Reflection 64: Blogosphere II

February 13, 2009

(Copyright © 2009)

 

I wrote earlier (Reflection 8: Blogosphere, October 16, 2008 ) that “blogs hold promise of creating a cooperative, synchronized interaction between individual worlds of consciousness on a scale far grander than one-way broadcasts in the mass media have ever achieved through dominance and brute force.” But added, “As it is now, blogs add up to a clamorous Babel of noise and opinion.”

 

Which is it to be, a force for order in the world, or a source of disruption and confusion? As I see it, the blogosphere feeds on itself by seizing on every crumb of information in the media and subjecting it to eternal digestion into finer and finer bits until it ends up as drivel.

 

My son recently gave me The Huffington Post Complete Guide to Blogging, in which I found a list of eight “Sources of Inspiration” on page 84. There I immediately grasped what the trouble is. On that page some of the most successful bloggers in the world tell their secret: Feed off of the media and one another! The whole enterprise is incestuous. Opinions galore, but not a sign of original thought in the bunch. Well, one sign in the eighth item: “On the street” reporting, which reads:

 

Are the teachers at your children’s school upset by student test scores? Is the cafeteria manager concerned about the quality of the produce? Maybe your local pharmacist is worried that seniors don’t understand recent changes in Medicare. all of these stories are worth covering.

 

To those who click out blogs of this sort, I salute you. You’re my kind of folks, making the most of your personal resources.

 

The other seven sources of “inspiration” are derived from existing media: 1) newspapers, 2) political publications, 3) general interest publications, 4) TV news and news websites, 5) radio, 6) large new-media sites (HuffPost, Politico, BoingBoing, Daily Kos, etc.), and 7) blogs on your blogroll.

 

In a word, many or most blogs are derivative. They chew on themselves and other media. Feeding on the same cud, they grind away until nothing is left but drool from the chops. Then onto the next bite, then the next.

 

Whatever happened to investigative reporting? To actually being on the scene, doing original interviews, getting hard facts down on paper? Standing for the truth by putting your body where the news is? The blogsphere is getting to be little more than a roll of toilet paper, every sheet the same. That doesn’t sound like the best use of human consciousness to me.

 

What gets chewed over already exists in digital form on the Web, while most of life is organic, fleeting, and vulnerable every moment—and definitely cannot be reduced to binary code. Blogs don’t deal with living material—with people, animals, trees, flowers, birds. They deal instead with digitized cast-offs of cast-offs of cast-offs. The scheme seems to be, get noticed by reworking the printed words of the movers and shakers. To get famous, rehash the verbal orts of the outrageous, rich, and notorious.

 

Here’s a painful truth. Much of the blogosphere is staffed by an army of hacks. Clever, sometimes, but hacks nonetheless. Like so many army ants coursing through the jungle tearing at every stem, leaf, or leg in their path.

 

Where, I ask, is consciousness in this feeding frenzy? Where are original thought, judgment, curiosity, doubt, passion, and all those other facets of human consciousness we know so well because they make us who we are?

 

On the other hand, maybe I miss the whole point. Maybe chewing the cud is the next stage of human evolution. Maybe the grazing animal in each of us is finally slobbering her way out of the closet. Maybe squatting in our cubicles and taking it easy by doing as little real work as possible is the coming thing. Just maybe. But I don’t believe it. A blog is as valuable as the life equivalent that goes into it. Which to me takes three things: conscious effort, passion, and judgment. Without one of the three, a blog might as well be plopped from the stern of a cow.

 

Like high-colonic enemas, rants (including this one) are good for the soul. They scrub the kidneys, liver, pancreas of all the waste they’ve been storing for months. I highly recommend them. But if you launch your rant into the blogosphere, please let it be your original and not a variation on somebody else’s complaint. Look into your consciousness and see what gems you can find, then fling them forth. Maybe that’ll unclog your system and open the gates to consciousness and original thought.

