Category Archives: Essays

Midweek Essay – Information Inundation

Is it the quality or quantity of information that is the problem?

Garbage In Garbage Out

The old adage for computer geeks has been my modus operandi for most of my life. If I fill my mind with crap, then crap will out. It makes a kind of sense I guess. The “eyes are the light of the body” and “your body is a temple” motif.  To that end I have tried to guard myself against negative media, images, what not – the goal being at least in some way to minimize the inevitable erosion of personhood that seems to be the enduring gift of society in its current rendition.

I have tried multiple strategies for ingesting only “good” news and have struggled with how to engage with media and technology in positive ways – all of which have been described ad nauseam and in a multitude of formats in this blog. At times I have felt the need to forgo any news whatsoever.

This constant vigilance and filtering for myself and those I am responsible for can be exhausting. It also makes for a rather negative world view. How does one resist conformity without succumbing to the repercussions of the constant battle against conformity?

Information Overload

I tend to gorge myself on information (at least lately) whether it be of high quality or not. I read the paper every morning. I follow several sports teams on a regular basis. I read a variety of magazines. I strain my eyes at the myriad small print from a variety of news apps on my phone. As a result I feel somewhat bloated. So much so that I wonder if I am so filled up that my essence, creativity, purpose, whatever the name, has been squeezed into some dark inner corner. Of course that is assuming that my capacity is limited. I don’t know. But it does seem that it is becoming more difficult for the bright beams of clarity to break through. I wonder if such inundation is the breeding ground for the present states of chaos and confusion.

Data Sabbatical

So I am wondering for myself at least if I need to minimize the quantity of information that I am ingesting. A Sabbath, or break, as it were. Not simply for a day or so but perhaps as a life change. We do not simply live in the 24/7 news cycle. We live in the 24/7 information cycle, and it exists in layers upon layers like a 40-story building. I wind up lying beneath the crushing weight on the ground floor, struggling to breathe, let alone make sense of it all.

Often it has seemed that my response, be it a choice, decision, or artistic endeavor, has been in reaction to a particular occurrence. There is a tragedy and I feel the need to respond, to add my voice to the cacophony already reverberating off the walls everywhere.

I have always believed that there should be a response, especially from “good” people. Silence does not help the voiceless, though a meditative pause can make for a better response. But I have an inkling that the response should be something more than what often is a knee-jerk reaction from well-meaning people to a particular event. Inevitably once the furor dies down, we return to the status quo. That is until the next trigger. And then the cycle repeats itself. Are we not more than mere marionettes in a mine field?

From Reaction To Interaction To _________?

I researched some antonyms for reaction. They weren’t very encouraging. Thesaurus.com lists the following: request, question, failure, loss, cause. No wonder we choose reaction. Upon further thought, I wondered if interaction, while not an antonym per se, might be a viable alternative. Rather than react to the events, interacting and actively engaging feel like more helpful responses. But I have a sense that there is something that goes a step further. The only word that I can think of that gets at what I am trying to describe is preparation. Let me give an example.

In my opinion, one of the all time best Super Bowl halftime shows featured the band U2, not simply because they are one of my favorite bands, but because of how so in tune they were to society’s pulse at that time. This was soon after 911 and, as U2 performed their song “New York”, a large screen behind them flowed with the names of those killed in the tragedy. Unlike so many other performers at similar shows, U2 chose to shift the focus from themselves to the events occurring in the world at large. But there is something else that is intriguing. U2 released “New York” on the album “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” BEFORE 911. Somehow because of their inner work, their preparation, the band’s creative response had an almost prescience nature of the tragedy before it occurred, but even more so  provided what a society needed to mourn and to heal. In a rare positive cultural response to such prophetic wisdom, the album won 7 Grammies including Record of the Year (and U2 was invited to perform at the Super Bowl halftime show).

So the task then becomes how to maintain a sense of preparedness so that my response in some ways defines the event rather than the event defining my response. Getting back to my first question, there is something to say for both maintaining a higher quality of and lower quantity of the news and information I ingest. But more importantly, what are the disciplines and activities I need to participate in so that my response to a particular event, be it personal or global, is not a spasmodic reaction, but rather one that arises out of prescient preparation?

Midweek Essay – How To Keep Writing (When Nobody Is Reading)

So you are writing. But nobody is reading.

