Turn It Around [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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There are moments in your life when you suddenly realize that the world has changed. One of those moments for me happened many years ago in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC. My introduction to selfies. I watched with confusion as people waited in line to take a selfie with Van Gogh’s painting, Starry Night. Most of the selfie-takers didn’t actually look at the painting. The painting was secondary to the desire to be photographed with a famous thing. At first – this is a true story that seems ridiculous from a 2019 vantage point – I thought I was watching a piece of performance art, a brilliant statement of personal inflation and value reduction. Instead, my head spun as I realized I was, in fact, witnessing a museum full of people fundamentally missing the art in pursuit of a look-at-me-moment. It was my very own personal harbinger of the coming narcissistic tsunami.

Kerri showed me an article in the news. People wading into the waters of a toxic lake to take selfies. The water is aqua blue, made so by the industrial chemicals poured into the lake. Even though the lake water can burn skin, getting the selfie is more important. What impressed me most about the article was how dulled I was to it, how completely ordinary it seemed.

Culture is blind to itself. We live in the age of the Tide pod challenge, Facebook and Instagram streams, media echo chambers. Narcissism normalized and celebrated. Consumed by self. Image.

‘It is a strangely narcissistic world,” Kerri said, closing her news app. Yes. It is. Strange. And, it turns out that I was right all those years ago. It is a performance art piece with everyone producing and broadcasting their own image.  Image inflation. Value(s) reduction. Made up importance. And the art? Andy Warhol had it almost right. Everyone will be world-famous for fifteen minutes, one post at a time, but the world in which they celebrate their fame will be of their own creation.

 

 

read Kerri’s blog post about A NARCISSISTIC WORLD

 

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guilty as charged! we, too, are expressions of our culture.

 

See Beyond Yourself [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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Rounding the bend en route to Fort Atkinson we passed this billboard. It stands, not in church yard, but in a small grassy patch, a teeny tiny park.

prayer [noun]: a solemn request for help or an expression of thanks addressed to a deity or other object of worship.

This morning as I pondered what to write I was struck by this: I took the sign to be a solemn request for help. It never occurred to me that the sign might be an entreaty for thanks giving.

The United States is by far the single most individualistic country on the planet. We place the accent on the individual over the communal. Our hyper-focus on the individual has a nasty side effect. It makes us a bit more than narcissistic. We over-worry about how we  look. We create things like Facebook so we can talk about ourselves. We define success as climbing over the bodies of others to reach the top. We extend to corporations the rights of the individual.  Dog eat dog. Every man/woman for themselves. We’ve created a long-running “reality tv” show called Survivor. We relate to it.

These are expressions of who we are. Manifest Destiny and all of that…

And then we wonder why our elected representatives act [or do not act] based on their re-election chances rather than on the real needs of their constituents. We wonder why we fight to the death over ideas like universal health care or placing limits on guns. We wonder why conservatives pundits routinely scream “Socialism!” to frighten their listeners. “They will take away your rights!”

We wonder why we lack empathy. We wonder why our streets are violent.

Empathy requires a look to the other. A consideration beyond the limits of the self. A larger relationship with the other people in the neighborhood. A consideration of an opposing point of view. ‘Nation’ is, after all, a communal word.

Perhaps our ‘nation’ requires something simpler than an appeal for help from a deity: a consideration that what we do impacts others. What we say and how we say it matters. Maybe we should stop asking a deity to do for us what we need to do for ourselves.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about PRAY FOR OUR NATION

 

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