“Balancing Flatland” – Elitism For All – by Ozgur K. Sahin

You can pick content for Ozgur to write about as part of our Kickstarter campaign. Please click here for more information. 

I was taking one of those online quizzes that tells you your personality type recently when an old issue came back to mind.  This was one of those iterations of the Myer’s-Briggs test.  You know, the test that measures eight variables and renders results like “ISTJ” or ENFP” or whatnot.  Those variables are: introversion (I), extroversion (E), sensing (S), intuition (N), thinking (T), feeling (F), perceiving (P), and judging (J).  I HATE this test, especially the simplified online versions of it—though the fact that they are simplified is also a redeeming feature, because the test itself seems so heavily flawed that shortening it at least truncates the time commitment to such nonsense.  But I take it every so often to remind myself how useless it is as a descriptor of one’s identity.

You see, I used to test as “INTP” on this a lot, but nearly every question feels unsatisfying, and I wish there was a “both equally” option.  This last time I took it, I tested as “ENFJ,” which made me laugh.  Granted, each version of this test is different from each other one, but the long and short of it is that this test has no mechanic to reflect growth over time.  It may as well be a one-sentence question asking, “And how are you feeling today?”  The biggest shortcoming of this test (and many others like it) is that it has a massive blind spot with higher levels of development.  Call it Maslow’s Self-Actualized stage, Ken Wilber’s (higher) Vision-Logic stage, Spiral Dynamics’ Second Tier stages, or any number of stages identified by modern developmental psychology or eastern development models such as those put forth by practitioner/philosophers like Aurobindo, but these stages remain completely unrepresented by many tests and metrics.

I say “unrepresented,” but usually they are misrepresented.   Because when we see someone who scores as “introverted,” but who is in near-total balance with their extrovert tendencies, we say they are an “introvert with extrovert skills.”  When we see someone whose “thinking” and “feeling” tendencies are in near total balance, we still act as though they are more one than the other, and use that to define them.  But what is really going on much of the time is that both qualities have been transcended by a higher order of functioning that fully integrates both, and variations in this balance represent conditional factors, slight preferences, moods, or testing error margins (even due to the semantics of the questions or criteria).

Having heard people (even some licensed psychologists) expound on how introverts and extroverts work, making such absolute statements like “you’re either an introvert or an extrovert” and “introverts recharge by being alone while extroverts recharge by being with people,” I’m appalled at how unexplored the growth metrics are.  There are mountains of data about these, but as most people don’t reach these advanced stages, there is much less interest in studying them in the broader context of cultural assumptions.  It is not even acknowledged as a possibility within the generally accepted approaches, for example, that perhaps people start as either introverted or extroverted, and then progress over time to a point where both these approaches are transcended and people might “recharge” through either means at will.  It is not understood how both structures could be tools to be used or set aside at will, depending on what is necessary or appropriate.  You’re just one or the other for life, and people will call you a liar if you claim a change that cannot be interpreted by the measures they feel are definitive.

One of the reasons Ken Wilber is my favorite author is because he collects the data on such things and pieces it together, and the result speaks to my experience without contradicting those of others.  To sum up the bulk of the findings, there appears to be a stage of development, often called “Integrative,” but known by other names already shown above, that transcends many of these boundaries that are assumed to be rigid and defining at prior levels of development.  Of course, that quality pertains to every stage in regard to every previous stage, but the Integrative stage seems to integrate all the different levels of mental (and prior) development into one continuous model that doesn’t privilege any in its own worldview.  Whereas each previous stage integrates all prior ones, none of them tend to realize that this is what they are doing, and so pathologies develop freely from this misunderstanding as each new development simply tries to replace all previous ones (rather like trying to replace the fifth floor with the sixth floor).  The Integrative stage is the first that realizes this fully, and stops trying to destroy all the structures on which it stands.  It is therefore also the first stage to really have the tools to value each previous stage and feel somewhat unbiased in acknowledging the contributions of each.

