• Tag Archives Steven PInker
  • Forgiving. Not Being Able to Forget.

    Summer                                        Full Grandchildren Moon

    Over the last year, with seeming increased speed in the last three months, the nattering nabobs of negativism (thank you, Spiro), have problems with the internet.  The Web Means the End of Forgetting in this week’s NYT magazine recounts the many issues that self-revelation and innuendo can raise in an environment of perfect memory.  The issue of privacy in an age of electronic elephants has many folks concerned.  A second area of concern involves reading, attention spans and even our ability to think deep thoughts.  The rapid pace of information dissemination and consumption on the Web, the theory goes, makes us unable to read long books, think in arguments that have more than two moves.

    Paul Revere has lots of company.  Endless memory is coming.  Endless memory is coming.  Loss of focus is coming.  Loss of focus is coming.  Balderdash.

    I use the web with frequency.  I just finished, for example, a 2,340 page book, The Romance of the Three Kingdoms.  I regularly write essay length pieces for Unitarian-Universalist congregations.  The quality of my arguments you may question, but their length and number of  moves you may not.  Also, Steve Pinker, whom I respect as a neurologist and psychologist said all this is silly.

    In my brief life as a blogger, a bit over 6 years if you count my regular posts during the year the Woolly’s had a pilgrimage theme, I’ve had three difficult incidents as a result of the Web’s reach.  The first was with material I wrote about my sister.  Material I regretted, but there it was.  Out there.  And she found it while I was in Southeast Asia. I found out in Bangkok in a China town internet cafe.  An unpleasant incident which still has reverberations.

    Not long after that I went after a job in a small UU congregation.  I posted only that I had had an interview, but the search committee viewed that as a serious breach of trust, definitely not the kind of impact you hope to have when hoping to become someone’s minister.   Result:  no job.  Finally, and the least serious of the three, but still significant; I wrote my reactions to a political event I attended.  It was an insider’s deal, at least as the convener’s saw it, and I got a mild reprimand through the channels of an organization for which I volunteer.

    Even with these situations in my recent past I still say, “Geez, folks.  Get over yourselves.  We are who we are regardless of our capacity to hide it.”  If more of our selves becomes subject to scrutiny, why shouldn’t we be held accountable?  Yes, I know the argument about slander and unintentional posting of that silly photo from Spring Break.  Even so, I think the larger question is, can we as a human community accept people as they are, not only as the carefully edited version of them we may get at work or in the bowling league or at church or at the bar?

    We are an inconsistent, irrational, exuberant species with so much behavior to think about, wouldn’t it be easier if we all got our undies unbunched and realized the flawed creatures we all are?  It’s a thought.