‘Hoping all the verses rhyme’

This interworld can really be an incredible place at times.  Being relatively new to the blogsphere, it still constantly amazes me the many ways in which messages can be spread and different communities can be formed.

The other day I posted a little piece about some shenanigans going on in the world of popular music, and the fact that such shenanigans become the focus of a great deal of discussion, while other, more important, occurrences remain shockingly overshadowed.

I ended the post with some optimism- in the form of my discovery that Ray Davies, storyteller and songsmith, was releasing a new book soon (although not, sadly, soon enough for it to be my cottage book in 2 weeks), reassuring me that there are still vibrant, talented, relevant voices out there.  I let his brother, Dave, sum up my feelings in his own talented manner, and sent the post out into the interworld to illuminate, educate or entertain as it would.

Imagine my surprise when the hits on my little blog started increasing, like, exponentially.  Turned out that the master of a Kinks website included a link to humble ol’ colemining, and wonderful Kinks fans from all over the world have subsequently been kind enough to click and have a look.

Although I am not remotely mathematical (Humanities Ph.D. and proud of it), I do have a certain fascination for statistics and tracing patterns (it must be my sociological training), so watching new countries pop up in the site stats not only excites me in a geekish way, it really brings home just how unifying something as global as music can be.

All these people, first connected through their love of an amazing band, came to check out what I have to say, and from there kept on clicking and visited some of my fellows in the WordPress community whose icons or site names caught their attention.

Kinks fans rock.  Truly.

A big part of my studies of world religions has been focused on the transmission- the communication– of texts.  The stories we tell- about ourselves, our gods, our communities- have been historically subject to a an incredible degree of dissemination.

With the omnipresence of the interworld these days, it’s easy to forget that texts- and letters- have always been wont to travel widely.

We can trace the overlapping similarities in the mythologies of Egypt, Mesopotamia and Israel through the trade routes that expanded their respective audiences and brought elements of significance into the stories and practices of the other cultures they bumped into along the way.

Likewise, early Christian writers took (or sent) their writings to other communities as a means of spreading, discussing and evolving the precepts and practices of their developing beliefs.

That early webmaster, Paul of Tarsus, communicated regularly with the church houses that had been established- in his name- throughout the western Mediterranean region.  Many of the later doctrines of the Christian Church(es) were drawn from these letters- from his interpretations of the character and message of Jesus of Nazareth.

Historically, as a species, we like to hear from other people, to discuss what they think about things, look at how they deal with times of trouble and benefit from wisdom that has a different origin from that which is immediately familiar.

Nowadays, those of us who are fortunate enough to be party to the constant accessibility of online communications can exchange ideas and opinions instantaneously.  And get responses back almost as immediately.

Brave new world indeed.  The interworld at its best.

One of the bloggers that I think is pretty groovy, Opinionated Man, has undertaken an exciting experiment here in the interworld.  He has started something he calls Project O, as a means of creating and furthering dialogue about opinions- where they come from, how they are expressed, and whether they are universal rights (that’s a very brief synopsis- check out the link for the full template and game plan).

My input is currently scheduled to be offered up at 6:00 AM on September 8.  I have no doubt that there will be insightful perspectives, lively debates and windows into the mores and realities of cultures from all around the world.

The Opinionated Man really knows how to strike a chord- and this experiment in communication is right up my alley.  The discussions are already starting- I encourage you to participate if it’s something you’d be into.  Regardless, responding to the template made me stop and think about my opinions- and how they were/are formed.  Can’t wait to see what everyone else has to contribute.

In any case, all this togetherness, connectivity and talking ’bout stuff has put a pretty positive spin on a week that wasn’t all that great in many ways.

It’s the beginning of the last long weekend of summer- which can sometimes be a little melancholy (since it’s one more indication that winter will show up sooner rather than later, and I hate the winter)- and I’ve been locked in my head with some pretty heavy reflection over the past few days weeks.

The positive energy that has come my way is helping to shift my view forward.

I wish you a happy Labour Day weekend with heartfelt thanks to all of you who choose to spend some time following along with my (often somewhat derailed) trains of thought about people and our stories and/or whatever little ditties may be floating around in my brain.

As a special shout out to the oh-so-many of my fellow Kinks peeps who have stopped by today, I leave you tonight with the words and wonder of Ray Davies, and a shared hope that we all find some ‘better things’.

Let’s keep talking folks.  Pretty awesome stuff can happen when we communicate with one another.

Cautionary Tales

I don’t get it.

I see it every day, and I still don’t get it.