 

¦

 

 

 

(Copyright © 2009)

 

I once spoke at a wedding, advising those assembled to lead an original life. I was addressing the happy couple, but spread the word more broadly. The couple had a child in short order, but she soon found out he was a druggie and of little use, so she divorced him. It is harder to be original when coupled with a demanding other than by yourself. Even so, it is never easy to deliberately and consciously live your own life.

 

In Self-Reliance, Emerson wrote: “Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.” Which I wholeheartedly endorse. At first as well as last, your consciousness is your most valuable possession. Let others lead their lives while you tend to yours. They will be full of advice as to how you should go about it. Listen, but then trust your own judgment and inspiration. Yes, you will make mistakes, but the main thing to be sure of is they are your own mistakes so there’s no one else to blame. That way your learning will belong to you.

 

Which sounds like a retread of a moral tract worn smooth. But I intend it as a spur to creativity, not conformity. Our value to one another is in our originality, not our sameness. If we were composed of interchangeable parts, we would be robots and live interchangeable lives. But that’s not how it is. Each of us has something to add to the world. For proof, look to the blogosphere. All those voices in the wilderness, no two alike. Offering their wares, thoughts, opinions, feelings—whatever they care about. To dismiss them is to miss the point. They are trying to make it happen, whatever it is. Every blogger has his or her private agenda. Blogs are like sunspots: they erupt from the inside.

Which is why we are a mass of damp protoplasm run through with strands of sinew and muscle wrapped around a core of consciousness and unconsciousness. We are here to make things happen in our current situation, the circumstances that in practical terms make up our personal world. The world that counts for us because we are a part of it and it is a part of us.

In a world where others usually make things happen to us, how do we do that—make things happen inside-out? By using consciousness to our advantage. By pushing our mental worlds as far as they can go in framing our projects, whatever they may be. That is, laying the groundwork. Starting with the known and familiar of firsthand experience and heading toward the unknown and strange. Then letting go, trusting our mysterious unconscious to show us the way from there.

That is how I have written every blog in this series. I start with a small hunch or smattering of experience, and head out from there. I seldom know where I am going. There’s no outline, not even a goal. But I am heading somewhere for sure; it’s just I don’t yet realize my own destination. By jotting down keywords and phrases, then concentrating on filling in the gaps along the way, I get somewhere at least. Then I back off and let my other half take over—my unconscious mind. It already knows where I’m heading and helps me along, extending and completing what consciousness has been able to do on its own.

Consciousness and unconsciousness are flip sides of the same self. We are familiar with one; the other we don’t know, even though they are both flesh of the same flesh. The two work together, one in full view (on camera), the other in the shadows. You know this full-immersion approach is working once your project bubbles over into your dreams and dreamlike thoughts at 3:00 a.m. You’ve got to consciously prime the pump by throwing yourself into the project. Then let your unconscious carry you from there. One of life’s greatest discoveries is that it always will.

Before the Cuban missile crisis came to a head in October 1962, JFK carried on a secret, frank—and very unofficial—correspondence with Russian Premier Khrushchev, the two leaders comparing notes on their visions for what amounted to the future of the world. It was the mutual respect and understanding generated by this exchange that laid the groundwork of trust for the solution to the crisis when Russia removed its missiles from Cuba in exchange for removal of US missiles from Turkey. Without those backchannel letters that, once made public, outraged the military-industrial power structure so beloved of the CIA, the crisis likely would have festered into World War III and an exchange of nuclear missiles. (The full story is told in James W. Douglass’ JFK and the Unspeakable, Orbis Books, 2008.)

Our conscious and unconscious minds work as a team, exchanging data and feedback by channels we are completely unaware of—until a full-blown solution is announced. When I wrote during my island retreat in 1986-1988, I would often come to a block, which I took as a hint to go for a hike. Walking on snowshoes through the woods, my attention kept pace with the rhythm of my legs, but I stayed clear of the blockage that send me out. Until, after forty-five minutes, I suddenly saw through the obstacle to the landscape beyond. I just had to give my unconscious mind time to sort through the problem and come up with the answer that lay just out of reach. Which it did, invariably.

