The other day, Mike wrote this:
With the explosion of the Information Age there is faster and greater exposure to culture than ever before. Growing up in Louisville we joked that fashion trends took a couple of years to move from NYC to Kentucky. Now the timeline has shrunk to months. With other cultural trends this can happen in days. Just think of what YouTube does for the American lexicon and you will have a pretty good idea of what I am talking about.
Indeed. If I were the sort of person who still cared about such things, it would take no time at all for me to learn precisely how out-of-date my shoes are. (On the one hand, I’m sure fashionable people in New York City would point at my old square-toed Kenneth Coles and laugh their asses off. On the other hand, one of the nice things about moving out of New York City is that you stop really caring what fashionable people there think of your shoes.)
These days it feels like the zeitgeist gets blasted at us with the force of a fire hose aimed at our faces. Even for those who’d just as soon opt out of the deluge, a certain degree of splashing is unavoidable. The Better Half treats social media with roughly the same esteem as the small animal carcasses our cat deposits on our doorstep when he escapes the house, and even he was forced to ask me the other night what “twerking” is.
Sad to say, much of what pours forth from the belching maw of our popular culture seems like so much unprocessed sewage. If you’re looking for something crass, degrading or exploitative to watch, a two-step process of turning on your television and waiting should suffice. (If this happens to fail on the first channel you select, go one or two in either direction and you’re sure to find something soon.) On the other end of the equation, if you’re hoping to get really famous, at least for a short while, nothing will do the trick quite like convincing a bunch of your most sociopathic friends to get together and then filming everyone treating each other horribly, at which point you pitch it to Bravo.
This was the thrust of last week’s Question — why do people tune in to watch awful people enact tightly-scripted programs that make Henrik Ibsen seem too soft on humanity? The collective answer from comments in a nutshell? “Beats me.” But the conversation that got going there included lots of interesting thoughts about all that is lamentable and wrong with the state of American culture.
To which I say, “I agree. But…”
The unavoidable truth is that, short of becoming an anchorite or taking heavy sedatives from dawn to dusk, there’s little one can do to avoid learning what the Kardashians are doing. And this unblinking focus on talentless fame whores can make one despair that our new world of constant information flow yields nothing but dross. LeeEsq summed it up thusly:
What can I say, we live in an age of decadance where all that is beautiful and pure is lost.
I sympathize with that sentiment, but I disagree. As much drek as the Information Age can deliver, it can also turn up beautiful little marvels that we might otherwise never see.
Take, for example. the video below. I came across it months ago as one of Andrew Sullivan’s “Mental Health Breaks.” It is a jewel.
I have no idea what that song is about. For all I know, it could be about the joys of eating live kittens. But not only is the video a whimsical marvel, I found the song itself lovely. In no time at all, I had typed the singer Shugo Tokumaru’s name into Spotify and found several albums’ worth of similarly lovely songs.
It’s impossible to know if I would ever have come across Mr. Tokumaru before the Internet came along. Maybe I would have, but somehow I doubt it. What seems much more likely is that I would go my whole life without ever having heard of this man who sings in a language I don’t know in a country I’ve not (yet) visited. And that life would have been just a little poorer for having missed this small, happy delight.
So that’s this week’s Question — what beautiful things in your life do you owe to the Information Age? What would you almost certainly have missed if there were no Internet? What happiness, major or minor, would you never have had?