Prior to that, people tend to have this view of the world that Wilber refers to as “flatland.”  Everything is interpreted along a linear continuum.  Left vs. right, right vs. wrong, nurture vs. nature, etc.  Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a meaningless concept from that point of view, because among those who only understand lines, the pinnacle of that pyramid (or triangle) model only translates as “dead center along the linear continuum.”  If you can’t acknowledge depth (or height), then you have to collapse all the levels of that model into one, squishing that triangle into a thin line, and then “balance” appears to only be about how close to the exact middle of it something falls.  When no one understands transcendence (which requires new heights/depths to be recognized), there is no way out of the “introvert/extrovert” trap.  You’re either one or the other, and if you appear to be in the exact middle, people will default to “whatever you used to be” as their definition of you.  There is no way out of the “conservative/liberal” political identity trap either.  If you’re in the middle of the flatland continuum, you’re just called “moderate,” no matter how much farther you’ve gone.  No one cares if you’ve transcended these identities in the Integrative stage, where you value all previous stages and thus have a broader understanding of when and where conservativism and liberalism are useful and appropriate—they can’t even recognize it.  The best they will grant is the term “moderate” or “apolitical.”  You’re certainly out of luck if you try to tell liberals that there is something more liberal than them—that only translates as “farthest left of the scale,” and that’s crazy (and the statement is viewed as arrogant, to boot).

This is why when I say these models fit my experience but don’t contradict the experiences of others, I mean something very specific.  People believe it contradicts their experience, but while I’m not saying this view is 100% correct and others are just wrong, what I usually see is that people unconsciously interpret their experiences according to this continuum—and that is where the contradiction ensues.  When we see something we don’t understand, we can do our best to describe it, and leave the interpretation open.  If, however, we have the hubris to think we understand everything, we will usually map what we don’t understand onto some model or worldview that we DO understand and say that is what we are seeing.

With the anti-war protests during the Vietnam War, studies show 20% of protesters at postconventional stages and 80% at preconventional stages.  The postconventional protesters understand (but often try to eradicate) conventional views and preconventional views.  Conventional types look at postconventional views and can either admit to a gulf of understanding, or (more often) translate them as preconventional views (e.g. “you all just hate authority!”).  Preconventional protesters tend to actually hate authority and believe they have the same views as postconventional types.  When they look at conventional views, they think they are seeing rigid, authoritarian Roman-times sorts of autocracy where the strongest try to subjugate everyone else.  Conventionalism, to them, looks like getting people to agree to be subjugated, rather than allowing them to pursue their own dominance over others.  This mismapping and misapprehension is almost entirely unconscious—though again, habitually acting unconsciously is just one more thing we can claw our way out of.  It is not a characteristic on some flatland continuum that need define us for the rest of our lives.

And the very worst thing about this flatland is that, being born of the mind rather than the Integrative beginnings of the transmental, it is a land with an economy of scarcity—both emotionally and physically.  True generosity does not exist there, though people claim that it does because they often intuit true generosity before squeezing all the juice out of it to stick it into flatland.

Are you equally at home with your traditionally masculine and feminine inner identities?  We all have degrees of both, because we are all complete human beings, in potential apprehension if not in realization.  But if you are equally comfortable with all inner gender identities (usually a development a few stages higher than Integrative), this will be read as “indecision” or “less masculine” or “less feminine.”  It’s not about forcing a physical change on yourself—that is a choice more to do with sexual orientation than comfort with inner identity, and it proves little in either (any) direction.  Are reason and emotion equally modes of knowledge, learning, and discovery for you?  That’s a stage up from Integrative, but to others, you’re just “in the middle.”  People might call you “emotionally intelligent,” but even that goes in stages.  Logical types will fail to see validity in the emotional component of your arguments and purely emotional types will wonder why you have to be so reasonable all the time.  Balanced big-picture thinking and awareness of detail?  Truly a multicultural world identity?  Have that give and take balance down pat because you know the deeper kind of giving that gives rise to both?  Do you know how to balance substance and surface because you now understand that surface is just a natural result of substance and doesn’t require much of your active attention anymore?  Do you feel at home with spontaneity as well as with planning ahead, and feel sometimes that your planning is spontaneous because you’re so very fast at it?  Do you fit into all the cliques by having a comfortable part of your identity resonate with them, and yet fit into none of them because they all view you as a traitor?  Do you find it easy to describe your intuitions because they are so close to where your awareness now sits that everyone around you thinks you must have dwelled on a new insight for ages to come up with the words?

