After yesterday’s attack on the Charlie Hedbo magazine I woke up this morning feeling like I should be able to find more global/media images for Saturn’s recent entrance into Sagittarius. Sure enough, upon surfing the CNN news website for just a few minutes I found this headline: Zuckerberg starting a book club.
As someone who loves to read and holds several degrees from institutions of “higher learning,” I have to say that the headline got me excited. Regardless of whether or not any of us are Rhodes scholars, there is an eternal student in each of us, and when we feed our inner student with new ideas, new knowledge, and diverse experiences, we grow beyond the lead heavy measurements of our ingrained beliefs and ideologies.
The great thing about someone like facebook’s founder encouraging more fiction reading is that fiction takes ideas and puts them into images. Into voices, and character, and dialogue, and scene, and description. Into detail and pacing. Into mood and atmosphere. If we can’t locate ideas where they live and make their flights and calls, then we’re like bird watchers with our binoculars upside down.
We’re tweeting ideas into single sentences and exhausted by anything requiring more than thirty seconds of our attention.
Ideas need time and they need space in order to develop and show themselves fully. Our lack of patience for ideas is a kind of intellectual hubris. When I spent time in Peru drinking ayahuasca, I once had an entire ceremony that centered around the fact that the shamans would wait to harvest certain plants for the medicine until they were five years old…FIVE years I kept thinking to myself…and I heard the medicine say, “What you learn here, tonight, don’t rush off to make buttons and stickers about it right away. Let it develop. Let these images and visions work you over time.” People too are like plants…our current upload speed of one idea per nanosecond isn’t evidence of the evolution of our mind, it’s more like the evidence of a caffeine addiction. It’s a sickness that could quite possibly stunt our ability to blossom the fruits of real, organic knowledge.
Last spring I learned this lesson in a very difficult way. I had finished a draft of a new book and sort of publicly announced that it was ready to go, but the ideas were severely under cooked and so the images and the story, the actual “plant” of the book came out looking a little malnourished. The hardest thing for me was to step back and say to myself, “All of this needs more time, the sunlight of more life lived and the waters of more time and change…it’s not ready to be harvested yet.”
It’s hard because ideas, our best ideas, are exciting. They want to fly off the page, change someone’s mind, excite other spirits. And yet we each have to be so careful because an impatient idea often dies before it has the chance to do what it’s capable of doing. Yesterdays events at Charlie Hedbo should have us thinking about the soul of media publishing. Those of us who write every day, the bloggers, astro journalists, daily reflectors…we are under the pressure of various deadlines and audience or reader expectations, even our own vanity…it can be so tempting to try to formulate ideas into targets: numbers of readers, likes, shares, tweets. We should think about the word “viral” more carefully. Do we really want ideas and images to instantly infect masses of people, generating the same mass responses and patterns everywhere? Is that the best image for the collective psyche? The thing about viruses is of course that the body builds up immunity to them after processing them long enough….and don’t we want some of these images and ideas to last? To endure and become the foundations for new worlds?
Prayer: No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world. –Robin Williams
Image by courtesy of Steve Garfield, at creative commons image licensing.