Saturday, March 22, 2014

Redundancy

Friday morning and Facebook is the same as it always is.

Norm and Cheryl are posting their inspirational quotes. Jane is posting her pictures of tropical beaches. Jim and Verne post their versions of humor. The myriad of Buzzfeed who-or-what-am-I quizzes seems to have come and gone. Chris is posting links to conservative and Calvinist articles as well as his own writings. Jon is obsessing over vernal pools and Lisa her gymnastics dance daughter.

Geri is making sure the daily lectionary reading gets seen. Michael keeps us on top of abortion, gay rights and feminist news. Keith is good for science and technology, much of which is above my head. There are Bible verses from Joleen. Some complain regularly making me think their lives are nothing but misery. Others post their current trips to wherever isn't Maine.

Party dresses for young girls, recipes for all sorts of dishes, pictures of meals prepared. Cry outs for prayer, expressions of thankfulness, political memes, links to astounding vocalizations from unlikely singers on X-Factor or The Voice.

Pastors posting what's happening at their churches. Martin posting what's happening in Israel. Shannon posting about the most recent Irish folk band to play in Florida. Fletcher is in Pakistan where he seems to be quite often. Gary is all over the globe and has pictures taken with other people wherever he is.

Updates on baby development, complaints of a long winter, hopes for coming sping.

Facebook is a flea market and its vendors sell the same trinkets day in and day out.

How many more color-saturation-enhanced-dramatic-nature-photos can we see?

How many more pithy statements on parenting or marriage can we read?

How many more cute kitten antics do we need to know about?

How many book promotions by authors on Facebook are effective?

Do we really need to see your daily workout shedule daily?

Facebook, thy name is boredom.

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Process Transcendent

Your mind has drifted to that unmapped area, the area that defies definition and description.

You don't know how you got there; the path seemed quite circuitous if you can remember it at all.

No matter, you are there. And while there, words come to you easily, mysteriously.

They are perfect words capturing subtle nuances you can only dream about on your down days. They turn an emotion, light up an imagination. They are power.

There may be only a line or an entire verse, but you quickly look for something on which to write these words down because they are ephemeral, fragile, and you know that to ignore them means to lose them forever.

So you get them written on paper. Paper because getting to a computer and typing them into Word or Wordpad or whatever you use seems to technify the creative process and you need it to be free flowing for now.

You suspect there's more and once you can get it on paper the result will be a world-beater poem. An instant classic. Something that will be discussed in creative writing classrooms in high schools and colleges for decades to come. Maybe even centuries.

It's that good.

But something happens.

You are interrupted. Your schedule demands take priority over your creative desires. There is a job that needs to be focused on in order to justify a paycheck. Your spouse has expectations which require you to divert your attention elsewhere.

Or maybe the door to that wonderful area of your mind simply closes and leaves you with only the first few inspired words.

You go through your day and think of them, hoping to make it back to that sweet grove of creativity in the dark forest of your imagination. But the path is lost to you and you wander the woods looking for familiar trees.

You can't let the words lie dormant for too long, for you know the spark that ignited them was tied to mind and heart in a gestalt whole that can't be replicated. So on the remaining fumes of the epiphany you start scribbling down more words that go in a direction which seems appropriate to the meaning that flashed before your mind's eye.

However, the words you are writing now are hard coming, and you have to work for them. And in the violent wrestling with a mind not sparking so fully, you think that you have strayed badly from original intent.

There may be a few more moments of inspiration along the way in the process. They are helpful, but often only for a line or two. In rare moments, there is enough juice to carry you through to the end with minor bumps along the way. If you are really fortunate, it all comes fairly quickly which is nice, but actually makes you question the legitimacy of what you have written.

The process could take minutes, hours, even weeks. In the end you have a completed piece in front of you. A totally birthed poem.

You are unimpressed with the result. It doesn't come anywhere near capturing that genesis moment when inspiration first struck. The message to it warped and deviated from course leaving you with something totally different from what was originally envisioned.

You read it and say, "Meh. I'll keep it, throw it into the shoebox with all the others and hope something else comes along."

But a strange thing happens.

You reread the poem several times. You look at it, maybe make some adjustments to it for better flow, more natural wording. You caress it. You consider it from different perspectives.

A new vision comes to your mind. This poem is actually better than you once thought. It fulfills a purpose previously not considered when the beginning was fresh.

You grow to love it.

You realize it has its own unique voice, a personality that isn't found in other poems you've written.

It has value.

It is your offspring.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Sameness of Monotony or Vice Versa

I change my Facebook cover photo (the large horizontal photo at the top of one's timeline) more frequently than most. Every three to four days usually, sometimes more often, sometimes less. Some people would say that I'm just trying to get attention. But they would be wrong.

Very wrong.


I'm just trying to shred the sameness of my hours, days, weeks.


I get up, go to work - very tedious, mundane work - for 8 hours, come home, hang out, go to bed, get up....


And on weekends it seems there is always more work to do than can possibly be done in such a short time. At least this is what my wife has told me time and again every weekend for years.


Church has become mostly work, too, with behind the scenes responsibilities.


There's no reprieve with the exception of a little vacation time during the year. So I change my cover photo and sometimes my profile picture as well as a symbolic way to say I won't accept sameness in my life.


Even though I do.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

A Modest Proposal

The threading that takes place on Facebook has led to an enormous ball of yarn that can lead just about anywhere. One of my friends posted a link to a blog about the nature of viral YouTube wedding proposals.

While the blog isn't particularly well written or eloquent, it does make some good points.

It basically states that marriage proposals have become huge creative affairs caught on video with the intent of drawing enough traffic to make it go viral. And that the nature of true romance isn't in how a video track is laid down, but how a man is willing to lay down his life for his future wife.

