Happy Fourth, on the Fifth!

Yesterday, July 5, marks the fourth anniversary of the Ptero Card. If there is anything to celebrate, it is the continual building of friendships and the gift of affirmation received, as well as the challenge of keeping the writing fresh, clear and responsive to the readers and to myself. I am grateful for so much inspiration and conversation with all of you!

Anyone can keep a diary, and though they serve another purpose, a public blog has the added burden of writing for others, continually calling into question, who am I speaking to? That question continues to serve as a reminder to me of how much is received through the slow, steady process of getting to know some of my readers, and how important it has become for me, when writing, to consider all I have learned from engaging here with you. I am grateful.

Happy Fourth!On the Fifth!

The writing is rewarding in and of itself, yes, but, what I value most are the ongoing conversations in the comments where further explorations and clarification continually move the material, broadening a sense of who I am, and who you are, through the variety of perspectives each of you share with me, and with each other. Thank you dear ones!

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I’ve Just Seen a Face…book

Ahhh Facebook! In response to my post yesterday in which I announced the creation of a Facebook page for The Ptero Card, Don, a fellow blogger over at A Candid Presence, said he’d love to hear my thoughts on Facebook, so, here goes…with one huge disclaimer:

At one time or another, with the exception of playing games, I have participated in every aspect of the Facebook experience – from mudslinging in the comments section to hit-and-run posting. Perhaps the captive audience that Facebook presents to each of us places us in unfamiliar territory and by communicating to everyone at once (all of our friends, each of whom we know in very different and particular ways), we lose the sense of tailoring our speech to any one particular person. And although I no longer regularly post on Facebook, every criticism noted here just as easily applies to myself as it might to others. I’ll end on a positive note by summing up what I see as a few of the potenial benefits that Facebook does provide.

I’m probably not alone in appreciating that Facebook, like a lot of internet technology, brings us ways to bridge geographic and chronological distances, while offering all of us an opportunity to create a public square of our own making. But knowing people on Facebook is very different then knowing them offline or through the blogosphere, which I see as spatially different.

On WordPress bloggers meet each other in the semi-private and personal places of their blogs. It’s more like visiting someone in their home. Bloggers find each other through common interest discovered online. That might be why people are, for the most part, a bit more respectful and kinder to each other here. I’d love to hear any thoughts my blogger friends might have on what makes the atmosphere here different from Facebook.

If WordPress resembles a visit to someone in their home, what kind of place does Facebook resemble?

File:Pointe-a-Calliere Public Market 2012 - 44.jpg
Courtesy of Wikicommons, Jeangagnon

Participating on Facebook feels as if I have walked outside my house, into the street that is now a public market.  But no matter how near or far, all of my “Friends,” along with their friends, are also in varying degrees, present there. What we find in this shared place is a trail of conversations, some already in progress, – check-ins, memes, games, and photos, all with their likes and comments trailing behind them. Spatially, except for private messaging, it is a public place and always looks just like Facebook wants it to look like; very impersonal and very collective, because Facebook does not allow customization of their pages the way that WordPress and other social media software do.

So we meet our Friends in a public market, only we’re not necessarily buying and selling, we’re sometimes there to let others know that we’re not there, via the Facebook check-in feature, or we’re there to participate in game apps or to let others know how we feel politically, or about social causes and issues. But instead of presenting an idea in our words, we borrow someone else’s meme.

Perhaps for some of us, it feels safer to post memes to our newsfeed because they carry the weight of collective opinion with them. I get it, but…should we at least drop the pretense that we want a world in which we think for ourselves? Memes are kind of like creativity condoms, they keep a certain amount of creativity from being born. But, do we really want the wellspring of human talent to be reduced to what can be said in 2 x 2 cartoon, one that usually ends up getting shared only because of its viral nature?

On Facebook there are no introductions between your friends and friends of friends, or other’s friends of friends. We all just show up at the market place wearing our name tags and doing as we do. We freely not only talk to strangers, but sometimes even argue with them.

Facebook offers a prompt to help us post – in case you’re not sure of what to post, but you want to post something. “What’s on your mind,” or “How are you feeling today,” are the auto-generated questions that show up in the posting box at the top of my news feed.

MR MAGOO READING COLOR CROP Every time I post to my newsfeed I wonder if there’s anything I really want to say to all 134 friends of mine at once. There are no visual clues as to who you’re talking to when posting to the newsfeed or who is even listening. It’s something akin to playing pin the tail on the donkey, you post and when someone likes your post or comments on it, you know you found the donkey. So the face-to-face contextual relationships that we experience offline are abandoned for something a little more impersonal. Scary for some, freeing for others.

On Facebook I am often surprised at how willing many people are to show sides of themselves that are not often seen offline. I’ve known many of my Facebook friends for a long time and had no idea what political or religious affiliations they have. It truly seems as if people use Facebook to say things they either couldn’t put into words, didn’t have the nerve to say to your face, or perhaps say things that are not aimed at anyone in particular because maybe no one ever asked, so now we have a place to unload all those things that we really do want to say to each other or at least to some cumulative sense of humanity that we think needs to hear us.

Okay, before you all unfriend me, here are the things I do like about Facebook:

Staying in touch with friends and family who live far away.

Getting reaquainted with old friends and family.

Seeing friends’ photos of places I’ve never seen and perhaps never will. Seeing photos of friend’s families and kids.

Knowing when people are having a difficult time and in need of some words of encouragement or prayers.

Being aware of creative activities that friends are involved in – from music performances, crafts, writing projects, graduations, community involvement or news of family and friends or the passing of a loved one. The creativity and generosity of my friends never ceases to amaze me. Like.

