I am out in Texas for a few weeks, practicing and studying and staring at the Hill Country from my porch. My husband and I sit in our rocking chairs and practice for being old. It’s wonderful. And, for the first time, we have a 4G phone connection here on our hill – progress is inevitable, at least when it comes to cell phone coverage.
So we didn’t miss the news about the mass shooting in Orlando. And I temporarily ended a self-imposed Facebook hiatus to catch up on the news, check if my Orlando friends were safe, share in the grief.
Two days later, I’m left wondering what that was really all about. I’m so conflicted about the way we live. On the one hand, I have tendrils of communication with friends all over the world because of social media. On the other hand, this very media is training us a new way to participate in collective life together. I fear we are mostly marketers of our selves now. Even beautiful expressions of love and unity – how big a percentage of this is advertising of a sort? And then there are the other expressions. We scold each other for the way we react and grieve, we proclaim what a tragedy is “about.” I’m not scolding by writing this, I’ve been on the front line of this behavior. And I don’t have the answer to my own question – where is the line between self-expression and marketing in this new world?
It’s not lost on me that I’m about to post this on my professional website: marketing.
Here’s what I know: words are different when we speak them while looking into each other’s eyes. Video’s ubiquitous and miraculous, but person-to-person contact is something else. When we get into a room to eat together, laugh, debate, make sounds, tell stories – that’s different than watching the video, it’s different than reading the Tweet. All these forms of communication have their use, and we are fortunate to have them all. But they’re tricky, like all great gifts. Money is tricky. Talent is tricky.
How are you inspired? How are you inflamed? How much of that is happening bent over your screen? It’s time for us all to address the balance.
Love is love is love is love is love, said one of our great artists recently, in an act of great self-promotion. I guess the two are inextricably intertwined in this wired universe. But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn to listen with wiser ears and react with cooler heads and warmer hearts.
I’m writing this in the Llano, Texas Public Library. It’s good to have to travel to an Internet source. Gives you time to think. Now we’re going to go home and practice music, and make omelets, and later we’ll look at the stars. Here’s wishing you all a chance to look the things you love right in the eyes, today and every day.