People who can’t drag their noses off of the screen of their cell phones.  Not while walking (not that they’re really walking– more like shuffling along, and somehow ALWAYS while in the middle of the sidewalk), surrounded by friends or, and most distressingly, when driving.

The first two are just rude and pathetically clueless.  The latter is an obscenity.

A short documentary, about the preventable tragedies that can be completely eradicated if people would just use a little common sense and cut out the texting and driving, has been making the rounds on the social media.

Watch it.  It’s more than worth the half hour viewing time.  Those whose lives have been forever changed by something that has become shamefully ubiquitous deserve to have their voices heard- and those voices are filled with sadness and intense frustration.

This is something that has to stop happening.

I have been told that Oprah made a mission of highlighting the dangers of distracted driving toward the end of her run on network television, but it seems as if even her famously influential voice was crying in the wilderness to little effect.

I don’t get it.

Admittedly, I’m not of the generation that seems to be surgically attached to their cell phones.  A cell phone is a tool- handy, useful- but nothing more than that, as far as I’m concerned.  It’s hardly a life-line of any kind, and I have no problem at all turning mine off or leaving it behind for hours or days at a time.

I’m not someone that has to be constantly plugged in.  My job does not require me to be so, and for that, I am actually quite grateful.  I have commented before about the ways in which our constant access to information is actually taking away from our ability to critically examine that information.  I stand by that.  The constant bombardment of sound bites in 140 (or 160) characters is not making us smarter, or more worldly, or more connected.  Not in any real way.

The ‘multi-tasking’ that such tools allow for may well be making us better at superficial tasks, but those things that requires deeper investigation or understanding are moving farther and farther from our collective ken.

The persistence of people texting and driving, or using cell phones and driving, or putting on make-up while driving, is further dismaying evidence of an unreasonable sense of entitlement that way too many people seem to feel these days.

That anyone can truly believe that the text conversation they are having is more important than the attention that needs to be paid to adequately control a motorized machine… ?   I witness it constantly as I walk around town.  The number of near-‘accidents’ I see regularly is really quite staggering.

Motorists not paying attention to pedestrians and cyclists, cyclists not paying attention to motorists and pedestrians, and pedestrians as oblivious as the motorists and cyclists.

We don’t pay attention anymore.  Not to one thing at one time, anyway.  I’m as guilty of that as the next person.  As I type this, the television is on in the background.  Distraction pops up every couple of minutes- when the phone rings, or something on the news catches my attention.

It’s bad enough that this technology is interfering with our abilities to interact in person, and meaningfully, but when it puts us in positions in which we can choose to put our lives and the lives of others in danger… time to unplug and take ownership of our actions.

I have a close friend who lost  her brother when he was killed, while riding his bike, by a drunk driver.  Who had been convicted of impaired driving 3 TIMES before, who lost his license, paid a fine and was back on the road driving drunk again, this time hitting and killing a father of two who was on his way home from work.  I witnessed what that act, that selfish choice, did to people I care about.  I have seen how, more than a decade later, that single act still echoes through the lives of a family and extended group of friends who will forever be lacking something precious because one person made a self-involved decision and refused to take responsibility for those actions.

Cars, in the wrong hands, are weapons.  I admit that I know some people who would condemn that drunk driver one minute and get behind the wheel and send a text message in the next.

The thought is that it’s a matter of degree.  It’s not.  Being distracted or impaired- in any way- and behind the wheel of a motorized vehicle is a choice that is made.  We make these choices constantly.

If we rely on experience to guide these choices, we often make the wrong ones.  Most of us have never caused an accident while texting and driving.  Most of us haven’t killed someone when we get behind the wheel after a couple of beers.

The cautionary tale arose in folkloric traditions to warn listeners/readers of dangers.  The dangerous act, place or person would be described and cautioned against, and then the results when someone didn’t follow the advice to avoid the act, place or person.  It never ended well for those who went against the common wisdom.

Like most stories (religious, political, folkloric, legendary) cautionary tales are often used for propagandist purposes– to further the agendas of the people in power or as a means of exerting and maintaining control over the population.

As I’ve emphasized before, there can be danger in employing myths as attempts to justify the unjustifiable.  Cautionary tales- as a group- have gotten a bad rap for the exaggeration of the consequences that they often use as examples to modify behaviour.

But in cases where experiential data is not available to each and every one of us, our myths- and cautionary tales in particular- can illustrate the results of choices and actions.  This is certainly the case with distracted driving, and stories such as the ones told in the documentary are powerful learning tools.

Technology, while trying to keep us more connected, has actually served to distance us from one another, as we become increasingly self-absorbed.  As we respond to our texts, our Twitter followers, the comments on our blogs, messages about the latest Vine or Instagram post, we feel like we are interacting with a community.  And we are- in the best of cases.  I am amazed at the discussions that happen and the relationships that are nurtured over these media when they are at their best.

