I’ve long harboured this niggling feeling that the blogged and twittery instagramaphone of the interwebs is just a big vanity machine. I’m still not entirely disabused of that notion, but today I think I’ve arrived a new place.
I’ve written elsewhere:
“Like plants in a city, the artist’s gift is processing unfiltered CO2, that is the miasma of human experience and offering back the oxygen of context and meaning.”
This is one of my favourite metaphors. It’s also, I have come to learn by way of a gold embossed envelope post marked Hind Sight, which is located in the beautiful country of Whatwasithinking, one of the most awkward sentences ever written in the history of humanity.
So how about this?
“Like plants in a city, the artist’s gift is processing the CO2 of unfiltered human experience and offering back the oxygen of context and meaning.”
If I am part of a subset of society—artists, creatives, poets or prophets—whose primary gift to a we’re-all-connected-world is a kind of cultural photosynthesis, then, yeah, okay, the interwebs are just another way of saying what I see. It’s just another way of doing my plant-like work of offering context and meaning.
We all offer context and meaning to each other. We’re all plants to at least some people. We’re all artists.1 But for a few people—let’s call them artists, creatives, poets or prophets—cultural photosynthesis defines them. They take time to see and then say what it is they see. They produce the oxygen of context and meaning. It’s what they’re here for, it’s what they do.
Not unlike trees in the city we kind of sense the importance of their presence. That’s why we come up with words like artist, creative, poet or prophet, we get that there’s something set apart and important going on. But again, like trees in the city, we tend to take the whole thing for granted. We don’t see them for seeing them.
In the hustle and bustle artists, creatives, poets and prophets become translucent. City trees are shadow reminders of our humanity. They are ghosts who haunt us at the edge of our harried striving.
If you’re a city tree, you understand this feeling of translucency. Your ghostliness causes unease. You remind people of something they’re afraid to remember they lost, and besides, they don’t have the time to be reminded.
Sometimes the artists, creatives, poets and prophets, and I imagine the city trees along with them, start to believe in their ghostliness. They feel invisible, so they act invisible. They forget they are carbon, leaves, DNA, woody and fleshy. They forget that by their very nature, by their very existence they produce oxygen, context and meaning.
I think I was beginning to assent to the ghostliness.
Today, I’m shaking off the ghostliness.
We have a distorted sense of flourishing if we think only the biggest trees matter. It matters not one whit the number of people who know about or visit a city tree, it just does what it does. It’s a tree. City trees, in as much as they produce their little oxygenated contribution to the air we all share, they shake off the lie of ghostliness and inhabit their place in the world.
We have a distorted sense of flourishing if we think only the most well known and famous artists, creatives, poets and prophets matter. I matters not one whit, dear artist, the number of people who know about or stop by to look at, read, listen or watch the context and meaning you’ve produced, it’s just what you do. You’re an artist, creative, poet, prophet. In as much as you breathe in the miasma of human experience and breathe out your little oxygenated contribution of context and meaning you shake off the lie of ghostliness and inhabit your place in the world.2
Having said all that, I acknowledge this equal truth, city trees can get lonely. It’s nice to be noticed.
—If you’re not a city tree here’s your adventure for today. Find a city tree nearby, I guarantee there are some, you’ve just not noticed them, and breathe some oxygen.
—If you are a city tree, please keep breathing. We need you.
—For extra credit, comment below with your submission for “Most Awkward Sentence Written In The History of Humanity.”
1. No, really, you are. However, the task of convincing you of this is fodder for another post.
2. Yes, I managed to repatriate “miasma” after it’s being banished from the most awkward sentence in the world.