All of these distinctions are lost in flatland.  You are “in the middle.”  It may impress people how “in the middle” you are, and they may respect you quite a bit—usually until you disagree with some flatland perception of theirs—but as long as they try too hard to explain rather than discover what they don’t know, you will simply seem balanced because you are “in the middle.”  You will at times appear annoyingly balanced when people think being in the middle is not the right way to go, never mind that they are the only ones who decided you were there in the first place.  People will latch onto the little variations-from-center that you display as evidence of your identity, failing to account for preferences and areas of excellence, whereas transcendence requires only competence at everything that is integrated.

And yet even balanced is not the right word, because it only describes how integration appears in flatland.  The organs of the body all appear to function like a balanced machine because they are transcended by the whole being of the organism.  The Beyond gives rise to the Balance.  And flatland balance cannot measure greater degrees of beyond.  One of my favorite movies is K-PAX (more so than the book, even).  One of my favorite moments in that movie is when Prot asks, “Why is a soap bubble round?”  He ends up answering himself, “Because it is the most energy-efficient configuration [for a soap bubble].”  It is the same with balance.  True balance does not come through economies of scarcity and finitude.  You don’t balance a soap bubble by trying to tweak each side of it to fit the other side.  You balance it by blowing it into existence from somewhere else—from a dimension beyond flatland.

Yet Another Kickstarter Update

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I’m here again. We’ve added a few more backers since my last post. Thank you everyone. Whenever I make a post on Calamities about our Kickstarter we get more support. This automatically instigates an automatic reflex to promote an endless amount, yet, as a writer I don’t think I’m possible of that much positive energy.

I thought I’d mention why I want Calamities Press to continue. Three years ago, I started writing a blog via Blogspot called The Greenland Diaries. This was a simple apocalyptic story about a guy using a journal to survive an unknown apocalypse. Each blog post was a day from this journal. I had some reasonable success with this project, and have turned it into a book series that I focus chiefly on in my creative endeavors. It was through this meager project I created to practice writing in a past-tense voice, that I realized storytelling on the internet could be good and reputable.

I, like anyone else in the writing industry, know there is a huge clash between self-publishing and publishing, the eBook and paper, and the journalists and bloggers. I’m not concerned about whether or not these conflicts need to be recognized or fought, but simply that these evolution’s are a product of our access to technology and our limited attention-span. I wanted to create a literary magazine that would use the blogsphere to expose new writers and artists, and to make these creators work their magic in a limited amount of time. I’m concerned about the next generation getting a sustainable diet of art and literature, hence why Calamities Press is strictly a digital magazine. Young people (I’m sad I’m not included in this category anymore) play on tablets. iPad’s and Kindle’s connect to the internet, where Calamities Press lurks.

So, instead of vilifying the internet, the next generation’s attention span, or what they pay attention to, I’d like to be part of this audience and their opinion. Calamities Press provides this outlet for them. So please support us with five or ten dollars and pick out some awesome art or literature. Thank you everyone.

CLICK HERE TO BE TAKEN TO CALAMITIES PRESS KICKSTARTER PROJECT

Another Kickstarter Update

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Since my most recent plea, we’ve added two more backers to our Kickstarter project, which is really great. Their support is invaluable and I’m truly thankful for it. I’ve decided to make a daily post dedicated to our Kickstarter, instead of including links and promotions on every scrap of material we produce like digital beggars desperate for crumbs. I don’t believe in spamming people about helping us, the quality of our work should stand alone, and it does. If you want this site to continue posting on a weekly basis, or to even exist at all as recognizable platform in the great maelstrom of cyberspace publishing, then shell out five dollars to support us (and you get to pick out some awesome art to be signed and sent to you).RochesterReflection1045

Anything you give us will only go to promoting and supporting new artists and writers. I think there are a fair amount of misconceptions about Kickstarter, and where the funding will go. Money will only flow in three directions from this Kickstarter campaign. Marketing, infrastructure, and redesign of the website. Infrastructure is important as we apply for our nonprofit status, because being a legit business will allow us to actually PAY our contributors. I’ve done countless writing jobs for free over the years, so even if we’re paying for $10 per piece of writing or art project, we’re still financially encouraging artists and writers to produce work. We’ve all got mouths to feed and bills to pay. Some of us need this exposure to get our foot in the door of our genre. Wouldn’t you rather support Calamities Press with a one-time payment $5.00 payment, the same cost of a meal at Burger King or Chipotle? 

