After I walk across the stone bridge, there’s a small cobblestoned plaza that forks into winding streets. I turn left, walking in the cramped alleys between old buildings. There are stairs, and an archway, and beyond, the buildings open up to a cemetery. It’s the only way to the old church, where they say there’s a cure for my illness.
It was called the Plain of Six Glaciers, which sounded like something in a Tolkien novel, what with his Battle of the Five Armies, or the Cracks of Doom, or, like, the entire Silmarillion. I stared up into the mountains at the supposed location of the mythical plain. The distant plateau was hidden by peaks and the sunlight shone from behind them.
I place my prayer rug on the floor in the direction of Mecca. It came from my grandparents, I think, from the old country. It has been a part of my life since I was a child, a fixture in our home, and now it is threadbare from wear. It’s limp like fresh chapati. The burgundy, velvet fibres fray on the parts of this rug that have cushioned our heels and knees for decades. I smooth out its wrinkles and bumps and imperfections with the brush of a flat, tender palm, like I’m tending a bed of soil in a garden. I sit beside it or on the edge of my bed for a minute or two. I breathe.
What we’re approaching here is what was once “content” being stripped of its nutritious value and being processed into “content product”. See where I’m going with this? I could see, over time, readers realizing how many empty calories, in the form of news “snippets” or meaningless photos, we’ve been consuming on the web and there being a counter movement. I’ve seen the term “slow blogging” show up a few times around the web recently in different contexts, and it definitely comes to mind now. I could see a parallel on the web to what we’ve seen in the food industry, where the early adopters seek out whole, local, organic… content. From the source. On the site it was designed for, from the person who wrote it. Or at least prepared in a way that shows respect to the ingredient.
Anthropologist Wade Davis of National Geographic in an absolutely mind-blowing TED talk from 2003. I’m floored. I caught a bit of this guy today on the radio while driving back from the garage and wanted to find out more. He’s giving this year’s Massey Lecture.
The whole TED talk is fantastic, but the ending pushes it over the top for me to something transcendent:
“It’s pretty obvious, at least to all of us who have traveled in these remote reaches of the planet, to realize that they’re not remote at all. They’re homelands of somebody. They represent branches of the human imagination that go back to the dawn of time. And for all of us, the dreams of these children, like the dreams of our own children, become part of the naked geography of hope. So what we’re trying to do at the National Geographic, finally, is, we believe that politicians will never accomplish anything. We think that polemics are not persuasive, but we think that storytelling can change the world. So we are probably the best storytelling institution in the world: we have 35 million hits on our website every month, 156 nations carry our television channel, our magazines are read by millions. What we’re doing is a series of journeys to the ethnosphere where we’re gonna take our audience to places of such cultural wonder that they cannot help but come away dazzled by what they have seen, and hopefully, therefore, embrace gradually, one by one, this central revelation of anthropology: that this world deserves to exist in a diverse way, that we can find a way to live in a truly multicultural, pluralistic world, where all of the wisdom of all of all peoples can contribute to our collective well-being.”
His summary of the craft of storytelling takes the career longings and yearnings I’ve been having to a higher place, to a truer place. It transcends mere journalism and enters the realm of something almost holy. It seems to unify the spiritual searching I’ve had all these years and expressed in my exploration of religion, along with the need for relevance through journalism, my own persistent desire to write, and the urge of humans 10,000 years ago to sacralize the hunt by painting it on cave walls. Really. His vision is celebratory of the human adventure, cherishes it, and is in love with it in all its forms and manifestations.
Too many thoughts are springing forth from this. I see connections in the career I’ve sought, in what I’m writing now, in what I wrote years ago, in values and ideals I shape and form and hold dear. I, I, I need to think this through more. Not enough tags for this post! Not enough! Ahh, this is so going in my personal manifesto box. “The naked geography of hope.” Argh! And I marvel once more at the poetic capabilities of the human spirit. (Falls over)
Strange morning. I was listening to CBC Radio as I usually do. On The Current, they interviewed George Monbiot, a writer for The Guardian, who was talking about air travel within the context of global climate change. Pretty heavy stuff. I agree with all of it. We’re sitting in a closed garage with the car running, essentially, and rather than turn the car off, we’re just enjoying getting high off the fumes. Wonderful. (And for the record, yes, I own a car.)
As a global culture we are beginning to outgrow polarized and binary divisions but we still confuse the media with reality. If we were to publish a newspaper called Reality, it would be a mile thick. The first quarter-inch would arrive on your doorstep, scare the hell out of you, push the worst of human possibility into your world, make you want to lock your doors, inhibit your impulse toward community, and drive you to xenophobia, resentful and fearful of all the violent others determined to ruin your life. The rest of the mile of newspaper — the reality of our world, the part that never gets published — would be Massive Change, the story of how millions of people from every part of the world are working together to confront the dilemmas we face as a global society.
What is Massive Change, and why is it capitalized? Read more