A little break can be a good thing. After posting my Minimalism entry, I entertained friends on Wednesday night and then Thursday we had a little trouble with the utilities in Manhattan, so we entertained stranded co-workers willing to climb 28 floors: an evening of candlelight, wine and conversation reminded us of simpler pleasures (“Let’s drink the white first while it’s cold”).
It was a surprise three day weekend and the Internet seemed less compelling than I would have thought–I found it relaxing to be offline. I had unused power in the PowerBook battery and a POTS phone line and internal modem, but it didn’t seem necessary to add to the descriptions of what was, essentially, obvious.
Amy Harmon of the New York Times called on Saturday for background on an article she was writing. I told her I really didn’t have anything more interesting than relaxation to report. And so she didn’t.
I do have a small bit of advice for handling blackouts. Yesterday was a glorious day, so I took a long walk, enjoying a street fair on Lexington and a stroll through the Park. Last night brought stomach upset and a real-life Immodium commercial. Why would a seemingly rational man buy a Gyro sandwich from a street vendor the day after every piece of meat in town has been warmed to room temperature?
Now back to our regular programming…
Resistance is Mutual
The theme I discern from my idle rants and the more thoughtful deliberations of others is consistent: at a deep level, each of us is convinced of our authority as the pinnacle of reason; that intelligence and insight degrade rapidly with the distance from our influence (ignoring the fact that, if a husband’s alone in the forest, he’s still wrong). So, rather than a participatory search for collective enlightenment and right action, we spend all our effort trying to convince others to think and act as we do.
How well does this work? Take a look around.
So is there a way out of this foolishness? It looks to me like the Internet’s hive mind is working on the answer without us realizing it. In other words, paraphrasing Scott McNeely, the network is the human.
If so, then the self-directed Clint Eastwood is a mirage, though most of us believe that’s how we’re supposed to lead our lives if we weren’t so weak and other-directed. What’s worse, we believe that people who appear to be like Clint are people worth following, deferring to and voting for.
So we may be in a society where the leaders cling to their illusion of competence to stay in power and the rest of us cling to their illusion to stay in denial.
The Bloomin’ Truth
Howard Bloom is the one who first clued me that we’re not wired for solitary action, back in 1995 when his important book, The Lucifer Principle, was published. In fact, his second chapter (after Who is Lucifer?) is The Clint Eastwood Conundrum. Bloom demonstrates that we are totally social creatures and that isolation is the ultimate poison.
My guess is that we are drawn to those who appear to be independent and strong for the same reason that chimps and wildebeests are, but those types need our attention as an actor needs an audience. Bloom suggests, and Susan Blackmore reinforces the point, in The Meme Machine, that these strong, self-assured types are indeed actors, posturing in ways that have become second nature, attracting us with their compelling demonstrations of independence and stubbornness to ensure that they can avoid the fear we all share: never be alone.
So I wonder if we aren’t all resisting the truth that the strong, independent father figure is a threat to us all. George Lakoff points out that we’re inclined to embrace the metaphor of the strong father and question the value of a nurturant parent.
What if all our emperors are naked and we’re just their credulous patsies? What if the reality of sucking up to a strong-appearing leader is that we simply give a questionable ego more fuel and their self-indulgent personality more reason to spurn us?