Few things invite the kind of eyes-shut-grab-the-mic-and-bang-out-a-couple-of-quick-bars-of-life-is-a-highway quite like spending two weeks snowed-in under a suffocating pile of things entitled something along the lines of “5 ways to tell if your dog is hiding an addiction from whatever Harry Potter character your mom is.”
Primarily, because reading things on the web isn’t an altogether dissimilar experience from, say, watching your local news cover a “weather-event” outside the grocery store near your house:
“Well, Jim, much like the parking lot of our studio and the vape lounge near the mall, this one here at the North Knoxville Kroger is also terribly slippery!”
Jim in the studio: “Thanks, Karen, now back to the deteriorating conditions outside Monkey Vapors.”
Forcing you, with as little humility as possible, to utter:
“I’m fairly certain, with maybe 45 minutes of Internet research and a station-issued-parka, I could do that job quite well!”
But, and I’m sure the rest of the “STORM TEAM” from Channel 10 would echo my sentiments here, writing things on the Internet and convincing desperate Knoxvillians not to murder each other in the dairy aisle during our recent SNOWPOCALYPSE, are decidedly more difficult than they might appear at first blush.
“FOR THE LAST TIME, GO TO YOUR SAFE PLACE!!!!”
— East Tennessee’s Todd Howell
For starters, are you willing — after spending upwards of 45 minutes attempting to discern if three fart jokes are one too many for a post about the afterlife — to have people you’ve never met and ones you wish you never had confess to you that, not only did they find your formatting unbearable, but, and I quote:
“If you’re going to invite comparisons to Mark Twain, then maybe next time try not to _____ up the words loose and lose.”
And all God’s people waiting on their spouse to stop ugly-crying in the shower said: “Eric, our utilities were through the roof last month.”
Nah, I’m only joking. I transcribe only the worst comments on laminated index cards and tape them to my bathroom mirror just under my “I can shave all back hairs through Christ who gives me strength” sticker.
It is precisely here, in the midst of the cringe-worthy-hair-caught-in-the-drain-political-discussions-with-your-grandparents-at-Thanksgiving moments of the Internet, that I’ve come to believe the only way forward is for us is to stare long and hard at the specter of all that we have become as a people online.
Meaning: you’re absolutely right about me.
— There are typos littering most of the things I write.
— Occasionally, I’m wrongheaded, arrogant and even offensively callous towards folks with whom I strongly disagree.
— And often, I find that I try too hard, and instead of saying something straightforwardly, I opt for the most roundabout way of getting my point across to the extent that when I finally arrive at my conclusion the reader has forgotten where I began. (See what I mean?)
I’m absolutely right about you.
— There are typos littering most of the things you write.
— Occasionally, you’re wrongheaded, arrogant, and even offensively callous towards folks with whom you strongly disagree.
— And often … well, I think you can see what I’m getting at here.
All of us have blind spots and limping prose.
All of us have half-finished thoughts and jokes that fall flat.
All of us occasionally struggle with homophones.
All of us have brittle back hair and embarrassing flatulence.
and this is the beautifully profound liminality of the human experience
— all of us also have untapped brilliance and hidden hope and compelling creativity and auditorium-full-of-people-holding-their-breath-in-anticipation levels of potential rattling around in our weary bones simultaneously right there along with the spoiled milk and the missteps and the typos.
Which is why our voices and stories and jokes and truths matter independent of the responses they elicit.
What you and I have to say is worth saying even if the way we sometimes say it comes out wrong or incomplete.
However, don’t get me wrong:
I’m not advocating that folks ignore all the times you and I come up short.
The point isn’t to avoid critiquing work that needs a necessary corrective.
We need other voices to help hone our own, and the Internet is an incredibly important component of this work, but spending the lion’s share of our time meticulously mining the web for chances to remind the world that we aren’t so easily taken in because: “It’s obvious the dude who wrote this is a no-talent tool who got lucky so check out my Tumblr” is, in the words of some teenagers I know:
“like, the worst.”
Instead, take all that energy you spend trolling the cobwebbed nether regions of other peoples’ work and pour it into your own art and truth and beauty for a world sorely in need of the proliferation of such things. I realize this requires risk and creativity, which is altogether much more frightening and demanding than simply striking a match and setting fire to someone else, but to ignore the work that only you can do is to say no to those initial inklings you probably had whilst skimming the collected sentence fragments of me, unpaid Internet author, Eric Minton.
Because, you too can do this, I promise.
As a matter of fact, we’d all be a bit better off if you did, or at least my utility bill would be.