This is Salko, who works at the parking lot across the street from my building. His does not look like a very pleasant job to me. He spends all day in a room as big as two phone booths. But Salko is always very pleasant and professional. His lot is always immaculate. When it snows, like it did last night again, he gets here early and clears the stripes so it is easy to park.
In the morning sometimes I sit in my car and finish phone conversations. Once while I was talking to my brother, an unknown number came up and I answered it. It was Salko. "You left your lights on." He had looked up my number from my monthly pass application.
Salko reminds me of something my dad used to tell me, that a man who does his job well can look anyone in the eye.
I was driving into work this morning and wondering whether I would continue blawging this year. It's time consuming and difficult. There are times where it makes me feel more connected, sometimes less. So I started making a list in my head, What do I like about maintaining this blawg?
What do I like about maintaining this blawg?
1. I like sharing stuff, telling stories, connecting with people.
2. It is an interesting discipline having your words read by many people, people in my industry, strangers, family members, close friends. Creates competing urges to be honest, to be open, to be vulnerable, to be protective, to try to appear likeable or smart or funny. A good exercise in developing your authentic voice.
3. Self discovery. For me, I think out loud, and often don't know what I believe until I say it, or blawg it. As my dad used to say when he read something from his own journaling practice that caught him off guard, I didn't know I thought that.
4. Great way to document and encourage this incubation period of my life.
5. Great way for President-elect Obama and his team to see what I am about. I notice I am getting lots of visits from Illinois. Great.
But, blawging doesn't always feel good. Sometimes it feels isolating? Maybe because, despite the connections, it is still screentime, as Jacques called it.
Jacques, the street artist I mentioned in my last post, eventually moved into my apartment with me in Amsterdam, sometime in 1995. In Joseph Campbell terms, Jacques played the archetypal role of the helper, like Yoda, one who gives us courage and guidance on our quest. He also reminds me of the troll, beckoning me across the bridge and into the dark woods.
Before I met Jacques I loved all things technology-related. I was a member of the computer club in high school, an audiophile, an owner of the first generation Apple Macintosh. I was the first art director at Wieden+Kennedy to have his own computer! What could be bad about technology?
Jacques's technological world view was just to the left - or is that right? - of the Unabomber. Jacques avoided any activity that involved looking at, or talking about, things happening on a screen: television, movies, iphones, ipods, certainly computers. To Jacques, screentime was second-hand experience, as opposed to the first-hand experience of non-screentime, also known as "life," and was therefore inferior in quality.
Jacques started me with Technopoly, by Neil Postman, one of the most clear-headed but radical assessments of the pros and cons of technology you'll ever read. He eventually got me on the hard stuff, Jacques Ellul's nearly impenetrable but dark and brilliant Technological Society, and this book, my Fave #3.
Jacques pulled out a dog-eared copy from his satchel one night and held it towards me with a troll-like warning: "Don't read this book if you don't want to change your life." He wasn't kidding!
Jerry Mander was partner of legendary San Francisco adman Howard Gossage in the firm Freeman, Mander & Gossage in the '60s. He quit to start Public Media Center, a non-profit ad agency devoted to the public interest, and to write. This book performed some major career chiropractic for me and expanded my world view forever, shaping the complex relationship I have with technology.
The summary of all the books mentioned above: Technology threatens our humanity.
Sure. It all gets a little too digital. A reader blawg comment, no matter how personal, is a qualitatively different sort of connection than the real world - if mundane - connection I experienced this morning purchasing a parking pass from Salko. It's just more deeply felt.
But then, while writing this post, I go back and look at that reader comment, and I see that it is written by Dion Hughes, and I wonder, Is that the same Dion Hughes who did all that work I loved at Chiat and Fallon back when? And I check and yes, it is, and I go to his site, and I read how he is structuring his new company, and it's exciting, it sounds like exactly what I am going to do next, and it confirms for me the new model emerging in my business: small, talented groups of people, collaborating, self-organizing, open-minded as to what the solution looks like. And it inspires me.
And then you read this blawg, person working for Obama, or Google, or Peet's, or Starbucks, or some other cool company making the world better and more interesting, and you think, this guy sounds interesting, I think I'd like to meet him, and I fly out and meet you, and we hit it off and have a great meal at a cool little restaurant and it turns out you know my sister! No way! And we create brilliant things together. Incredible.
Screentime connection might not have the smell or touch or humanity or ultimate depth of non-screentime connection, but it has a velocity and expansiveness and serendipity built in that gives it a lot of power and surprise. For me, mindfully combining both screen and non-screen connections in my life gives me the most juice.
So when evaluating a technological addition to my life, I ask myself, will this improve the quality of my life? Will it help me grow, or laugh, or think, or connect, or experience my full humanity? Will it make me more me or less me?
Computer, yes. iPhone, definitely. Microwave, no. Whirley Popper? For sure. TV, sometimes. Movies, definitely yes. Twitter and Facebook? Not sure. Sometimes. We'll see.
Blawging, for now, yes.