Consciousness frames the problem; unconsciousness works it through. If I (my conscious self) does its part, my twin (covert self) will finish the job. That way, I somewhat control my own output. I make conscious suggestions based on experience and research; my silent twin rounds out the whole. Both are in the same loop; I’m the one who knows only half of what’s going on. My unconscious half knows the rest. It’s a great feeling to discover the full picture spreading before me. After my hike, I pick up where I left off as if there’d been no break at all.

You don’t have to hike to give your unconscious time to work. You can listen to music, dance, stretch—any nonstressful activity will do. You can even take a nap or go to sleep. Your unconscious twin will stay at the helm.

The key to living an original life is doing your part the best you can, then trusting your shadow self to carry on while you do something else. You’ve got to prepare, practice, rehearse, mull, write drafts, and so on. There is no way you can avoid doing your share of the work. And doing it again, and again. This is your life; your task is to live it. After a while, you will so internalize what your are striving for that your unconscious self—which is as original as you are—will pitch in and give you a hand.

Sometimes the best thing you can do is get out of the way. That is, forget what others are telling you and listen to what your mind and your body are trying to tell you. As Emerson put it in Self-Reliance: “Listen to the inward voice and bravely obey that. Do the things at which you are great, not what you were never made for.”

¦

 

(Copyright © 2008) 

We’ve all had our trial run at the scientific method, usually in grammar or middle school. We’ve duly partnered up, signed-out supplies and equipment, controlled for variable conditions, followed procedures, made observations, recorded data, presented results, and learned whether we’d supported the teacher’s hypothesis or done it all wrong.

 

In other words, we were trained to create a situation for producing meaningful results. Which at the time meant coming up with the right answer, but beyond that, we disciplined ourselves to behave in certain ways so that our results would agree with what was already common knowledge. We weren’t finding out anything new; we were calibrating ourselves so we could sometimes claim to act objectively. That is, to avoid wittingly imposing our personal assumptions, views, and emotions on what we were doing.

 

The point of the “experiment” was to get us to act as if we were scientists. To become a scientist, you must act like a scientist. The teacher walked us through a model of the scientific method so we could find out what that might feel like. Some of us took to this strange way of doing things, others sat back and let our partners do the walking for the two of us.

 

My point here is that scientific results are primarily meaningful in situations that scientists would approve of because they conform to agreed-upon conditions set by the scientific community.

 

Most of us are not scientists and do not act like scientists. The situations in which we thrive are not governed by scientists. We cook, paint, hum along, daydream, go bowling—and are perfectly happy to lead our nonscientific lives without once thinking of data or procedures.

 

The funny thing is, many scientists would claim that the findings coming out of situations that make their conscious lives meaningful apply to us as well because they are universally valid and true (until proven otherwise). Which is odd because we nonscientists do not make the counterclaim that the situations in which we are disciplined and creative are meant to benefit scientists (or followers of other, equally exacting, disciplines).

 

This is an obvious example of nonsymmetrical consciousness. What’s true for me is true for you, but not vice versa. Maybe you have to have a certain chutzpah to be a scientist. When humanoids are all extinct, it won’t make any difference; our planet will go its own way—as it always has. But right now we are caught up in our versions of that planet as represented in consciousness. Some representations, it turns out, are truer than others. And some former scientific truths have been put aside. Phlogiston, for instance was once thought to make the air we breathe combustible. That’s where flames came from. You don’t hear it mentioned anymore. Doctors don’t still apply leeches, either, because science no longer believes in the four temperaments or four humors (leeching got rid of “excess” blood). Was the Manhattan Project (in which a team of scientists made the atom bomb possible) a good idea? Even some scientists would now say it wasn’t. What about arms merchant Alfred Nobel on his death bed agreeing to fund a peace prize with the profits he’d made? Which is truer, high explosives or world peace? Then there are all those chemicals (pesticides, dioxins, PCBs, PBDEs, toxic metals) showing up in mothers’ milk around the globe; without scientists, they wouldn’t be there. Which is it to be, breast feeding or the march of progress? In my mind, one is truth itself, the other a self-serving conceit.