Please Click Here to be Taken to Our Kickstarter Page

Thank You Everyone For Your Support!

“The Dangle Angle” – Family Haunts – by PMF Johnson

Worm
jobs are
mostly dirty
and quick —
some curvy
topographic
mapping
in the garden,
feed the birds
and you’re done.
Your worm is nothing
for history or
the wriggle
and twist
of hooking
genealogies
together.
She’s sweet
bait, but
somewhere down
underneath just
a shy guy, our
hermaphrodite
Aphrodite.
When we meet
on the street
he won’t stop
to greet —
all she
cares
for are
the dangers
of so many
angling
strangers.

Music Review – “Last Chance To Reason” – In Prog We Trust – by Nick Vukelich

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Twitter is an interesting creature, I don’t use it very regularly, and it did lead me to the band Last Chance to Reason. One of my first followers was someone with the name lctrpwnz and I didn’t give a great deal of thought to it, eventually I clicked on their profile and found myself quite interested. A band that was writing a progressive metal album revolving around a computer theme, plus they were making a game that played with the album music, is what I found myself looking at. I immediately went to YouTube and checked out the music video they had out, it must have clicked with something in my brain because before the video was done I had gone to iTunes and bought the digital version of the album. The future of the band seems a bit in question right now, but more on that later.

This album is real ambitious. From the concept, to the instrumentation, everything is turned up to 11. For a major label debut album the production is really tight. There is a great deal going on in every song, and yet you can tell exactly what every player is doing and it all seems so very catchy. From the backing riffs, to the keyboard melodies, to the shredtastic guitar solos, to the incredibly epic vocals, each little piece will worm its way into your head, nest there, and never leave. In the end Level 2 is a killer sounding record.

As with most albums I review, Level 2 is a concept record. The concept is about the relationship between man and technology, lyrically the story is told from the point of view of an A.I. in a particularly violent videogame world. It is a very cool concept and it is executed very well. Musically it is presented as one single piece of music, every song flows directly into the next and more often than not I find myself listening to Level 2 at least 2-3 times in a row. When I first got the album there were days at work where I listened to the album for my entire shift. It really is that good.

Musically the album is very impressive. The 5 musicians in the band are all top-notch in every aspect. Odd meter riffs flow into giant, soaring, melodic choruses where every instrument blends together to create some really unique sonic soundscapes. The playing is really something you have to experience for yourself, I can try and describe it but it would not do justice to the record. If you are a musician you will find a lot to dissect here, if you aren’t a musician then perhaps this will make you want to pick up an instrument. It’s never too late to start learning.

The vocals are a big reason why I got into this record so heavily. Mike Lessard, now the front man for The Contortionist, makes a serious impression. Both brutal screaming and layers of beautiful harmonies layer over the sonic bed the rest of the band is laying down. There are times where screaming and harmonies are layered over one another that just sends chills up my spine. It would be a real bastard trying to mix this album in a way that does it any justice, but somehow it was pulled off and thank the maker for that. There are so many vocal hooks that just beg you to sing along with them, I defy you to not listen to the album a few times and not feel the desire to at least hum along.

It should be clear that I love this album and this band. The bummer is that after the release of Level 3, the album after this one, most of the band left and while they are technically still active they have been relegated to the realm of side project. I love the most recent album by The Contortionist, hell it was my album of the year last year, I just wish these guys would start putting together a new album. They have written some truly unique and impressive music and it makes me real bummed to think we won’t get a new album from such a talented group. Maybe a surge in sales/popularity will give the band a push to get together and start writing some new material? That’s probably a long shot but it’s a shot worth taking. So do yourself, and everyone else, a favor and pick up this album. Tell your friends, family, pets, people on the street, your local congressman, anyone you can think of about this band. It is worth every penny and every second of your time. There is much to enjoy here and you’re only doing yourself a disservice by not getting into this group.