The writer includes an example from his own father's proposal. I don't know if it was real or made up, but I think it provides a realistic contrast to what we find on YouTube these days.

I can see how the phenomenon of the theatrical proposal would have started. Some guys wanted to do something different, something unique and memorable to ask for their girlfriend's hand in marriage. In order to capture the moment, they had it video recorded by a friend or family member.

Then to be able to show it to friends, they uploaded it to YouTube where other people saw it as well, and it gave them the idea to do something similar, or to even top it.

And the snowball started rolling downhill.

Now it often seems like the point is the theatrical production of the proposal and how much of an audience it can generate as opposed to an agreement in kind between two people to share the rest of their lives together.

As for how I proposed to my wife, it was boring by comparison.

It was a dark, windy beach in southeast Georgia. The night was warm. We were the only ones there. There was no ring, no kneeling, no fireworks except for that which went off in my soul when she said, "Yes."

It was perfect.

And it was memorable.

Opportunities Lost

I should have dated more in college.

I don't mean the type of dating where one is searching for a mate, spouse or life partner. Just the type of casual dating where you get to know people better.

Many of my college friends are on Facebook, and I have struck up online relationships with several that I never really experienced during school. I knew them at school, chatted with them in the student center or somewhere on campus. But I think I missed out on really getting to know them beyond the simple, "hey, how's it going?"

I know that establishing a deeper connection with someone during dating can lead to intimacy in a relationship which ultimately could lead to lifelong commitment in marriage, and that certainly would have been a risk. I say risk because eventually I did find the woman I would marry, but that was later in life when I was in the Army. I'm not looking to replace her, but I still think that it would have led to deeper friendships with those women with whom I currently interact on the internet.

They are all married now as well. Most of their husbands are strangers to me, though I do know a few as they were also students at the same school I attended.

It's entirely possible that the hormones of youth would have turned such dating into a romantic prowl. And it's also probable that I view things quite differently now at 50 than I did when I was 20. Maybe it wouldn't have worked as I envision it could have.

But now my interactions with them are limited to whatever little snippets, posts and messages are swapped in cyberspace. I don't feel bad about this. I just wish I had taken the time to enjoy their company and learn about them beyond discussing homework or campus events.

That's all I'm saying.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

You Can Lead a Horse...

Facebook is full of information, both useful and fraudulent. The beauty of the forum is that is allows friends who live a great distance from each other to stay in touch without the cost of dialing long distance. The ease of access generally results in greater frequency of contact than would otherwise be practiced. I have been able to reconnect with old friends from all schools and the military. 

You can also find great humor in posts and some memes or links as well as informative articles of all stripes, from news to political to sports and so on.


Unfortunately, Facebook is also a big perpetrator of hoaxes and lies.


By this, I don't mean the company, but the users of the website.


These hoaxes wax and wane with time. They used to be the sort of hoax that was sent via email. You know the kind that says something to the effect that Bill Gates is giving away $5000 to anyone who forwards an email or warnings of headlight flashing at cars without theirs on indicates some gang initiation activity. There are too many for me to list here, and I don't have any interest in doing so anyway.


But there's a particular hoax that persists on Facebook and it goes like this:


Hello to all of you who are on my list of contacts of Facebook. I haven't wanted to do this, but after finding all of my photos located on another site, I would like to ask a favor of you…. You may not know that Facebook has changed its privacy configuration once again. Thanks to the new “Graphic app”, any person on FB anywhere in the world can see our photos, our “likes” and our “comments”. During the next two weeks, I am going to keep this message posted and I ask you to do the following and comment “DONE”. Those of my friends who do not maintain my information in private will be eliminated from my list of friends, because I want the information I share with you, my friends, to remain among my friends and not be available to the whole world. I want to be able to publish photos of my friends and family without strangers being able to see them, which is what happens now when you choose “like” or “comment”. Unfortunately we cannot change this configuration because FB has made it like this.


1. So, please, place your cursor over my photo that appears in this box (without clicking) and a window will open.


2. Now move the cursor to the word “Friends”, again without clicking and then on “Settings”.


3. Un-check “Life Events” and “Comments and Like”. This way my activity with my family and friends will no longer be made public.


4. Now, copy and paste this text on your own wall (do not “share” it!). Once I see it published on your page, I will uncheck the same.


It is understandable that people want to protect their privacy from the online world (the absolute best way to do this is not to be on social networking sites at all, or even the internet). But the information provided in the instructions are false and do not accomplish what they say.


There are many websites that explain this, hoax-slayer.com, snopes.com, urbanlegends.about.com, and many others. Additionally, some folks address these sort of things in their blogs. Kind of like I'm doing I guess.


I don't think it benefits anyone to be a propagator of hoaxes and lies, so whenever one of my Facebook friends posts this, I usually respond with a post that lets them know it's a hoax and an accompanying link.


Despite these efforts, I still see people - in the very same thread where I posted the correcting information - stating they have done what the hoax said to do.


In fact, today someone posted it and I let him know it was a hoax with a verifying link to hoax-slayer.com.


His response to me was:


It may or may not work.... please follow instructions and do it anyway, if by any chance it could minimize the possibility of someone I don't want viewing my items, I would like to take that chance.


So, in other words, he believes the lie over the information I provided him.


I thought about unfriending him. I actually know his parents better than him - the last time I saw him he was just a kid and I was a teenager.


Then I considered messaging his dad to ask him if he knew he raised an idiot. But I thought that rather harsh and did not do it.


Then his mother posted in the same thread, "Done."


In other words, she followed his misleading instructions.


Even after I told him they are a hoax.


Even after I told everyone who reads his thread they are a hoax.


Do you see what we are up against today?