 

If truth is to be found on planet Earth; it lives in the human mind. It is the product of conscious minds exercising themselves in particular ways in certain situations. The military made, tested, and dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. As a result, 220 thousand people died by the end of that year, followed by many others who died slower deaths from radiation poisoning. Ever since, nations have sought to guarantee such weapons would never be used again (while maintaining stockpiles of nuclear weapons just in case). Which is truer, the scientific triumph of the bomb, or the slaughter in its wake?

 

As a thought experiment (an exercise in just-pretend consciousness), put yourself in Harry Truman’s shoes (his situation) as he weighed arguments for and against dropping those two bombs. First, do it based on the information Truman had available to him in August 1945; then do it knowing what you know today. Clearly, dropping the first bomb was a terrible experiment because no one knew what would happen. But why drop the second after the first proved so devastating? Was it just because the Japanese were so slow to surrender? Or was it similar to the case of a murderer killing his victim with one stab, then killing him again and again in a rage?

 

What is the common element uniting the situations within which scientists ply their skills? As with businessmen, doctors, and soldiers, it must be the salary received for the work. Consciousness can be applied many ways, but in each case it has its price. That aspect of the scientific method is not much discussed.

 

Which makes me wonder whether truth has any meaning at all, even in the most conscious of minds. I now think Luigi Pirandello was right: it’s true if you think so. Time for full disclosure. I am a low-ranking science buff. I subscribed to Popular Science in the 1940s, and was the first person to subscribe to McGraw-Hill’s (then) new science magazine (name long forgotten). I did well in physics and chemistry in high school, and, logically enough, went off to MIT. Where I discovered science appealed to certain kinds of minds—minds that liked to speak with great authority while avoiding displays of emotion. I saw that as a macho kind of mind (there were nine female students in my day) which did not appeal to my more exploratory kind of mind. After two years, I transferred to Columbia in New York City, where I majored in the humanities.

 

MIT in those days was a situation unto itself, a haven for men who didn’t like asking for directions because it made them feel weak and submissive. It attracted students who thrived more by telling, not asking questions. We sat dutifully through lecture after lecture, taking notes, memorizing them, feeding them back on weekly quizzes. The first two years were largely the same for all students: physics, calculus, chemistry, mechanical drawing, engineering, with a token humanities course. You had to be committed to such a situation from the start. I leaked out of the mold I was poured into, so I left. Subsequently, I leaked out of other molds as well. Truth, for me, has always been elsewhere.

 

Here’s the irony: truth has to be a truth you can believe in. It has to flow naturally from your situation at the time. Which is why scientists stick by their approved methods. For myself, I pursue the elusive truth of consciousness because the situated mind is one place I have yet to fully explore. Novelty, not sameness, turns me on. So far my research has shown that my consciousness is highly fallible. On the fringe of awareness, I see things that aren’t there, and don’t see things that demonstrably are. At the center, I’m often on autopilot and am conscious only when forced into it by a novel turn of events. Now I’m interested in times when I’m fully alert and awake, and know I am—usually when I have a question to ask, or a new puzzle to solve.

 

What kind of situation is it that sets my consciousness going? Not one based on statistics or prescribed methods. I’m after one-of-a-kind events that are meaningful nonetheless, such as the episodes I’ve shared in earlier posts. I’ll be on this course for a long while yet, sharing bulletins from time to time via this blog.

 

If you’d like to share such episodes from your own experience, I’d be glad to hear from you.

