Evolving into Boo-Boo

June 2, 2013

A couple of things just drifted past and set me to thinking. It happens.

First, a friend and fellow journalist has started writing a blog. I read his most recent effort and responded to it. It was good stuff, which is regrettably uncommon in the so-called blogosphere. Funny thing, most of the blogs that I find noteworthy are written by professional journalists, current or former. I wonder if that means anything.

Anyway, in the second place, I saw a commercial on TV telling me that more photographs are taken now on the Iphone 5 than on any other kind of camera.

Some combination of those two factoids joined hands and practically shouted at me.

Pay attention! This is important!

Listen. Life is full of moments that catch our collective eye, tug at our heart; a sunset, a nice arrangement of flotsam on a beach. A thought, funny, poignant, or revelatory.

Even if you never lose the thought, or the image as it was stamped in your memory, it changes, loses detail, becomes a mere sketch. A year after you catch a glimpse of the tattered and artful arrangement of shells and seaweed on the beach, it is a vague smear of memory, a shadow of sweetness on the mind.

Our brains are wired to do this, except for some individuals with eidetic memory who cannot forget. I have worked twice as an attendant on ambulance services, the first time when I was only 17. I saw some gruesome stuff. I tell stories about those days, but my visual memories look like pastel sketches, with few details, except in weird places.

For example, I remember pulling a dismembered right arm out of the back seat of mangled car. The only clear picture I have in my memory is the pattern of the man’s flannel shirt.

I am sure there is a technical phrase for the phenomenon, but I do not know it. The important thing is that our brain has evolved that way. Things fade, good and bad.

The same thing goes for the random thoughts that populate our minds every moment of every day, even when we are sleeping.

Most of it is just that: Random. Noise. Sort of the biological equivalent of Twitter. Nothing worth sharing, for the most part.

In fact, a good deal of the idea behind meditation is to get the brain to shut the hell up for awhile.

That was before we had cell phone cameras and social media. Now, every vaguely interesting thing our eyes see can live for years on your cell phone and the digital vices with which it shares content.

I have a friend, a passionate foodie, who takes photos of every dish of food he eats when dining out. He takes photos of every other dish on the table as well. We, his friends, poke fun at him, but we let him photograph our food. After all, he is a friend. (That said I occasionally send him pix of MY plate after I have eaten everything. Sort of a reminder of what it is really all about.)

Same goes for social media and to a lesser extent bloggers. In the old days, random thoughts sank back into the nervous sparking of the brain, never to be seen again. Now, we flip our smart phones out and share our static with everybody. Sometimes to our chagrin. (For example, I have shared things on Facebook that a few minutes on line would have told me were false. I am a journalist, for goodness’ sake. I should know better. Even so, I still sometimes get all wound up and do it again.)

I am trying to work through whether this ability to share every moment, elevating or base, is a good thing or a bad thing.

I try to be hopeful. Now and then I look through thoughts I’ve tapped in to my cell phone’s “Evernote” program and found something that launched me into writing something that was, I hope, thoughtful, or at least not an indicator that my brain cells are dying. Or I find photos of something that tickled my mind a year or two earlier and triggered thoughts that finally took shape in a book or a blog or some other creative act.

As I said, I am hopeful. But then, I remember decades ago when I was still too young to vote, reading and listening to discussions about the educational and enriching things television was going to do for the intellectual development for humans worldwide.

Sure enough, we have shows and networks like NOVA, Discovery, and dozens of others.

We also have, speaking of flotsam, Honey Boo Boo.

We have a ways to go.

 

 

 

 

 

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