what is your superpower?

the magic of hope (C) Carol Joy Shannon 2016

I was never one of those people who had a goal or a mission, from a young age. I knew people who did. My best friend in elementary school and junior high knew she wanted to be a lawyer. This was in a time when there actually were no women lawyers, or at least so few so’s you’d notice.

She set out on that path and accomplished it. She excelled in her high school class, summa cum laude in college and won all kinds of awards in law school. At some point, early in her career, she became the first woman lawyer for what was then a huge recreation company, associated with all sorts of iconic sports equipment. It was the late 70s, so she had done it in a decade.

A guy in my studio art class — in high school –informed us all that he was going to be a painter, and that’s all he was going to do. The chances of setting out even from college to be a successful fine artist, and support your family that way, are very slim. But he was recognized almost immediately by a very prestigious gallery in Boca Raton, a tony little enclave at the time, and he built a successful career, right out of the gate.

I had no such aspirations. My only desire was to see as much of the world as I could, as soon as I could. I worked my way into a lifetime of travel and adventure, by working on cruiseships in the early 70s. I had good clerical, sales and people skills, and I was a down-to-earth Mainer, so I was trustworthy. I made sure those skills remained, and picked up others, for the rest of my life. My tools for life were my stock in trade, so to speak.

They served me well, and, in some ways, I have been as successful as my former schoolmates, just more difficult to measure. Parts of my life have been so astonishing and glamorous, that my son’s friends think he’s making them up. Parts of my life were so difficult and tragic that my mother once told me she was glad she wasn’t me. Along the way, I accumulated kudos, real awards, depth of experience, and growth, in all ways, I’d like to think.

I’ve sung songs, milked sheep, written for magazines, assisted a foreign diplomat, run a number of businesses offices for everything from cruise ships to libraries, and for the last two decades I’ve sold my original paintings (and fine art reproductions of them) to thousands of people. So it’s not like I feel like I’ve lacked anything at all.

I have a family with whom I joyously interact as often as possible, and my husband and I have found our little community in the Lowcountry, living on a piece of swamp heaven I thank God for every day. So I am also not unhappy. And God and I interact, daily, so I am not worried about death.

But in the last couple of years, I feel as though I was given a bit of a mission, not to put too bold a spin on it. I feel as though it is important to reclaim real communication again, that without it, humanity will fail, and fall, to the automatrons of “science.” Not to put too bold a spin on it.

But, hear me out for a paragraph or two.

Social media is neither. It is an echo chamber of like minds, bouncing pictures and outrage and fawning “likes” with equal anonymous glee. It has destroyed real intercourse, civil intercourse — and no Beavis, I do not mean the physical kind.

We used to talk with each other. Civilly.

Oh sure, things could get out of hand. The proverbial church league softball fistfight, or the row in the local pub. But we used to be able to talk about life with other people and express opinions about things, without being shouted down because your opinions aren’t exactly like theirs.

“That’s interesting,” was always a good way to take in a thought without passing any kind of judgement, or reaction even. Then you might calmly offer another way of looking at it. It was called conversation, and it was quite common, believe it or not.

I knew something was going wrong in the early 2000s, when people started burying their heads in their Blackberries, and then their phones. My husband and I lived in Raleigh and went out to eat quite often, because we both worked long hours and didn’t have kids to feed. One night we were at an upscale place downtown and one whole separate area was filled with attractive young women celebrating someone’s “bachelorette” party.

I use the word “celebrating” rather loosely, because these several dozen girls were seated at tables, drinking drinks and eating delicious food, and — taking pictures of each other doing it. They weren’t talking with each other….at all. If they moved around the tables, it was only to get different pictures. It was the quietest group I’d seen “partying” since the deaf tour we hosted on the sunset cruise in Key West one night.

But “smartphones” were new, and sending photos back and forth instantly was new, too, so I figured it would settle down.

But it didn’t. In fact, it got worse. Much worse.

We watch a lot of music on TV via various video platforms and I’ve joked about who watches the videos that everyone is filming with their phones….because no one at the concert is just standing watching. They are all holding up phones, recording.

So, my contention is that they are not really there.

Apparently Mr. ZuckerBorg feels the same way, and says it’s no longer necessary to be there at all. He’s developing a “meta-verse” so you can experience the world I physically traveled without ever leaving your couch. It puts my “couch team” reference into a whole new perspective!

No need to actually interact with people, because you can do so inside your headset. They are inside their headsets, too, across the globe, perhaps. Or maybe they have been “built” by someone and they’re only avatars. Who knows?! It’s more like Brave New World than I thought we’d ever see in my lifetime.

Which brings me back to my mission. We need to communicate again. Civilly. And we need to talk about the future of the planet.

Because this BraveNewWorld shit ain’t gonna cut it. Stayin inside your pod/bubble is going to result in a world you won’t like. I’m certain of it. The “freedom” to “be who you really are” ONLINE — is going to result in absolute lack of any freedom at all, OFFline. Outside. In the real world.

…unless social credit systems work for you, and you are fine with the cameras and AI recording every breath you take. And telling you what you can and cannot do as a result of it. If you’re okay with that…

…..then never mind.

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