I was reading through an old Joseph Campbell text this past weekend. (Campbell is reasonably well known for his comparative religion professorships, in part because he focused not in the differences within the major human religions followed on Earth, but on their myriad of similarities.)
These similarities of great religions are reflections of our similarities within the human experience. And, within the human experience, at least in contemporary societies, one of these great similarities seems to be the mindless hand toss and reflection of information, without regard for A.) authenticity or B.) its effect on recipients.
Some academics and/or historians might point to the development of the printing press along with the simultaneous increase of literacy as where media gained its “mass”—to influence and spread content exponentially. Some might say it was Marconi and the radio, still others film, still others, video. Many point to the Internet as the final straw leading us all toward some sort of apocalyptic, self induced annihilation.
I believe it is much more simple. With information, it’s word of mouth, it always has been. In our deepest past, one individual related an experience to another or a group, and that experience surely was modified and embellished over time. But now that word of mouth is, in every sense of the concept, World of Mouth—a vast place where a majority of speakers barely know the tiniest fraction of listeners, and vice versa: bloggers, writers, commentators and pundits all retain a fair chunk of real anonymity, and (extrapolated from the anonymity) seem to practice a certain level of irresponsibility for communicating (or miscommunicating) at will. It all comes down to an individual pushing the feed-out button: for one’s self, or as a representative for a larger group or organization…the result is that content is released into the “wild” of the internet, to ricochet, bounce, and get enhanced, trashed and/or adopted by thousands upon thousands.
So here we all are!
How does one filter? For many, practical filtering still includes the time-honored “word of mouth” from a trusted source. I mean, what is a forwarded link to someone you know, other than some type of personal endorsement for the content you forwarding? Your recipient knows you, and if you do not regularly abuse the privilege, probably considers the content.
However, there are huge numbers of folks who simply seem not to have the cultural, personal, technical or educational experience to assist in careful filtering—or vetting—of content. With so many folks toting smarty pants phones in their pockets, there is no excuse for the astonishing level of half truths along with complete and total lies that explode across the internet in waves…waves that can be easily measured, and even graphed (visit the BlueFin group to be amazed at just how fast and how much content transfer can be measured)
In response to content abuse and overload, I am a rabid filter fiend. I have content filters in all of my computer platforms, and have manually blocked folks who simply forward noise incessantly, without filtering it themselves. (I am not a Facebook member, even if there is empty page with my name on it.)
In addition, I am a rabid researcher, seeking to verify content that piques my interest. This verification takes place not only with popular, topical search engine trolling, but also with available libraries like LexisNexis, Wolfram Alpha, along with Library of Congress and metropolitan library searches, whenever possible. Once I feel that the content has been verified, I *might* share it with individuals, but only if I firmly believe the content may have resonance.
Resonant Moon by PBWilder
So what do I believe “resonance” is?
Main Entry: res·o·nance
1 : the quality or state of being resonant
2 : a reinforcement of sound (as a musical tone) in a vibrating body or system caused by waves from another body vibrating at nearly the same rate
3 : a vibrating quality of a voice sound
For me, resonance is a sympathetic and empathetic reception of ideas and emotional content as perceived by one or more individuals. Many artists strive to have it, politicians seem (historically) to pretty much sell their souls for it. How does resonance influence relevance?
The first is the process, the second is the judgment of the process.
I was having a conversation with a friend—an actor, writer and comedian, about the content of an upcoming performance. I was asked what I thought, and my response was that the material was pretty darn funny; mostly due to the “resonance” of the topics. In fact, the topics that were treated (to a clever dose of satirical rendering) were ideas familiar to the mostly-local audience. I told the writer I expected the show’s audience would leave feeling pretty good about where they live, as well as pretty amused at our individual and collective human weakness… in other words, the show has relevance, because it “resonates.”
Expanding the analogy to glean resonance (and therefore relevance) from the tsunami of everyday content can be challenging. There is simply too much information spewing from every conceivable source. However, if you think about it, applying a “personal filter” is not so terribly difficult.
Neither is turning a media appliance off and going for a walk, or helping a neighbor, or where I live, helping (mostly hanging) out at a friend’s dairy farm.
Joseph Campbell’s long exploration lead him to believe that the search for meaning (within our short, seemingly inconsequential lifespans) is universal, and demonstrates many examples of this within all major earthly religions.
Because of our species’ almost insane curiosity, are we (as individuals) really willing to accept a single media blurt as the gospel truth, even if it is echoed thousands of time? And then to send it on, unquestioned? To give up the search for meaning, just because we’re lazy??? I don’t believe we ultimately are—even if we are often individually guilty of such a dastardly practice.
(For example, just because a million people within said echo chamber believe that legislating the personal responsibility of others is morally and ethically righteous, it doesn’t actually make such legislation concretely practical, or morally and ethically righteous.)
I encourage most people I speak with (about this subject of mindless forwarding) to take a bit of time to seek out the “resonance”, and then verify the authenticity to expose the “relevance”. At the end of the day, I believe this small and simple amount of discipline toward an idea’s credibility will positively influence many other decisions that affect not only the individual—but all those who are connected.
The quest for experience, and then the shared experience; the balance of head and heart—of intellect and sensory input combined with experience and emotional insight—is all we have to make sense of life. It seems a prudent thought to use all these tools we have wisely, and to avoid encumbering our own ticking time clocks with unnecessary noise… and especially having the courtesy and prudent consideration to not to forward that unnecessary noise to others.
Here is my reformat of the “golden rule“…
“Forward to others only that which you would wish forwarded on to you.”
— Peter Bruce Wilder