Sunday, February 28, 2010

Finding the Sprouts in the Mud

Four articles that I read online yesterday remain in my mind. Three were so full of unsupported assertions and pseudo-science that I wanted to argue with my computer for displaying them. The other one was phenomenal - beautifully written and full of thought-provoking material.

The web is a vast quagmire of thoughts, ideas, and information. Much of it - like the three bad articles that I read - is simply mud. Mud has a purpose. It fills cracks, provides foundation, and holds things together. But in the end, it's dirt - ubiquitous, messy, and replaceable. It doesn't provide unique value.

However, within the vast spans of sludge, there are seeds of knowledge. Some have already sprouted and are growing into mingling vines, intelligent communities that reach out to others and define thought. Some, like the excellent article that I read, have the constitution to become oak trees - strong enough that they can be used to construct and support new thinking. Some have sprouted beautiful flowers of thought - not large or world-changing, but elegant worth admiring. Others still lie dormant, waiting to sprout and become something worthy of understanding and appreciation.

What scares me is that I am seeing more mud. People keep piling it on. In fact, there is so much mud that I'm beginning to wonder if enough people can distinguish the dirt from the seeds, vines, oaks and flowers.

If they cannot, I worry that the swamp will continue to rise. Those who mistakenly believe that they are growing the next oak-tree will layer on another level of silt. First it will cover the fragile, beautiful flowers of expression, and they will slowly be buried in the morass. Then it will envelop the vines, choking connections built over years. If we are truly unlucky and irresponsible, the rising bog could even threaten the large oaks which have grown over hundreds of years.

The quagmire has not overrun the world of knowledge yet. I am still hopeful that it will not. But it is important to recognized that the useful, strong, and elegant ideas in this world require peoples' attention and thought to grow and mature.

Nobody can force someone else to find the sprouts in the mud and tend to them properly, to nourish them and help them to grow. Each person must learn the process through disciplined practice. I hope that people are taking the initiative to learn, because the seeds, flowers, vines, oaks, and those who appreciate them are counting on us.

And as a final note: if you ever feel that this blog is just turning into mud, I want to know.