¦

 

(Copyright © 2008) 

Regarding consciousness, I keep making the same discovery: Invariably—even in dreams—it is situational in nature. My particular consciousness—which is all I can blog about—is centered on my awareness of what’s happening in a particular situation.

 

Right now I am sitting at my computer starting a blog to be posted on December 10 on the topic of situation consciousness. I have eaten breakfast, washed dishes, brushed my teeth, made a list of terms people use to talk about situations. And am now addressing the issue of what my mind wants me to say.

 

I will go so far as to say my current situation defines who I am. I am he who creates a blog by putting himself in one situation after another. I cannot imagine myself apart from my sense of what’s going on at the time, which gives me the particular point of view I hold on that occasion. Otherwise, I am a formless Will-o’-the-wisp—some kind of phantom waiting to be roused from my stupor and given shape and consciousness of one kind or another.

 

If I want to be fully conscious, I need to find a situation I can throw myself into. My life depends on it. I need a challenge to feel creative and alive. My consciousness is built around a tide of challenges as it ebbs and flows in my mind. Read a mystery; you always want to find out whodunit, so you plunge from one chapter to the next. Read a comic strip; you always want to know what happens in the next frame. Go to a game—any game—and you are who you are by participating in the event as it unfolds. Every game is played one play (pitch, turn, down, throw of the dice, deal) at a time, each shaping your mind. Consciousness pulls itself up by its own bootstraps. We are who we are because of the circumstances we seek and engage.

 

I am on a small island, building a cabin with hand tools. Six years ago, one of my students spent the summer helping me dig the foundation. Now I have time and means to build the actual structure. I cut every plank by hand. Drive every nail, frame and sheathe every wall, hoist every rafter, line up every shingle. My muscles adjust to the work. My fingers take on a permanent curl to fit the shape of my tools. I become a builder, with the consciousness of a builder. Rain or shine, every morning I take up where I left off the night before, doing what needs to be done. I enlist volunteers to help with the heavy lifting, painting, staining of shingles. I am driven to finish the job in three months. At least make it tight for the winter. Get the roof on, doors and windows in, shutters in place. I practice what I call on-site design, letting the place speak to me, tell me how to proceed when my imagination is out of its depth. I have never felt more productive and alive. This is what I am meant to be doing. For three months, this is who I am.

 

Consciousness begs to be active and useful. To fit us to the task at hand. If no task presents itself, then to seek out a situation in which a task will emerge. Need shelter?—build (rent, buy) a place. Hungry?—procure food and fix dinner. Lonely?—seek companions. Want a family?—find a partner, have a baby. Worn out?—engage in restful pursuits. Stuck in your job?—go to school. Need something to do?—build a ship in a bottle. If you give yourself to the situation, consciousness will show you the way.

 

All our organizational talk about strategies, tactics, jobs, projects, objectives, goals, intentions, and plans is really about framing our life worlds in personal consciousness. We are meant to involve ourselves in life situations that will meet our needs and desires. If an appropriate situation doesn’t exist, we have to invent it. Look at the Obama campaign, first the primary contest, then the run for president. The Obama team made it happen. They created the situation in which it could happen. They worked out the dynamics beforehand, then did the leg work. Day by day, they pulled America together behind their man. All consciously through the power of the focused mind.

 

Nobody said it would be easy. Each situations comprises a cast of participants together with their drives, attitudes, talents, levels of understanding, expectancies, personal goals, feelings, motivations, judgments, prior experiences, skillful behaviors tailored to specific occasions, and other aspects of consciousness—all backed by financial resources and coordinated to bring about the desired end result. Thousands of people worked together for two years. The political situation defined the consciousness of the campaign workers, and they put their life’s energy into their work. They did what they set out to do—which was nothing less than change the world one day at a time. Their coordinated consciousness made it happen.

 

Now Obama faces a new situation. A series of new situations. Which will define who he will be from now on. He has to coordinate an executive team that (with legislative and judicial branches) can govern the nation for up to eight years, all the while engaging the novel situations each moment will bring. Which is all any of us can hope to do—apply our unique gifts of consciousness to the challenges we face.

