I apologize if you’ve seen this already. I posted it yesterday as a guest-post on Cow Pasture Chronicles. It’s another attempt to express what has been troubling me about the friction between creativity and social media, and so important to me that I decided I need it here, too. I hope Sheila doesn’t mind.
The ocean is constantly changing.
It churns millions of gallons between continents every year, and each cupful of water on one beach could well have visited another. Enslaved to tidal forces even greater than itself, movement and change are essential to the ocean; they keep the life underneath it thriving, and sculpt the land between it. A still ocean, one imagines, would surely herald a dying world.
Of course, the ocean isn’t all that changes. Timber wheels evolve into rockets so powerful that they break the force of the very gravity holding that ocean here, so that we can watch a privileged few explore the distant force of those tides. Literature changes, from just a few men being watched playing women on a small wooden stage, to women directing masterpieces that are watched on screens worldwide. And communication changes, too, perhaps most of all; a single letter that was once an act of true devotion is now a daily expectation, to be read and discarded with a swipe.
All the while, the ocean keeps churning, its water travelling the world and pausing only to freeze, for a time, near one pole or the other. Inky around life we have yet to discover, the ocean feels just as playful stippled with tattoos of sunlight at its surface. Millennia past the time that its depth began to vary, the ocean continues to vary it; those depths crush crust beneath it, and the shifts in that crust make it quake.
From some change in pride, though, we no longer allow ourselves to quake. The fears we once held—fears of heights, and of speed, and of demons—have been transferred to entertainment, with roller-coasters and cinemas the only places left we allow ourselves to scream. Where darkness once drove us to cower with our families, it now invites us out into cities to seek some sense of family from strangers. The only fear we have now—the only real fear, that we feel every day—also comes from a change in us.
Where most of us once feared being watched, we now crave it. We crave it so badly that we fear the moment it stops.
So we tweet shrilly when once we pondered, and our walls are now for posting instead of for privacy. We journal, and we blog, then we wait and we waver and we watch, until a message appears that makes us feel like someone might be watching us back. Our philosophy of existence has moved from ‘I think therefore I am,’ to believing that ‘I am’ only when the opinions that ‘I think’ appear on the devices of others. Thought has become the effect rather than the cause.
Still, the ocean keeps changing, too. That cupful of water that travelled and froze—then thawed, so it could travel again—has come all the way back to the beach where it started. The churning waves roam from the same deep blue across the same stripes of green as they shallow, foaming into the familiar bronzed shores that they always have.
Perhaps water doesn’t recognize where it is, where it’s been, or when it’s returned. Perhaps people don’t, either.
But the ocean, at least, is constant.
– More Words from K. Alan