I’m on twitter as @drs18; I’ve been using the service since 2007. I use facebook, too, but after the vitriol of the 2012 election, I use it only to gather information (from “liked” pages) and see pictures my daughter posts of my granddaughter. Twitter is more tolerable and crafting a stream that’s helpful or interesting is easy enough. I confess to following people and topics on Medium, too. Occasionally I get flashes of insight into value.
I saw a twitter post that linked to a longer article, 7 Life-Changing Books to Read This Summer. It seemed easy enough to look into and maybe a book in the short list would be worth a bit of time. That twitter post linking to the list had 36 “shares” (36 people reposted the post as is to their own friends) and 83 likes. The actual article with the list was already a month old and had over 5000 shares. I skimmed down the page; there was a nice stock photo at the top and clean cover shots of each of the seven books. Each, too, had a two paragraph synopsis. All seemed pretty standard but one really caught my eye: The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters. The only link to more info was the cover image. I clicked it thinking I might buy or at least find at the library, but it went to the wrong book. Yeah, I could search amazon for the title but that glitch just galls me. Hypertext can make it so easy to refer to something. I posted a response on twitter directly to the author and the host- two people who were targeted when I hit “reply”. An hour later the author “liked” my reply. The hosting site never responded. Obviously, the author didn’t read my post or quite understand what it was saying when she “liked” the fact that there was a misdirecting link in her article. I guess that isn’t surprising when I realized over 5036 readers didn’t notice or didn’t care. Nor did the readers who read those posts.
So, was that really anyone ? Or was it a case of everyone mindlessly reposting something: “Hey this is something you might like. Something I’m intelligent enough and hip enough to care about. I didn’t actually read it. And I didn’t click on any of the links. But you might like it just on my say-so. And BTW, it says so much about me and my lifestyle…”
After several days the link was still incorrect so I went to the personal contact page for the article’s author and used the contact form to point out the link to the wrong book. Several days later I received an email from her saying thanks- the editor did it but I’ll let them know. When I checked the next day, the link was fixed. All that time, all those people, and not one was engaged enough to find or report the error. 5.1k shares of the article. 36 shares of the twitter post. All meaningless.
I read an article on Quartz yesterday. Psychology shows it’s a big mistake to base our self-worth on our professional achievements. I mean really read it. It’s very good, and it was very satisfying in that it came to me shortly after I watched a youtube talk by an old colleague. The colleague’s talk was okay, but something about it annoyed me. The Quartz article helped me formulate my own thoughts on why. The kicker is that the truly interesting Quartz article is written by Emily Esfahani Smith, the author of the book that I wanted to find after seeing it in a list and failing to find it. An intereting coincidence. I need to buy her book. And read it.
Walking back into my building this morning I was taken by the flowering bushes along the walk and how the color of their leaves went so well with the color of their blossoms. Actually, I’d noticed it before in wild rose blossoms and day lilies along the highway, but today the match was on my mind. Lovely Sunday morning that it is, it’s comforting to think that mother nature in her infinite wisdom chose matching colors with a clear purpose: The warm green tending towards yellow pairing beautifully with bright, burnt orange blossoms while the cool, soft green leaves pair beautifully with pink to magenta blossoms. The truth is, sadly, that we just grew up seeing natural pairings and have developed our sense of beauty based on what we see. Color wheels, those wonderful tools used to help designers make choices, don’t exist naturally. Color wheels are an invention to help us codify the way we see, not a scheme that nature follows.
One of the great art books that I inherited from my dad is a large hardcover filled with beautiful illustrations: Goethe’s Color Theory. In it, Goethe presents a vast collection of color wheels he developed, all attempting to codify our choices in a scientific fashion. One of the most surprising to me as a child was one with magenta as a primary and red as a secondary. Red can be made from magenta with yellow. That blew away all of the Roy G Biv nonsense I’d learned, but it matches our printing primaries perfectly: Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow of CMYK fame. I was already a bit annoyed with that “indigo” addition. Indigo? Really?
So back to our flowers. We grew up seeing flowers on plants. Our sense of beauty comes very much from seeing those flowers as well as a dark, unsaturated lawn against a dark gray sky or a bright, saturated green lawn against a bright blue sky. We’ve been trained to respond to color choices based on how we may have felt about the combinations in nature. Beauty, and what we think are appropriate color pairings, are human constructs to help us determine value.
Which brings me to why I chose to mention this now. I read that Bon Appétit shot it’s May cover with an iPhone. I haven’t seen the cover yet, only an online version. The versions I’ve seen look a bit soft focused. I wonder if the Art Director for Bon Appétit’s May ’75 cover would accept the iPhone shot? Though I readily accept the advances in phone technology I wonder if our sense of what’s useful, valuable, beautiful, isn’t changing based on society’s changing view? To be clear, that isn’t a value judgment. What I value, what I think is beautiful, mostly belongs to another time.
Tomorrow this child will be 2½. That seems to be an important developmental milestone. Although I could sit and have an intelligent conversation with her anytime over the past year, I haven’t pushed learning the alphabet. We talk about the world around us but not the days of the week. She loves to paint and knows the colors, loves cats and dogs and recognizes several breeds, but we haven’t gotten to addition or subtraction yet. Am I remiss in my child care? When her mom was growing up, I was annoyed when she had school work to do. Home time was our time, and we had things to do. Things that I thought were important or meaningful. Academics can happen later, or as those skills may be useful in our adventures. Observation. Awareness. Compassion. Fun and funny. All are what we do.
The other morning we went to a little market up the street. My granddaughter knows the folks in the market and asks about them every time we shop. She likes to help carry things back, too. Last visit we picked up several things and had two bags to carry home. One was light but bulky, six loose rolls of toilet paper. Outside I handed the two handles of that bag to my helper and she grabbed them and tried to take a step. The bag dragged on the ground and she could barely walk.
“Wait…” she said. “Wait, let me put my arm through it.” She slid her arm through the handles so the bag was at her shoulder and no longer dragged. Then she just walked back to the apartment with me. I feel pretty certain that if she needed to count those six rolls, she’d figure it out.
There are two water fountains at this spot: one for adults and this shorter one for children. Or short adults. Whatever. Both are too high; so, this is an entertaining solution. Moments later, she was on all fours in a puddle, lapping water like a dog. Fortunately, I stopped her instead of taking the shot – A sure sign I was destined to be a grandfather and not an artist.
My granddaughter hung out with me for an hour on Saturday while her mom did some last minute birthday-gift wrapping. When mom came to pick her up, she sat on the floor to finish watching Daniel Tiger and get her hair brushed. I have about five minutes of hairbrushing video, but I have to publish this tiny snip. We’ve met many kids at the park and haven’t run in to another practically-two-year-old who would understand the phrase “shake some water on the brush” let alone actually do it. The whine beforehand is perfect. She needs to learn to say, “oh mo-ther!” Maybe I should work on that…
This is the second year my daughter and granddaughter have walked in the March of Dimes’ March for Babies. It’s a good cause, at a time of the year when there are many good causes. And it looks like it will be cold and raining. Ah well. I know they’ll still be there. We’re all committed to the folks who made it possible for this little one to make it through her first few weeks in Geisinger’s NICU. There were many others there at the time, and some didn’t make it. Many. That’s my granddaughter’s word for more things than she can count. Many balloons. Many cookies. Many babies. Many causes. We’re so fortunate that she was able to master an understanding of the concept many. I hope she has many friends tomorrow.