 

In being situational, consciousness defines who we are. If we opt to tune out because the work is so hard, we effectively put ourselves in a stupor and become nonentities. Our culture offers all manner of aids to help us escape (because there is money to be made): drugs, alcohol, entertainments and diversions, induced states of oblivion. Taken in excess, these can make us dull, witless, and mentally un-conscious.

 

To be fully human requires all the wits we can muster. We need to be wholly conscious. Which requires us to be as alive as we can be to ourselves, to others, and to the life situations that call us into being. Nothing can be more productive and satisfying than living on that plane of existence.

¦

 

Reflection 32: Slap My Face

December 3, 2008

(Copyright © 2008)

Humanity, thy name is delusion. We love to fool others, and to be fooled ourselves. Why else would we watch TV, go to the movies, or take vows plighting our troth (whatever that means) “till death do us part”?

 

The most glaring way we fool ourselves is in believing that personal consciousness depicts events in the real world. As if our entire mental apparatus did not come between us and that world, skewing it, distorting it, shaping it to fit our personal fears and desires.

 

·        We can never break free from our personal experience. It intercedes for us every time.

·        We can never know another person’s mind.

·        We can never even know our own minds.

·        Our life worlds are all founded on speculation and conjecture.

 

Welcome to the lot of humanity. The human condition. Welcome to this blog. I cannot claim to have any definitive answers. But I am willing to wrestle with how we make meaning for ourselves. How we build entire worlds from figments and fragments.

 

So far I have looked at episodes of experience when I have been proven wrong. Such as the time I mistook a trash bag for a dying crow. A TV antenna for a crashing jet. A man on the street for my old friend Fred. A squeaky hinge for a cat underfoot. I have also looked at times when I failed to see a vase of sunflowers or a mustard jar right in front of me. And other occasions when I didn’t know my own mind.

 

By examining the traps my consciousness sets for me, I hope to become more discriminating in telling the difference between fiction and nonfiction. Much of the time, we don’t make that distinction. We switch from news programs to talk shows to soap operas to situation comedies, take them all in as if they were equally real. They may be experientially equivalent, perhaps, but none of them is “real,” not even the news. All have been filtered through other minds, which right away should raise red flags in our own.

 

The sense of smell offers the clearest example of where we go wrong. We smell pizza, we take it there is pizza in the world around us. Molecules of oils and spices actually waft onto sensors in our olfactory bulbs. But there the real world ends and subjective reality takes over. Those sensors transform the presence of molecules into ions passing through membranes into the interior of nerve cells. Those cells become electrically charged relative to their surroundings, and that charge travels down the length of the cell’s axon. No pizza molecules here, just ions passing through channels into nerve cells. When the sequence of ion movements ends at an axon terminal, it triggers release of chemicals known as neurotransmitters, which cross gaps between nerve cells. Again, no pizza here, just standard bodily chemicals drifting from one cell to another. Eventually such events spur secretion of saliva and the expectation of eating a slice of pizza with pepperoni, mushrooms, and green peppers. “I’ll have a slice of the pepperoni,” we say.

 

It is a mystery exactly how that happens. But there is no mystery how molecules set the process in motion. Molecules which may rise from a hot pizza, or which may have been concocted in a research lab and sold in a bottle labeled, Eau de Pepperoni. Vanilla extract smells like the real bean, but doesn’t taste like it when you drink it (as I learned when very young). You may not want to know some of the ingredients in perfumes you use to make yourself alluring (hint: the word musk stems from the Sanskrit for testacle; castorium comes from anal sacs of the beaver).

 

Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Pressley are represented by ionic action potentials coursing along nerve fibers in our brains. Accompanied by hormone secretions as appropriate. No little photographs stored in memory, no reels of film. Our brains take the world apart, transform it into flowing ions, hormones, and neurotransmitters—and never put it back together again. What access we have to the world is told by the flow of such chemicals. Period. Do an autopsy. No Marilyn, no Elvis. Just chemicals.

