Saturday, January 25, 2014


By Joye Vailes Shepperd

I was embarrassed when I heard the word "selfie" was to be elevated to the New Oxford American Dictionary. The new it word goes hand in hand with the human predilection for onanism. We humans like to play with ourselves...

And clearly, we seem to be hard wired for “the new.” In the recently published book, We Are Our Brains, D.F. Schwaab says "the brain stops producing old information once it receives fresh input again, and it makes no difference whether the input is meaningful..." This doesn't bode well for us if we're not careful. When seasoned and erudite arbiters select a word like selfie, they are not aspiring so much as trolling through the shallows. They aren't thinking, they're playing with popularity. The supposed leader is now following the crowd, and I don't know about you but I have always been afraid of the crowd's destination.  

A better alternative would be to take some words of long issue, words we've always known, and elevate them to new function and purpose. Peace ought to be a verb and maybe if we use it enough the practice would hardwire us to its service. Altruism might be a requirement for anyone who wishes to speak loud enough for anyone else to hear. After all, it is the one evolutionary “given” that is almost wholly responsible for human survival. If the good of all supersedes the desires of one, and this were taken into account before we uttered or even wrote one word, mostly, we'd be quiet. 

Make no mistake, this is no advocation for silence, this is a plea for eliminating blather, insult, and bullshit. This is a plea for the omission of “late breaking news” that declares you need to know what your smart phone says about you, that Justin Bieber got drunk and of any pundit voicing his or her opinion outside his/her area of expertise and often, within it, too. How much nonsense can one brain take in? Will there be any room to store intelligence for the long haul?  The average human seems to believe that the more, dare I call it, “information” is available, the better off we’ll be. We think we multitask but the truth is, according to brain scientists, there’s no such thing. The brain doesn’t work that way and when one area is active, the other is not. It’s why we can’t talk, drive, listen to the radio and think. Unfortunately, it’s easier to leave off the thinking and without using our brains, we will be incapable of discernment. Dulled creatures we will and have become, not born that way, but nevertheless, evolving, and at this juncture, without some of the essential components that brought us this far.

If evolution is about survival of the fittest, let’s ponder a moment about today. What's fit?  Our sensibility is almost nonexistent, capacity for hardship ennobling but useless, endurance for pain-–clearly legion or we couldn’t kill ourselves or others, no matter the cause; our understanding – obviously limited; and tolerance—haphazard--swhich may be exactly why we’re concentrating on selfies in the first place. It’s easier to play with our images than introspect.  

So let’s say that we continue to evolve without altruism. Let’s sum up today's ingredients for the continuing stew of evolution: an inordinate amount of frenzied input, a giant dollop of confusion, an inability to judge, greed, bias, and an almost absolute lack of honesty.  As we grow fatter, and our environment less forgiving, (primarily due to our unconscionable damage), do you ever wonder about the future? Perhaps our path isn't toward enlightenment or ultimate design but to play a small and temporary part in the cycle and disappear. Maybe evolution is cyclical.

Consider human behavior, for those of us swaying under the weight of thought, wondering about-- our purpose. Can it really be to kill ourselves over rocks and religion? Over things that we believe, not because they're true but because we're used to the act of believing, a kind of default mutation in the human condition. Maybe it's time to go back to the beginning and restart.

1 comment:

Mishka M said...

An excellent piece- the Anti-Selfie Manifesto.