
Your hair was long when we first met.

Samson came to my bed,
Told me that my hair was red,
Told me I was beautiful and came into my bed.
Oh I cut his hair myself one night,
A pair of dull scissors in the yellow light,
And he told me that I'd done alright,
And kissed me 'til the mornin' light, the mornin' light.
And he kissed me 'til the mornin' light.

Samson went back to bed,
Not much hair left on his head.
Ate a slice of Wonder Bread and went right back to bed.
Oh, we couldn't bring the columns down,
Yeah we couldn't destroy a single one.
And history books forgot about us,
And the Bible didn't mention us, not even once.

You are my sweetest downfall,
I loved you first.

I don't think there's an intent to make a religious point so much as just drawing from the literary reference to talk about a doomed relationship.

Link to the actual song. Click Music, then the Begin to Hope cassette, and then go two songs forward. Then jump back to the beginning to get the charming songs Fidelity and Better.
Working at the speed of rudeness.

At muy job, the pace of work has led me to taking lots of available shortcuts in communication. Perhaps the best example is that I rarely take the trouble to send an e-mail when the only purpose is to say thank you for something small. If the deserving party is someone I work with on a daily basis, that is. And I'd really rather not get those e-mail either. Yesterday I received 63 e-mails; extremely busy days only go up from there. So that makes me wonder if we can't just assume gratitude.

On the other hand, do I run the risk of offending? And I slightly worry if someday I'll be lumped in with those leper guys who Jesus healed and all but one ran off without saying thank you.

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