What with the Olympics, the conventions and other breaking news these days, there seems an awful lot of TV-watching going on. I don’t do TV very well. For one thing, the Comcast people – whom I actively loathe and despise so I hope your mother doesn’t work there – in their infinite wisdom furnish us with 82 channels, which is 76 more TV channels than I could ever possibly want. There are, of course, one or two I would like to have that are somehow not on the Comcast radar, but in order to get them I would need to add another 40 or 50 more, and my poor old curved-screen TV would collapse of its own weight.
It appears that everybody who is not following the news on TV is checking in on her iPhone or Treo or laptop. I can’t handle that kind of newsgathering either. My assorted home pages and RSS feeds do indeed give me headlines at every turn – and I appreciate that and congratulate you if your mother works for iGoogle – but I am not inclined to zip right over and read the whole story and this is why:
Nothing will ever beat picking up the morning paper, sitting down with a cup of coffee and finding out what’s going on around the globe. Even if it went on 6 or 8 hours ago. The sky will fall if you miss knowing about the invasion of Svenghalistan by 6 hours? Under the old morning paper system the universe unfolds in proper time. You catch the first line of the big head just below and to the right of the New York Times’ “All the News That’s Fit to Print” box as you’re picking up the paper, and the adrenalin kicks in, ever so gently, even before the caffeine. Maybe your candidate won! Or you glance at the smaller typeface just below the slogan and get an instant clue about who’s beating up on whom around the globe. Then you settle down, let everything else wait while the day gets underway, and digest the news and a piece of toast at your own speed. This is good not only for the digestion, but also for the blood pressure (your candidate didn’t win?!) and the furniture that ordinarily gets in the way when you throw things at the TV.
The daily newspaper may be condemned to die, leaving hard news analysis and investigative reporting to the bloggers and the Wikipedes and perhaps some good hearted nonprofits, which many friends of mine believe will work out just fine. I’ve got my doubts (and Newshour still, at least.) But the need to know everything that happens everywhere at the moment of its happening is not high on my priority list.
I want to read about it in the morning. Over coffee.
In the virtual world of the blogosphere there are those who suffer guilt over failure to blog. This despite evidence that the world manages to get along just fine without our daily contributions. I hear of this guilt about infrequency and irregularity, though, from my more gifted and committed blogger friends, and certainly stress out about it myself when one of my several readers says, “Umm, you haven’t put anything new there in a month or so.” It is the curse of writers blogk.
Writers blogk is identifiable by several symptoms:
The syntactical blogk: Those of us born into the Chicago Manual of Style and raised by Strunk and White are just emotionally unable to write in incomplete sentences or phrases. We wish we could. We desperately envy those who can dash off a post and send it instantly into cyberspace with confidence. You know them. Their blogs are breezy and witty and wonderful – and frequent. We of the blogked are still sitting at our computers searching for the perfectly-crafted phrase, wondering if our gerunds are proper.
The grammatical/punctuational blogk: In another generation this blogk will be simply quaint, as there will be no texting-impaired people still alive. But for now, we unfortunate blogkeders cannot abandon our commitment to capital letters and words spelled all the way out. Some things are daggers into our literary souls, u no wt i mn? So we sit around doing our own spell-checking until we’ve bored ourselves into a doze.
The sheer envy blogk: Who are all those people posting perfectly spelled and punctuated, well crafted sentences and paragraphs of informative materials day after day and whose freshman composition class were they in? Ohmygoodness, did I just end that sentence in a preposition?
The insecurity blogk: It seemed like a good idea… but no, how could I possibly write about that…….
I’ll try to get back to you soon.
It was a special treat recently to attend several sessions of the 20th annual meeting of the North American Interfaith Network, happily held this year on the campus of my MFA alma mater, the University of San Francisco. Ever alert for a good story – especially a publishable one – I e-mailed my friend and Beliefnet.com editor to see if they’d be interested in a report. (I wrote a piece for Beliefnet’s start-up issue, and am proud to have contributed that and a few other articles for what I think is the best site around for issues of spirituality and ethics.) She replied, with kindness but candor, should anything surprising or newsworthy come up that would be a possibility, but such is seldom the case at these conferences. And I guess she’s right. What warms the heart does not necessarily make the news.
