Wednesday, January 27, 2016

As though Nothing Could Fall

Wandering through the snow Saturday afternoon around Chelsea Parade, before the second wave of white stuff arrived and the winds turned from Southeast to Northwest rattling tree limbs and causing teeth to chatter, I was thinking about life here on the ant farm with beepers, just to stay warm.

That I never got hot may say something about the weather or even more about my mental acuity. In either case, it’s not anything you don’t already know.

The snowstorm was shared knowledge up and down the Eastern Seaboard for nearly a week. Everyone sort of knew what was heading towards us-the only uncertainty was the how much. Luckily in my case, my neighbor, Zak, cleared the uncertainty off our sidewalk on the very bright and clear Sunday we had following the storm.

But what I was thinking about as the wind and weather transformed Chelsea Parade into the inside of a snow globe was how much smaller our world is because of the invention and deployment of a variety of technologies. That old question about the sound a tree makes falling in the woods with no one to hear it, these days, between the drones and the satellite uplink vans, has a whole new answer and meaning.

We have more means to communicate with one another than at any time in history, but (perhaps just me) we have less to say (And you're reading more proof of that assertion). We could use the convergence of various technologies to build bridges with those like, and, also, unlike ourselves but for the most part, we’re content to send one another Grumpy Cat pictures and ‘gee, we gotta a lotta snow’ memes basically to people who shared the very same items with us.

We’ve confused celebrity with fame. And we use the terms interchangeably. How else to explain the disproportionate attention to TV like the Jerry Springer Show (a ‘guilty pleasure’ for so many of us; you don’t want to watch it, but you can’t look away) or the actions of media panda bears like ‘Keeping Up with the Kardashians’ (pandas are a much better symbol of the USA than the bald eagle. They have no actual purpose except to cause us to wrinkle our noses in amusement and say 'awwww.'). 

As someone told me decades ago, ‘according to the dictionary, a star is a ball of flaming gas.’

Meanwhile the efforts of a nineteen-year-old who traded a high school cap and gown last spring for a military uniform, currently walking a post in some far-off place we can’t pronounce or find on a map or here in our own backyard, a teacher working with an immigrant youngster in a reading class at one of our schools too often pass unremarked upon but both are, nevertheless, remarkable. And these deeds are done every day, times a thousand or even more, even when no one notices.

There’s a simple way to keep track of it all: Celebrities make headlines. Heroes make a difference.
-bill kenny

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