My grandfather made a deal with me: I’d get a quarter for every A on my report card.
When I told my grandfather how much he owed me, he’d repeat the same mantra, pointing to his head:
You need your education, because this up here… That’s something nobody can take away from you.
Over time the price for an A went up, but the sentiment remained the same. The money was never really the point. I wanted to see his pride in me. I wanted him to know I took his words to heart.
He was trying to make a point about education, but it felt weightier. Inside your own mind, that’s yours. Nothing gets in without your permission. Nothing loses its place unless you let it go.
I’ve been thinking about this side of it a lot lately. On the days when I feel I’ve been a poor gatekeeper for my mind; the days it feels like some people can set up shop in your head, whether or not you remember asking them in.
It feels strange to remember how there was a time when I needed to go to a specific room in the house and wait for a dial-up modem to screech to life before I could talk to my friends or look something up.
It used to take effort to connect. Now it takes more effort to disconnect.
I’ve tried some limited sabbaticals. Using lists and filtering and content blockers. Setting rules that I wind up bending or outright discarding. Some days I’ll put my phone in airplane mode and chuck it to the other side of the room. The chucking is an important step.
I keep coming back to the idea that the way you connect and share your thoughts shapes the rest of the thoughts you have.
If you’re a long term Twitter user, you know when you’ve got something roughly pithy enough to post. You know when you’ve got a link to share on Facebook that will rile up that uncle/old roommate/random acquaintence of yours whose political views you detest. You know when your brunch or your candid wedding shot is good enough for Instagram, and what filter you should slap on it.
We don’t just let ideas in. We let in whole ways of thinking.
I recently heard someone paraphrasing Siegrid Löwel’s description of how the brain creates neural connections through repeated use: “Cells that fire together, wire together.”
Or put it another way, via Aristotle:
We are what we repeatedly do.
I’ve had a couple different ideas of what this blog was all about since I started it a few years ago. I’ve posted fitfully, trying to sew my parachute on the way down. Now I feel like I have a little more sense of what I want from it.
I want a place where the shape of the content is defined by the needs of the idea and not the preferences of a platform’s programmers or investors.
I want to do my best to be helpful to others.
I want to actively think and write, not just react. More creator, less commentator.
I want to align my actions and my time spent with what’s most important to me.
This is going to be a space where I spend a lot of time talking about movies and TV shows. I get the criticism that this can seem pretty frivolous at any time, but particularly right now. But the way I see it:
- I’m not the best equipped to add something insightful to the strictly political/journalistic discourse.
- It’s best to focus on the things you love most if you want to put something positive out into the universe.
- The best way I know how to talk about the bigger, weightier things of the world is to look at them through the lens of art/storytelling/film.
- It’s important to consider how our culture and popular culture reflect ourselves back to us, because part of how we construct the narratives about our lives comes from the narratives we consume.
Alright, declaration of principles: check.
Now to get back to churning out some more material…