 

Most of what makes up the outside world is never represented in consciousness at all. We simply take it for granted it is there, and that assumption is all the evidence we have for that world. When I drive the eighteen miles to Ellsworth, I may be aware of certain stretches of road where I must make a decision, but for the most part I pass through it unaware because my mind is thinking of other things. How was my trip? you ask. Uneventful, is all I can say. I can’t even remember what I was thinking about.

 

Assumptions, habits, routines—these bypass consciousness without making themselves known. That’s how we get through most days, on automatic pilot navigating through the same old, same old. Consciousness comes into play when we have to make a decision, ask a question, use our judgment. It comes at our bidding when we find ourselves in an unfamiliar situation. Most times we don’t bother, and carry on as usual. We get up as usual, eat breakfast as usual, go to work as usual by the usual route, come home as usual, eat as usual, watch the usual shows, check the usual blogs, go to bed at the usual time, and dream the usual dreams. Where have we been all day? What did we do? You know, the usual.

 

I remember a story in the Maine Times (now defunct) about a man who’d left a great many (80 sticks in my mind) grandchildren when he died, and was related to just about everyone in his small town. The editor thought there’d be a story in the man’s life. But what the reporter found in interview after interview was that the old bird liked to cruise the main street of town in his pickup truck, driving back and forth, back and forth. End of story. No one had anything to say about him good or bad. He died as he had lived, a nobody to the end.

 

Scary story, because it goes against the grain of what we keep telling ourselves. Against what we want to believe. In my own case, my conscious life falls between the times I am obviously wrong and know it, and the times I am operating in a situation so familiar I can trust my body to a behavioral routine that never enters my awareness. When the music stops, I clap.

 

Which is why I am writing this blog. To keep myself awake, like slapping my face when I’m driving while tired. And to remind you to slap your face. To ask questions. To both wonder and ponder. That’s the only way I know to get better at this consciousness game, by not taking it for granted. By not assuming it presents me with any such thing as the real world. At least I know where the blogging part of my day has gone. 

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Reflection 8: Blogosphere

October 16, 2008

(Copyright © 2008)

Insofar as they are immediate, thoughtful, coherent, and honest, blogs hold promise of creating a cooperative, synchronized interaction between individual worlds of consciousness on a scale far grander than one-way broadcasts in the mass media have ever achieved through dominance and brute force.

 

The emergent properties of such a linked and energetic exchange could function as the collective mind of a world we yearn for but cannot yet imagine. (Neglect for now the global energy consumption necessary to give every creature a voice in such a mind, and the common language we would need to develop to convey personal and cultural nuances beyond the means of stock formulas of expression.)

 

As it is now, blogs add up to a clamorous Babel of noise and opinion. We select the few that speak to-and-for us, and shun the rest. That way, we reinforce our respective mindsets without running the risk of expanding or correcting them. There’s little rhythm to the whole indicating the slightest degree of synchrony. Even crickets manage that as you drive by a field with the window open—as if they were singing with and not against one another.

 

United bloggers stand, divided we fall into cacophony. How do we unite when we are all distinct individuals? By reaching for a higher order of consciousness tuned to our sameness more than our differences. Our differences are often minor variations appended to our commonalities. We are built to much the same plan, share similar concerns and aspirations, face comparable obstacles, speak and use gestures, develop along similar lines, need food to survive, along with air, water, shelter, companionship, humor, resilience, patience, strength, and so on.

 

Where we blog into trouble is in competing for world attention instead of complementing one another in promoting a dynamic understanding of world affairs. This pits blog against blog in selfish self-promotion, not synchronous cooperation. Which boggles the consciousness of most blog surfers, the casual and devoted alike. We can take in only so much, yet there’s so much going on and so much being blogged instant by instant.