 

Label: Prosthetic Records

Production: 5/5

Flow: 5/5

Musicianship: 5/5

Vocals: 5/5

“Mandrake Root” – I Wandered and Listened – by Melinda Giordano

The piece of driftwood lay at the mouth of the spitting sea
Pale as a fever
Distorted like a scream
Torn from a home swathed in currents
Swimming in moon tides
Thick with nacre and pearl
Its oyster skin bleached and dead
Like a mandrake root pulled away
With its mystic twisting voice
And its trunk of humanity
Burnt alive for an amulet around the alchemist’s neck
And death to those who listen to it
Protesting its vernal harvest
Yet here it was
A medieval caprice
That was now ashen and harmless
With arms and legs curling across rocks and sand
The languid carcass
The spiritual remains
Of silent superstitions

Along the Winter Rails: 41 – “Homecoming” – by Fanni Sütő

winter rails_1 Copy

My heart was heavy but my feet felt impossibly light. They were taking me closer to home with every minute. Sometimes I caught myself running as my tiredness was slowly becoming a light numbness then nothing. With every mile I walked or ran, the cells of my body were reborn, and least it felt like it. I imagined that by the time I got home I would become a totally different person. I wondered what my mother would say when she saw me. Would she laugh? Would she cry? Would she think she was dreaming?

I imagined the face of the Elders. Their bushy white eyebrows would rise up high in surprise. They wouldn’t understand the mild winds arriving in my wake and they would wonder about the greenness which was slowly but surely colonizing every inch of the dead whines. I was the harbinger of change, a messenger of spring. How would their jaws drop with awe when they heard I knew what was happening. Would they believe me? Or would they burn me as a witch for what they think are lies?

I marched on. The sky slowly turned into the hand-painted purple of twilight and stars started to appear like tiny jewels. It felt like the most wonderful thing in creation. I marched on. Morning arrived and the sun spread its awakening rays through the sky. My eyes were hurting from looking at the too many things. But I didn’t stop. The snow was not slowing me down anymore. It was melting, disappearing from my path. In its place a velvety green grass appeared and I felt like a queen marching on an emerald coloured carpet. My feet were taking me home.

I was thinking of Storm Voice and Ginger and the distant black spots they became as we were moving in our different directions. With every nerve in my body I wished that they could trace down the children and find a place where they could live as one big family. I made up stories about them to pass the time, gave them different adventures and happy endings. I always sidetracked from anything tragic or sad, I thought that they had the right to an easy life even if that existed only inside my head.

I told myself stories about them because it saved me from the dark thoughts which were lurking at the edge of my mind. I saw what happened to the caves and I stood next to the cold trace of the children. What if that faceless destruction reached out as far as Firclog? Would the wings of fire and death be quicker than me? Sometimes the picture of a desolate wasteland would flash in front of my eye with burnt houses and broken windows. Where would I go if my home was no more? Loneliness bit into my heart. Firclog is far away from everything, it is such a remote, little town, even trouble would think it too much an effort to go there.

I couldn’t say how much time had passed but I found myself at the building of the old station where I first heard the deep voice of Storm Voice. Suddenly memories swarmed my mind and they brought a sudden tiredness with them. I decided to stop and rest before the last part of my journey. I went down into the shelter, inhaled the scent of dust and old wood. It was strangely welcoming. I ate the last bits of food I brought along from hospital ward and fell into a dreamless sleep. I woke up many hours later to the streaks of sunshine reaching in among the floor boards. I climbed up the ladder and outside I found the brightest morning I had ever seen. I took a deep breath and took the first step on the rails which were leading me home.

Kickstarter Update

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Well, we’re one week into this whole process and we’re just barely reaching our goals with just four backers at $150.00. We have 23 days left to go until our Kickstarter ends. We are attempting to raise $3000.00 worth of funds to revamp the site, file as an official nonprofit, and advertise our brand to reach more readers. For me, Calamities Press is the first project I ever created that would benefit other artists and writers. Before this literary magazine, I was focused chiefly on my own career with writing. However, I wanted to create a community of writers and artists to stand up in the vast halls of cyberspace, so I pushed Calamities Press into existence.

