Over the weekend I had the opportunity to do some volunteer work at this lady’s house. We were there to help paint parts of her house, build a fence, clean out her crawlspace and such.
There was moment of the afternoon when she was looking out from her porch into the street where we had filled an industrial sized dumpster full of her old belongings.
“I’m exhausted,” she sighed, though she didn’t really do anything.
It was the army of strangers (though well intentioned) that stormed into her home and gutted the thing of all her memories. We were particularly destructive with our objectivity as we tried to figure out what was worth keeping and what was trash. I was guilty too. The happiest moment of the day for me was when I smashed an old dresser into pieces with a baseball bat.
At the end of the day she was relieved, probably coming to terms with the idea that “the things you own will eventually own you.” She probably feels like she can start fresh again.
But I think there’s something in how the things we own not only carry sentimental value, but they become something like memory markers. A lot of the things we own aren’t that particularly special – movie tickets, books, toys, clothes, etc. – but they become affirmations of memories that were interesting but not interesting enough for you to remember forever. Fleeting things I guess.
As we were enthusiastically chucking her things into the dumpster, we were throwing away all her little memory markers. When she tried to save something, we pushed back:
“You don’t need this.”
“It doesn’t even work anymore.”
I can see how that’s exhausting, but I can also see how she couldn’t have done it herself. Sometimes volunteers aren’t there solely for the manpower.
One of the few things that can instantly annoy me are right wing pundits. Whenever the Daily Show is featuring a clip from one of those guys, I cringe. Obviously, it’s because of my politics.
But I’m beginning to think about the people who agree with the likes of Limbaugh and O’Reilly and if this was ever possible before media fragmentation (I know, this idea is so 2 years ago).
My classmate had this idea that information creates communities, which until now, I did not understand the impact. While multiple viewpoints on a idea is ideally very good for the sake of getting the full picture, I think the opposite has happened. The communities that are created by this information are too strong. People simply choose the viewpoint they agree most with and shut off everything else. It’s the exact opposite impact that choice is supposed to have.
My problem with this is that now we can’t agree to one reality. Everyone is living in their own little world and when something comes up that demands discourse and debate, we spend all our time arguing about how to define the problem rather than fixing it. Nothing happens and everyone starts blaming each other. It’s a frustrating process that’s easier to laugh at than doing anything about.
Kevin Rothermel wisely noted that “planning jobs kill planning blogs” sometime last year when I was bemoaning the fact that that I was too mentally exhausted from work to do anything but watch TV and drool. Apparently, not much has changed since then.
For those who know me personally, I’ve been cutting my teeth at work trying to figure out how to out cool Apple and resurrect a dying consumer habit. It’s one of the hardest problems I’ve ever encountered. It makes me feel like I was just messing around during ad school. Now I find myself intellectually hobbled. Sure, I can turn a quick brief, but I can’t speak to a higher conceptual purpose in my work.
In the past few weeks, I had an epiphany and realized that I have too many opportunities that I could potentially blow by letting my brain wither away. I’ve decided for myself to go “back to the basics” to refocus and re-energize myself to not only do better at work, but also ensure that I grow as a thinker.
That’s why I’m back.
Blogging was just an exercise for me to compose my thoughts and over indulge in the gratuitous thinking that would give me a perspective on things – especially technology and media which is why I have my job in the first place. Back to basics. Back to the things that made me interesting and sharp.