 

Categories and tags are meant to cut the problem down to size. As I write, the top ten categories/tags on WordPress.com at this moment are: Politics, News, Life, Music, Family, Photography, Barack Obama, Entertainment, Travel, and Personal. Here is the mirror of our time on Earth. The problem of organizing it into meaningful topic areas is similar to what Peter Mark Roget faced in 1849 when he set out to sort words not by their spellings but according to the ideas which they express. That is, by their meanings. Which he accomplished in short order, producing his Thesaurus in 1852.

 

Imagine doing the same thing for human consciousness by taking on the blogosphere in similar fashion. Consciousness enables us to establish a meaningful relationship between the self and its life situation. What the blogosphere needs is a thesaurus of topic ideas to help bloggers blog in meaningful categories and surfers to locate (and choose between) the postings they are interested in.

 

Thus would be born the world brain, providing timely and orderly access to world consciousness concerning local and global issues on a scale that would benefit even old Earth itself, beleaguered as it is today by its pesky and overly abundant hominid inhabitants.

 

In truth, we are all creatures of our home planet, and are Earthlings in spirit if not in name. By whatever time scale you measure it, we have grown up together on this Earth. We are all members of the Class of 10-16-2008. Many of us were here yesterday; some of us will be here tomorrow. We have that much in common. Which gives us a lot to blog about in synchrony with one another.

 

I choose to blog about consciousness because many of us share that quality to greater or lesser degree. It is something we hold in common, even though we don’t think much about what it is that we share. Without it, we would live on the level of worms, toads, and jellyfish, dependent on reflexes to get us through the day. Consciousness is just one minor category in the theater of all blogs. It is not likely to make the top 100, much less the top ten.

 

We have much to learn about consciousness, and using it wisely to promote lifestyles and levels of consumption respectful of our homeland. Yet its study isn’t a vital part of the school curriculum. Our educational power structure prefers to take charge from the outside, thus overriding our native hunger for self-fulfillment. If we don’t pursue it ourselves, no one else can do it for us. I’m not talking about such theories of mind as are doled out in psychology class, but the real thing studying itself. In the true spirit of Apollo’s dictum, “Know thyself,” such study turns education inside out. With the result that we get beyond taking the world—and ourselves—at face value. The world, we discover, is what we make of it.

 

Consciousness is a high art which, performed with care, feeling, precision—and openness to feedback—leads to self-mastery and social effectiveness. Flourished covertly due to abuse or neglect, it leads us astray more often than not, and can be hurtful to others who get entangled in our self-wrought scenarios. There are lots of mean and angry blogs out there, blaming the world’s ills on others rather than seeking aid for the blogger’s condition.

 

Our bodies and brains have evolved to the hunter-gatherer stage. After that, our genes have had little time to track the growth of cultures which have continued to evolve at a far faster pace. What would a Paleolithic hunter blog about? Sex. Food. Shelter. Climate. Birth. Death. Family. Community. Joy. Sadness. Love. Survival. Same as us, without politics perhaps, or the economy. The point being that as far as my consciousness goes, I am essentially on the Paleolithic level. The evolved Earthling level. My take on my life situation is far older and more out of date than I realize. Me hungry. Me want satisfaction. Not later, now!

 

Whatever our claimed degree of sophistication, we—including all bloggers—are on the level of Paleolithic hunter-gatherers. Consciousness has gotten us that far, at least. Beyond that we are largely on our own, making life up as we go. No wonder the economy is in shambles. We have left it to rank amateurs, those who ride out their hunches and intuitions, taking our assets along with them.

 

Earthlings all, we have much to blog about. If we get our acts together, we can contribute to universal understanding of what it is we are doing. Which is always a matter of translating the sensible world around us into conscious phenomena, funding those phenomena with meanings and feelings, then contributing to the world through motivated actions judged to be appropriate to our immediate life situation. All else—including power and wealth—is hand waving and bluster.  ¦