Still, it was hard not to feel a little wistful, as I sat in workshops and gatherings, about the fact that an extraordinary coming-together of so many wildly divergent faith communities, many of which are behind the splitting-apart of the world, is not newsworthy by today’s measure.
In my ice-breaking group, for example, were a woman rabbi, a former Catholic priest whose partner is a Wiccan, an avowed atheist, and an ordained United Methodist minister who works full-time with an interfaith organization (in Wichita, KS!, America’s oldest interfaith group, founded 1885 if you please.) And assorted others, including a Japanese Christian who had married a Korean politician but is now living in the U.S. because, as you might guess, that didn’t sit well with Korean politics. Stories were everywhere. In subsequent gatherings I encountered Muslims, Buddhists, Native Americans, Brahma Kumaris and others, all with wonderfully rich traditions and a yearning for peace.
There were questions – How can humanitarian needs be addressed without compromising political/religious neutrality? Is every declared faith a legitimate faith? – for which no answers were found. But there were exciting tales of answers that had been found and of possibilities for finding more. Tiny steps toward a better world were confirmed.
So OK, one group Om does not a treaty make. And the multi-lingual singing of “Love In Any Language” won’t make ancient animosities between speakers of all those languages disappear.
But has anyone come up with a better idea? That would make news.
I’ve been lucky to do some coast-to-coast trips in recent weeks, enjoying life on both sides of the country over that time – which included the July 4th weekend. It prompted these profound reflections on east v west that may be worth recording:
Patriotism – Flag-waving still survives, though it’s certainly not just Old Glory any more (almost as many rainbow flags abound in Atlanta neighborhoods as in San Francisco, and tony suburbs are awash in flags of flowers and turtles and mantras the specific meaning of which eludes me.) Over the Fourth I was in the N. GA mountains at Lake Rabun (check out the after-race photos, p 4, #67, 69 & 70 for testimony as to the concluding event of my recent, extended birthday celebration.) There were flags on boathouses, there was bunting on fences, and it felt altogether warm and fuzzy. Perhaps the display of Old Glory hasn’t totally been co-opted by the far right; patriotism was such a happy thing before it became a dirty word. Small-town parades proliferate everywhere too, and with flags and kids and wagons and decorated bikes galore, they are among the warmest and fuzziest still.
Oceans – Of course the ocean on the west coast is on the wrong side of the street, but it’s a mighty ocean indeed. Oceans and coasts are metaphors waiting to happen. The breathtaking vistas, the rugged cliffs and rocks and crags of the Pacific shores are a source of wonder; the serene expanses of beach and tidal grasses along the Atlantic (especially south of the Massachussetts and upwards cliffs and rocks and crags) offer an emotional counterpoint worth treasuring. Plus, sunsets and sunrises over oceans and lakes alike make one wonder why anybody ever gets mad at anybody.
Colors – Especially if you’ve just come from the San Francisco Bay area or the deserts of nearby elsewhere, the east is startlingly green. San Francisco and environs abound with California gold, but I still call it brown and the greenness of summer on the east coast is a marvel to behold once you’ve wandered afar from it.
Cellphones and traffic – They’re everywhere. At least California has followed NY with hands-free driving laws, but being a pedestrian is chancy at best in the urban U.S.. Plus this: giving way with a smile to some impatient driver who is hell-bent on getting there first, wherever in the world you’re both headed, is a fascinating experiment anywhere. Once in San Francisco I had a lane-changing SUV driver throw up both hands and laugh (which could’ve gotten us killed, but still…) Once in Washington D.C. a little old lady (I’m one too) figured I was being smart and flipped me the bird. Her life may have been short on views of sunset with the fog rolling in.