I know the feeling. This isn’t just a form of expression. It is about sharing myself. It is about connection. Statistics and Google Analytics scratch the surface, but a bar graph cannot quantify whether my words touched someone. That doesn’t keep me from obsessing about those same bar graphs though.

So here is how to keep writing when nobody (it seems) is reading:

1) Write

It may sound simple but you and I both know it isn’t. The fire of the muse remains burning when we continue to fan the flame. So write and keep writing. Find the rhythm that works best for you. For me I have found (at least lately) that daily wordsmithing works best. But that has not always been the case and I remain open to that changing at any time.

2) Stop Obsessing Over Stats

They have their place, but not if your mood follows the ups and downs of the graph. Limit the amount of times you look at stats. It may be hard at first but once a week or a month is enough to get an idea of the important facts. One thing I am seriously considering is to limit the notifications I receive.

3) Avoid the Emily Dickinson Syndrome

Emily Dickinson became well-known after she died when someone discovered her poems in a drawer. That is my biggest fear – that I die unknown and even worse, that my words die with me. I can become paralyzed if I let myself dwell on what ifs. So I say this to myself and to you. Stay in the present. Let the words stand on their own.

4) Avoid the Emily Dickinson Syndrome Part Deux

Ms. Dickinson was a recluse. You don’t have to be. Find a group of honest and encouraging authors to meet with on a regular basis. Find opportunities to read your words out loud. Online communities like those here at WordPress are great, but check out some local options too. You are not alone.

5) Trust Your Muse

You are a writer. Not because you are being read. And not for any other reason other than quite simply that you write. That is who you are. Too often in the past I have forgotten who I am and suddenly the muse has dried up. Or at least gone silent for a while.

6) Write

Yes, I know I already mentioned this, but it is worth mentioning again. Writers write.

Writing is a conversation. It begins with that inner dialogue and hopefully, spreads outside each of us to others. Regardless, keep listening and talking.

Write.

ESSAY – The Weird Way WordPress (Doesn’t) Count(s) Views/ Visits

So recently I consolidated several blogs I had into one and though I should not have been surprised, my stats jumped. They held steady for a month or two. Then suddenly they dropped back to what they were. Imagine my confusion.

I have still been posting every day – same bat time, same bat channel. Same subjects. Same tags. I researched best days and times to post as well as the most compelling tags. I create images to go with my posts. And it’s not like people are not visiting but the weird thing is I’ll get 10 likes for a post and have 1 view/visitor. I know it has something to do with people reading a post from the wp reader but that is kind of strange that 10 likes doesn’t equal 10 readers/ visitors.

I’d also love to know why things changed so drastically. Did I do something wrong? Is there some magic tag word I am not using? Has the quality of my writing dropped way off?

I’m going to keep writing of course. That is prayer for me. Writing every day as has been the case lately has been a wonderful spiritual practice. I would love to have lots of readers and have each and every one of you be counted. But for now that does not seem to be the case. Regardless your visit is important to me.

So I will keep writing, welcome the peace it wroughts in me, and trust that the words are read by whoever was meant to see them.

Be it 1 or 1000.

Parking Lot

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My annoyance at your crooked parking is quickly replaced by the realization that my parking is not always pristine.

While staying between the lines is a laudable endeavor most of the time, it is not always possible for one reason or another.

Nor is it necessarily a bad thing sometimes to cross over the boundaries painted on the pavement.

It is strange that I still struggle with annoyance when you cross the line into my space though it is only one I will occupy for a brief moment of time.

The paint is faded. The lines could be repainted. Regardless they might as well be cement walls ten feet high.

I get annoyed because I have rarely entered your space nor have I allowed you to become familiar with mine.

How quickly I place my stamp of ownership on an empty place that is available for everyone.

How quickly I have succumbed to the not so subtle expectations to never stray outside the lines.

You is not I (and I is not You)

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So what’s up with “you?”

Last time I checked it was second person.

So why do I keep hearing it used in the first person?

A recent example from an interview with an athlete:

“Once you start playing the adrenalin kicks in and you don’t feel anything.”

Or

“This is what you look forward to as a competitor.”

Hmm. It’s not really the grammatical misuse of the word that bugs me as much as the assumption that comes with such misuse.

In other words rather than owning the experience, it is generalized as if I and everyone else have or have had the exact same experience.

Which may or may not be true. But it doesn’t mean that you is I.

Or I is you.