But it can also be very isolating, as we walk around in bubbles that exclude the real world people and surroundings in our immediate environments in favour of truncated thoughts, language and relationships in the cyber universe.

Werner Herzog’s documentary From One Second to the Next is a cautionary tale in the original, educational and socially valuable sense of the term.  It should serve as a wake-up call for those whose selfish oblivion refuses to take into consideration any consequences of actions- to themselves, and certainly not to others.

Such films are representative of positive uses of both story and technology and the ways in which the experiences of others, spread through social media, can positively impact the lives of those who they may never meet.

And it’s hard to imagine that anyone who watched the whole 35 minutes won’t think and act more cautiously, and responsibly, the next time they have the choice to pick up that phone while they are controlling a motor vehicle.

Let something positive come out of these experiences.  That’s what communication should be all about and is something worth texting to all possible contacts.

Just never when you’re driving.

M!

Wow.

Earlier this week this little blog o’mine hit 1000 views!  And over 200 followers!

Since I actively started sharing my thoughts ’round these parts back in March, I have tried to navigate around the blogosphere in general and my fellow-Wordpressers in particular whenever I have the chance.  One of the great things about blogging as a form of communication is that communities really do develop around common themes, interests and worldviews.

We are able to expand our networks and friends/family groups at an astonishing rate.

To those of you who have taken some time (which I know is precious and often pressed-for) to hang out with me here and have a look at my musings and responses to the world at large, I thank you.

Bigtime.

It is both humbling and exciting to feel that my words and stories might be somehow resonating with something inside of others out there in the interworlds and wider worlds as a whole.  It helps to fill the gap I’ve been feeling having been out of the classroom for a few years now.

Last night I had the opportunity to hang out with a friend who came into my life decades ago (I’m not going to tell you how many) but that I hadn’t seen in years and years and years.  As he said (right after a comment about ‘suddenly feeling like he was back in the 80s’), most recently, we have had an extremely long ‘penpal’ relationship- undertaken primarily through the facebook and through readings of and comments on our blogs.  We had a great catch-up session and the decades fell away in just a couple of hours.  We certainly won’t wait nearly as long to have another face-to-face meet-up, but the online dialogue- about music and life in general- will continue until we manage to arrange one.

The idea of community and the dynamics of these diverse societies have changed utterly in the past few years.  We can now easily be connected with people all over the globe; whether we’re playing scrabble with friends in other countries, getting to know someone with similar interests through the writings they take the time to post, or renewing friendships with people in different (or the same) cities.

A well-written but seemingly random post can help to change a bad day into a great one, as a different perspective is offered on something of great import at a given time, or simply because the author is feeling exactly the same thing at the same time that I am.

All this new media- even with the drawbacks and dreck that can legitimately be associated with some of it- is our contemporary storytelling circle.

I have sat in a town square, on the many-cushioned floor of a library, under the dome of a planetarium, in a smoky coffee house, on the foredeck of a sailboat (to name but a very few locales) and had the pleasure of listening to accomplished storytellers share their tales of wonder or woe.  While we do lose something in not experiencing the stories orally, the joy of reading a finely-crafted slice of life (or jokey tale or poignant memoir) reminds us of how connected we are.

The other day I wrote about being frustrated with the lack of reading- especially critical reading- skills that I seem to encounter on a daily basis, but I am extremely grateful to be part of a community that demonstrates- regularly and consistently- that there are a whole lot of people out there who are engaged in the on-going quest to discover and share the stories of humanity.

Our myths matter.

And so do our rituals.

One of the many commonalities we share across geographical, historical, racial, cultural, social and religious divides is the need to mark significant milestones.  Anthropologists call these events ‘rites of passage.’  They mark our transitions from one stage to another and help to demonstrate and explain the cultural construction of social hierarchies, values and beliefs.

I’ve been feeling somewhat liminal of late, so I think I will see this particular benchmark as the push over the threshold that I’ve been looking for to help me fully leave behind one stage of my life and progress to the next.

I think I can justify a wee celebration of my thousand views.

Nothing showy or over-the-top.

Perhaps a little Friday dance party?

All around the world wherever you are

Dance in the street, anything you like

Do it in your car in the middle of the night*

Have a great weekend!

* M, Robin Scott’s synthpop project, was something of a threshold band- moving from the disco era of the late 70s into the New Wave of the early 80s.  Not just a great tune- but apropos for both the name of the band and its position at the passage between two eras of music.  Everything connects.