According to CNN, CEO Mark Zuckerberg is the 2nd largest philanthropic donor in the US:

http://www.cnn.com/2013/02/12/tech/social-media/zuckerberg-top-philanthropist

To Kill a Mockingbird

Growing up on Long Island in the Sixties, I have fond memories of celebrating Halloween with family, neighborhood friends and school mates. To be outside at night in the cold and dark was an adventure. It was a time when knocking on the doors of neighbors, some rarely seen, and catching a glimpse of their lives was mysteriously tolerated.

Deb Halloween

Halloween didn’t start on October 31st, but in the preparations that took place in the weeks before. First, we would have to come up with an idea for a costume, which included time spent imagining who we wanted to be this year. This was my favorite part never having had a clear sense of who I was anyway – so I enjoyed thinking about characters that had caught my fancy and what it would take to assume their likeness. Although we did occasionally purchase a costume in the store, often times we made our own.

DI HalloweenAnd, because my big sister’s birthday was October 28, she usually had a party with her friends where I could at least tag along to see what the big kids were up to. There was a lot more to Halloween than just the big day of Trick or Treating.

 It was around Halloween that my neighbor friend Regina, invited me over to watch a movie that she liked. Regina loved movies, and for the most part I shared her tastes although it was a struggle for me to endure watching four hours of Gone With the Wind with her.

That day we watched To Kill a Mockingbird, a movie we both came to love so much that we looked forward to watching it again every Halloween season. Except for the last scene, the movie didn’t have that much to do with Halloween, or did it? The ending scene takes place near Halloween and finds siblings Jem and Scout walking alone in the woods returning home from a school pageant. Scout, dressed up as a ham, is walking home with Jem when they are viciously attacked by Bob Ewell, the father of Mayella Violet Ewell, the accuser in a trial in which the children’s father, attorney Atticus Finch, defends Tom Robinson, a black man Mayella accused of raping her. The children are rescued by the mysterious neighbor Boo, who they had never seen before but had only heard stories about. Boo must have followed the children to the pageant and so is able to defend them from Bob Ewell’s attacks as the children make their way home.

As a child watching this film, I loved Scout’s character; a feisty young tomboy, ever curious and not very fond of conventions like wearing a dress to school. The movie’s depiction of the rural south in the 1930’s intrigued me with its poignant portrayal of racial tensions and the blatant mistreatment of blacks. This was something I was vaguely aware of from my parents, but had not seen firsthand in my northeastern home in NY.

Watching this film in later years I have File:To-kill-a-mockingbird.jpgcome to appreciate the social relevance of the film, not only for the awful plight of Tom Robinson and blacks in general, but also for the character of Boo, a man who might be too sensitive for this world, rumored to only go out at night and ironically feared by the children for never having seen or known him except through stories and rumors.

The movie is a perfectly fitting reminder that Halloween remains relevant to us as it invites us to try on other costumes and imagine ourselves in someone else’s shoes, especially those we don’t understand. As well, Halloween is yet another convergence of pagan (Celtic or possibly Germanic) sensibilities that found their way into western christianity, primarily through Catholicism. Catholics adopted All Saints Day as a holy day in remembrance of the dead to coincide with the pagan celebration of Samhain, the time of the year leading into the dark winter months when both the gods of the harvest and the ancestors needed our attention, propitiation and participation in the cycle of life.

From Wiki:

“At Samhain, it was believed that the Aos Sí needed to be propitiated to ensure that the people and their livestock survived the winter. Offerings of food and drink, or portions of the crops, were left for the Aos Sí.[31][32][33][34] The souls of the dead were also said to revisit their homes.[35] Places were set at the dinner table or by the fire to welcome them.[36] The belief that the souls of the dead return home on one night or day of the year seems to have ancient origins and is found in many cultures throughout the world.”

This day of the dead, All Saints day, has more recently been associated with the occult and demons, or those spiritual beings who would harm us. Halloween in some protestant churches is now known as Reformation Day, celebrating their separation from the Catholic church. But I think the sensibility found in post-reformation theology that holds to the view that the dead are no longer with us, resting in Abraham’s bosum; untouchable and unknowlable to us, might have more to do with keeping clear the separation between the spiritual and material realms. A preference for dayworld over the underworld suggests that nothing immaterial can be trusted; all spirits are demons. I often wonder how much this theology has led to the materialistic view so prevalant in western science and modern culture that says that nothing unseen exists.

But, when we close ourselves off to the spirit world, we let go of the ancestors too; their history, wounds, sufferings and especially our living connection to them which remains hidden in us, haunting our world.

Let the mockingbird remind us through her ability to mimic the song of many birds how much we might glean with eyes open for all that is seen and unseen, especially from the dead – whose struggles, fears, failings, dreams and humanity may show us something about ourselves – something hidden, afraid to come out of the house, something we need to know.

Candle in the Wind

A wonderful day meeting new friends and sharing the “separation from the Beloved,” which invites this brief excursion into the heart of Rumi:

There is a candle in your heart…

There is a candle in your heart,
 ready to be kindled.
There is a void in your soul,
ready to be filled.
You feel it, don’t you?
You feel the separation
from the Beloved.
Invite Him to fill you up
embrace the fire.
Remind those who tell you otherwise that
Love comes to you of its own accord,
and the yearning for it
cannot be learned in any school.

– See more at: http://allspirit.co.uk/rumicandle.html#sthash.7KmoQ2ZN.dpuf

Thank you Elton and Bernie for a great tune:

“Loneliness was tough
The toughest role you ever played”