The sad thing for me about this whole Kickstarter project is that I’m not sure I’ll be able to continue this magazine in the capacity it has been published in, should the Kickstarter not be met. I’m not saying this as some dire threat or proclamation, but with two newborns, a job, wife, two stepsons, and my own writing to focus on, I will not be able to publish weekly content as frequently. It’s not easy to admit you can’t do something anymore, I won’t be able to keep Calamities Press going at the current rate unless I can invest in it’s infrastructure. Please donate $5 or $10 dollars to help fund our Kickstarter campaign. We have really good rewards available. It’s completely worth it, because you’re supporting dozens of writers and artists from the past, present, and future. We need to keep publishing these unique voices, and we can only do that with your support. Thank you.

Please Click Here to Be Taken to Our Kickstarter Page

“The Greenland Diaries: Backyard 09″ – by Patrick W. Marsh

“Not at first, it liked the hot weather, and how it made us act,” Milo said. Thinking about the unchecked sun made the sterile box of a room seem oven-like for just a rare second.

“How often?” Scott said.

“We tried to keep track at first when we realized we wouldn’t be going anywhere. It tricked us pretty easily at the beginning, but we figured out the more unpredictable we were, the more predictable it was,” Milo said.

“The Unnamed?”

“Who else Scott? Don’t make me repeat it,” Milo said.

“Who decided to call it that anyways? Especially if you don’t want referring to it,” Scott said, pretending to scribble some notes. Whenever Milo would show a little frustration he’d mark his memo pad. When their interview was over, he’d count the amount of times Milo had collided with his own emotions. He’d refer it back to the material of Milo’s instigation, and try and build some pattern out of it.

“What?” Milo said.

“Who decided to name it that?”

“Oh, I don’t remember, it was just sort of the name we adopted. Conversations run together after that long amount of time, only certain acts sort of spring out to me.”

“Certain acts, like moments of violence?” Scott said. He wanted to skip ahead, past the moments of wandering the woods and looking for a way out. They had hundreds of years to cover within the woods, but, they had only fifty minutes to evaluate these centuries in their claustrophobic tin box. The table kept on getting bigger and wider, a mahogany sea pulled wide by the intensity of their conversation. Scott had to keep pressing him about the disturbing details within the woods. He had to play Milo like the time lapse was real, even though, Scott didn’t believe Milo quite yet. The watered trembles of Milo’s eyes as he recited these little tidbits were convincing though. They were melting away at Scott’s analytical core like a corrosive salt-tear acid.

Milo didn’t say anything for a few seconds after Scott’s last sentence. The room had become narrower to Milo, and the looking glass behind him had grown into a square black eye. Just fifty more minutes till he’d be free to return to his family. The press would get wind of his story and they’d be swarmed by oblong bobbing towers of cameras and reporters. The FBI said they wouldn’t release his story to the press, but he knew something this wild and dark couldn’t be kept a secret.

“How about discoveries?”  Scott said, breaking the silence and the growling motor of a distant furnace.

“Discoveries? What do you mean?” Milo said.

“You know, you sound like you sort of understood the situation you were in, what kind of discoveries did you guys make to give you even a little closure?”

“Closure? There was no such thing, Scott. We got vague and abstract answers, and our imagination filled in the rest.”

“Then fill me in those Milo, if you have vague answers then I have vague questions. What was the phantom using to make all these nightmares for you poor kids?”

Milo set his thin face on his right hand like a drunk at a bar. The kindness at the end of Scott’s question made him only say one word.

“A machine,” Milo said.

“What?” Scott said.

“I think it used a machine.”

“Everything is Awesome” – Elitism For All – by Ozgur K. Sahin

I know I start out many of these with something akin to “so I was on Facebook,” but for the last few months, whenever I open up my feed, it all just kind of runs together.

At first, broad and unwelcome categories revealed themselves. These would include things like Political Outrage, Laughing at Politics of Others, Laughing at Religion of Others, Not-Quite-Clever Hipster Memes (particularly in the form of “I’m not [insert negative descriptor]; I’m just [insert unwitty euphemism for negative descriptor]”), Endless Pictures of Everything (thankfully much has moved to Instagram, but it’s still out there), Warm Fuzzy Self-Validation, Racism Outrage, Sexism Outrage, and Environmental Outrage. Note that I said “unwelcome,” and that I am excluding “suggested posts,” as at least those are not posted by my friends.

