I haven’t quite started this new year off well. Weeks late on a first post and a couple weeks behind on my weekly photo shots. Ah well, better late than never.
In closing the book on the old year, it feels good to move forward and hope for the best. For many, for the world, 2015 had been a very rough year. People being shot for drawing pictures some found offensive, people being shot for no good reason. Rivers of hate speech flowing from every corner of the earth, from the pulpits, the media, the high level politicians. Cries of persecution from the persecutors, The only right that seems to be protected is the right to hate, to denigrate to second class citizen any who don’t share the beliefs of the bullies.
One would think that by this time we had figured out how to learn from history, but it appears to not be the case. We point fingers at one group, yet fail to see those same behaviors in ourselves. Too blinded by the hate frenzy to see the very human face of the person we will throw under the bus. Adding fuel to the already blazing inferno, we are in an electronic propaganda war where we are fed snippets that are either partial truths or outright lies.
And this, I believe, is the biggest part of the problem. We no longer connect. We no longer touch. We are too busy looking at our computers, our TV screens, our tablets to see the humans before us, around us, that are us. We do almost everything from an electronic device. We get our news from Facebook and Twitter and even the news outlets have gone to a captioned image format. And, as is the case and purpose of headlines, we are fed bites to incite, inflame, stir.
That has always been the case with the news and many other introductory arenas. What is different now is that it seems that is all that is consumed before moving on. There used to be discussions, in the coffee houses, at dinner, at breakfast, at parties and gatherings. The story was read beyond the headline, the person was questioned beyond the introduction. Conversation was a vital ingredient. Understanding the issue was a vital ingredient. The headline was simply to get your attention. You were supposed to read further, to seek understanding, knowledge, insight.
I miss long conversations with friends around a table. I miss long conversations on the phone with a dear friend. As dated as it makes me, I miss a written correspondence from a friend. And I miss the e-mail lists where there were discussions on issues, happenings,
People say it is just a sign of the changes of the times. However, not all changes are good. And though technology is, for the most part, a good thing, even a good thing misused can become a bad thing. We read our smart phones and get our news from twitter, have our emotions jarred by memes on Facebook and get our smiles from kitten videos. If we can’t say it in less than 140 characters, we know no one will trouble themselves to read it. I actually listened to a man at my writing group the other night say that he kept the chapters in his book to only a few pages because publishers say that is the extent of a reader’s attention span. Really??? I sincerely hope that is not true.
There have been a number of recent articles on what we have lost with the loss of letter writing.
I found this in the Guardian (http://www.theguardian.com/culture/charlottehigginsblog/2012/oct/23/lost-art-letter-writing)
But still… O’Connell quotes this lovely passage from a piece by Catherine Field in the New York Times.
“A good handwritten letter is a creative act, and not just because it is a visual and tactile pleasure. It is a deliberate act of exposure, a form of vulnerability, because handwriting opens a window on the soul in a way that cyber communication can never do. You savor their arrival and later take care to place them in a box for safe keeping.These things, letters we can hold and read over and over again, conversations that inspire, delight, fuel us.”
Words are the keys to our hearts. They are the cement that bonds people together as they speak and learn and share and understand. They are a stew pot whose ingredients alone are a bland or harsh side dish, but when combined, form a sustaining meal that will nourish the soul.
You look at the political arena, the News Media, the Pulpit and from their words believe that we are all galaxies apart. Aliens living in a segregated landscape that is separated by a vast divide, impossible to cross. And because we don’t look up from that picture, we buy into it. We turn from people whose beliefs differ from ours, whose political stand differ from ours. The reality is that in most cases, if we can step away from those issues that divide and simply extend our hand in friendship, sit down and have a cup of coffee, share stories, and find common ground, we may find in most cases, we aren’t so different. We may find that we have missed that simple connection of laughing with a new friend. And blur that edge that a few have set between us to divide us. It is far more difficult (though not impossible) to hate someone you know than it is to hate a stranger.
I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. But, I can hope for a New Year’s solution. That we add a bit of the old back into the new. That along with our smart phones and Facebooks and electronic gizmos, that we have a long phone call, take a walk in the woods, catch up with old friends, meet some new ones, some of whom don’t share our beliefs. Find a divide and cross it. Our real country motto is, Out of many, one. We destroy hate when we blur the lines. We blur the lines when we reach out to each other and touch. When we touch, the divide goes away and those that would teach hate lose their power.