There are some notes that laid on the top of my possible next posts pile for a long time. Like the notes I posted recently, these clearly migrated from the same old boxes that I’m now excavating more seriously.
The ink is faded, and I can identify a fountain pen I used decades ago. Apparently I thought they had potential. But as little statements on life — being from a younger me — they now seem trite and bumper sticker simplistic. Yet they’ve had just enough flavor to keep them out of the wastebasket.
I’m tired of looking at them. Here they are.
To start, here’s one that’s pure bumper sticker (it’s the one in that old fountain pen I loved so much):
“The fact that it’s a huge, huge world can be scary,… or comforting. In such a big world, in the long run, nothing is that important.”
So relax and try to enjoy the ride. I mentioned a while back that I’m totally the grasshopper in that old fable. My great fortune is that my fiddle-playing worked out! I’ve never had to be the ant, even in the beginning.
The ink on this next on is very faded, so it goes way back. It’s a nice metaphor, but I could never really do anything with it.
This is a metaphor for humanity:
“Gravel with a few precious stones and a few lumps of coal. Each piece is a little different, like snowflakes. Each piece has its own beauty, yet they are very, very similar, and may be cut from the same boulder.
“A mob of gravel is pretty indistinct (in terms of individuals), but it can hurt, maim, or kill!”
Not just a metaphor for humanity, but one reflecting the weight and inertia of its collective behavior. I think both are important traits. That weight gives collections of humans considerable power. The inertia lies in how hard it is to get those collections really going… and how hard it is to stop them once you do!
It feels like you could take this further, even build a post around it. But nothing has really clicked, so it’s getting kicked off the pile into the world to fend for itself.
(I sort of wish I’d said “cigarette butts” or “dog turds” instead of “lumps of coal” but “coal” at least grants even the worst of us membership as minerals.)
Here’s one was inspired by how people behaved on USENET. Which I suppose is still around, but I haven’t sailed those waters in more than a dozen years at least. I generally avoid the treacherous waters of YouTube, and I’m not even on Facebook (anymore) or Twitter, so I don’t know how well this applies to how people comment online today.
“Nitpicking a non-critical stylistic flourish even in a technical context demonstrates a smallness of mind and meanness of heart that is one of the most damning characteristics of everyday humanity. It is a naked expression of the desire to control the thoughts and deeds of others, and it is all too common on USENET”
There were a lot of very long, very detailed debates on USENET. A few went on for months. People generally acted like adults — I don’t recall much childish name-calling — but things could get pretty scathing, even disrespectful, at times.
Still, there were those who picked on things like your signature (the little piece of self-expression below each of your comments) or grammar or spelling. Some acted as police enforcing the “rules” (traditions, usually) of the group. There were even groups with a strong degree of groupthink, and you expressed views contrary to theirs at your peril (or for some, entertainment).
These things rarely had anything to do with any point you were making, so they were usually just a distraction. My guess is, nothing has changed.
That said, to a large extent (an extent I rarely see these days), there was a degree of actual dialectic. I miss that sometimes, but I’ve often found it here at WP. (Elsewhere, too, but most WP folks seem very mannered. Noticeably so, to my eye, compared to many other platforms.)
It is interesting to reflect on how far the level of discourse has fallen, especially in the last year or so (for reasons I won’t even mention by name in this post).
It almost seems a form of post-modernism. Politeness as some establishment protocol that unnecessarily restricts our freedoms and inhibits us from fresh horizons. It must be deconstructed and discarded in our search for self!
That’s rather the weapon being turned on “political correctness” these days, although the attack is more idiotic. Not surprising when they’re generally made by idiots.
But that’s a topic for another day (but cf. the Dunning-Kruger effect).
I don’t know how interesting this has been for any of you. It’s been a walk down Memory Lane for me (take the History Highway to Nostalgia Road and follow Flashbacks Street straight to it).
And now I can throw those notes away!