Eventually, however, these things all ran together into even fewer categories: Conceptual Outrage (which includes conceptual ridicule, because it’s all really about hate/fear), Bad Humor, Insecurity, and Home Movies. Believe it or not, the lesson here isn’t that all the crap online is the same. Nor is the lesson that Facebook sucks—it is a tool, just like your hammer, your chainsaw, and your trigonometry. No, the lesson to be learned here is that it sucks when people use the tools at their disposal to try to make absolutely everything special.

We’ve all seen people who take 5000 pictures of every vacation or an hour of video of every concert they attend, and we see plenty of evidence and articles about how doing this can actually take us out of the moment and make it less memorable and/or enjoyable by ensuring that we’re not present in the experience. We’re too busy setting up that shot or focusing the video, or some other thing that is more about experiencing the recording rather than the whatever is being recorded. And yet even if we pat ourselves on the back for not doing this, we still feel like we have to post every article we see that resonates with the outrage/ridicule we feel at whatever “that other group of people over there” is doing. We have to share half our meals with all our friends, make sure everyone knows how today’s snow, rain, wind, cold, or heat is annoying and/or surprising, and we certainly must communicate any quote that indicates we really are more okay than you might have thought we were. You know…because we’re sure you thought maybe we were crazy or unlovable, and we’re not…don’t you think? Please?

One obvious pitfall with being connected to people all the time is that we are that much more encouraged to share with them every thought that crosses our minds. And while I’m not a believer in the Silent Bob Theory of Communication Valuation, in which scarcity of words is the primary indicator of importance of content, I do assert that there is a continuum of communicative experience in which silence has a value. In fact, silence has a two-fold value. On one hand, silence is a kind of placeholder, indicating some level of experience that is not worth sharing at all, just as vagueness, summary, and highlights draw boundaries help us to discern degrees of depth, meaning, and relevance. Silence is the Mayan Zero of communication that allows all other numbers greater scope. On the other hand, silence creates the possibility of receptivity. He who always talks never listens. In the one sense, silence is a disconnect that adds meaning to connection; in the other sense, silence is the very space that allows connection to be mutual. Either way, overexposure harms connection.

A few times in my life, I’ve met people who behave as if everyone they spend time with is the most amazing person they’ve ever encountered. They seemed compulsively to try to make each and every person feel as though they were the most important person in their lives. And the instant I noticed this, I felt like there was possibly no importance attached to that bond for them at all. There might have been, but I didn’t get to see it, because when you act as though everything is equally important, you only make everything seem equally unimportant. Making everything an equal priority is synonymous with failing to prioritize at all.

If you record every moment of your life, does that mean you want to relive them all equally? It takes just as much effort to record them all. Do you want to eat every meal again? How many times are you going to pose with your friends before you resume the conversation you were having and experience them? I’ve heard comedians ask, in regard to filming home movies of childbirth, “When would you actually want to watch these movies?” In the name of showing how very engaged you are, you can easily become disengaged. To connect in one area, you disconnect with another. You can only focus on one thing at a time, so do you choose the experience in front of you, or the experience of documenting it?

If you choose the latter too often, you render the documents meaningless upon later reflection, because there aren’t enough memories for them to trigger. When every mirror becomes a video screen, there is no more reflection—or none that isn’t submerged by other images.

It’s as if, by recording everything, we fail to discern at the point of impression, and by broadcasting everything, we fail to discern at the point of expression.

When you share every article that you think should make people outraged, are they all equivalent? Are you really telling people that they should just live in a perpetual state of outrage, or are you saying that this is what you are doing? Or is it a perpetual state of ridicule? Fear? When you attend protests about nuclear proliferation, toxic waste dumping, and police brutality, are you telling me that these are equivalent to that time you protested because a few politicians of a different political party simply assembled in one place? When your expression of social dissatisfaction is always to protest, and your protest activities all consist of picketing and chanting in slightly inconvenient areas, are you saying all of these things you don’t like warrant the same response?

All you’re really doing is showing everyone how incredibly worth ignoring you are. When you make all outrage equal and all fears crippling, you kill outrage and you anesthetize against fear. By trying to heighten everyone’s concern about everything, you only succeed at creating universal apathy. Those who take everything seriously are the most consistently laughed at. The fastest way to kill any cause is to champion all of them.

Sure, when we have something special to share, we should do it. But instant access leads to impulse buying, and in this case, what we are buying into is that everything that vaguely interests us is worth recording or broadcasting. When you have to remember something, when gratification is delayed, when something sticks in your mind over time as something you want to share, it’s probably worth it. Without that distance and separation, we too often find that we are sharing before we’ve even plugged the experience into our own discerning filters. I don’t know about everyone else, but I can sure tell you that if your stuff never runs through your own filters, I’m certainly going to have to apply mine to it. And whether or not you think that’s how it should be, it’s the act of overexposing and underdiscriminating that fights our efforts to connect.

“Top Hat” – Family Haunts – by PMF Johnson

Discovering a top hat
in the alley, the bum
circled it, wild as a cat
at a sniff. As he, we all
take in the air occasionally.
Satisfied this was no rat
he picked it up, thumb grungy
against the velvet. He held it
against his cheek, eyes closed.
Who knows what it told him,
or might. He propped it atop
his head, grabbed a long stick
for a cane and shuffled sidewise
out of the alley, like an old dancer
back at his magic again.

“The Transfer” – Faceplant 58 – by Jacob Steinbauer

The school has a much longer, official name now, as it did back then, but I will fondly refer to it as Arts High. It had a reputation for awesomeness that percolated down from my brother, Josh, who graduated from its third graduating class. A school where you could be a musician? Not stupid classical or jazz band, but real rock and roll? Sign me up. Plus theater, visual art, photography? I don’t list literary, not because it wasn’t offered, but because—now a writing guy—I simply wasn’t interested in it. . .

Also, every media began incorporating some kind of electronic art—crazy to think this standard today was newish back then (or at least seemed so to me).

My plan then, was to ditch Loyola High School. The obligatory religion credit would be replaced by some state requirement to open slots for future art classes. I didn’t realize Arts High had art focuses; a student accepted for music (me) couldn’t just sign up for painting and printmaking with the vis kids (not me).

Had I known, it wouldn’t have made much difference. I had new friends that let me drive their cars. My friends at Loyola, few even with permits, became lackluster and, yes, I will sink so low: pedestrian. I wanted to go to school in St. Peter with the older kids.

How this actually came to pass is a bit of a mystery to me. Two or three weeks into September, a school district in another town accepted me, free lunch program and all, and I just had to start showing up. Once it was official, I remember realizing I didn’t have to do any of my Loyola homework. No grades would come from it. I did the work anyway, made sure it was A worthy. In the sixth grade, Mrs. Schoettler read us Shiloh. Between that and Young Guns II, I guess the lesson stuck: I shall finish the game.

And now, even as Mother’s Day is behind us, I must thank my mother. I spent a lot of time at Brian’s house on school nights to get a ride. And he spent several at mine. For the rest of those mornings, though, my mom put in a 20+ minute commute going both ways. All that gas and time, for what? So whiney Jacob could hang out with his new friends.

There are times when parents try to make us happy, and are not with it enough to succeed. I remember my mom offering to take Eli and me to see the Ninja Turtles movies—it was all we’d talked about for weeks—and I could see the disappointment in her eyes when we said Dad took us already.

Another time my mom bought me a tournament-winning Magic: The Gatheringdeck. It was promotional, so the backs of the cards had a special stamp. I couldn’t use any of the cards in a real deck, and to try playing the stolen deck itself against my friends—they would have laughed me out of the game. My mom didn’t know these things. She knew I had an interest in the game, and she thought a tournament-winning deck would make me competitive: happy.

I guess what I’m talking about is the transition from depending on parents for happiness to slowly providing it for yourself. That and the helplessness parents must feel as they relinquish their role in that happiness. By ninth grade, toys, movies, and ice cream no longer did the trick. My mother was forced to adapt to her son’s changing contour of want. I think that’s why she put in all the extra time, the gas money, for her son to spend even less time at home. She never faulted me for it, but I think I was the kind of teenager who was thankful only when I wanted something. I want her to know that I recognize this now. The swirling underground rivers, the life up above.