Monday, November 12, 2007

How the Net Fascinates Me

For me, one of the most fascinating things about the net is how the net makes it easy to meet and know exceptional people.

I am not talking about famous people here.

Frankly, all but a few of the world's most famous people cause me to despair of humanity. Really, is there anything about a Bush, a Putin, or a Musharraf that makes you want to celebrate humanity? Is there anything about a James Dobson, a Britney Spears, or a Bill O'Reilly that makes you want to cheer? Have you ever praised The Cosmic Weirdness for gifting you with a Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? I strongly suspect most of the world's most famous people became famous because they were driven to covet fame, power, or money above all else in their lives. In other words, because they were shallow.

When you turn away from the most famous and instead surf the net for the much less famous, though, you seem to turn away from some of the worse people humanity has to offer and turn towards some of the best it has to offer. That has been the great discovery I've made about the internet -- it allows you to meet and know people who lack fame, but who are genuinely exceptional.

That point tends to pop up in my mind each time I surf blogs. If all I knew of humanity were the world's most famous people, I would become a cynic. I could not believe in humanity. I would despair of it.

Yet, so very many of the people I've met on the net have proven themselves kind, gifted and even wise. That's not to say everyone I've met is those things. Yet, I'd rather take my chances of meeting a very decent person on the net, than take my chances of meeting a very decent person at a White House dinner.

On the net, I have met people who are not famous, but who are world class writers, poets, or photographers. I have met people who are extraordinarily intelligent or exceptionally wise. I have met people who are better informed and more intellectually honest than most of the world's famous pundits. I have met people who I suspect have an unrivaled capacity for kindness. I have even met people who have either the luck or the talent to lead quite interesting lives. In short, I have met dozens of people who should be world famous if that sort of fame was based solely on one's human merit. Largely because of these people, I do not despair of humanity.

So, what effect can meeting so many great, but largely unknown, people have on us? Perhaps I can only speak for myself here, but one effect all of this has on me is to create a longing to become -- not merely a good American, not even merely a good Westerner -- but a good citizen of the world.

This is coming from someone who does not consider himself sentimental about humanity. I know humanity can be ugly. I know we are the least sane of the Great Apes. I am aware we are destroying the only world we have, and I recognize it's a long shot the world will ever come together in a sustainable peace. Yet, I still wish to become a good citizen of the world. It seems to me the sanest course in an insane world. What hope I have for such sanity comes to me in some large part from having met so many wonderful people on the net.

If the world is ever to be a decent place for most of us to live, it won't be because of the Bushes and Cheneys, the Dobsons and Spears, the politicians, pundits and preachers, but because of the common people.


Webs said...

I really enjoyed this post Paul. And your blog, and you yourself are testament to the message in your post. The ability you have to get other bloggers to use more than just their fingers and to actually think about world issues is a gift. And I appreciate the way you treat others on this blog and what you write about.

What always amazes me about online relationships is how other people look at them, and out of hand, treat them as inferior. It really is a shame, because the online relationships I have built have not only been very strong, but also rewarding. Just because pedophiles abuse online social networking, doesn't mean I do.

Paul said...

Thank you for such wonderfully kind words, Webs! You've just made my day.

Rambodoc said...

Webs said it all, Paul!

Paul said...

Thank you, Rambodoc!

Nita said...

This is such a sweet post Paul and I think that you are a good person and that is why you see good in others.
And when you say:
//Yet, I'd rather take my chances of meeting a very decent person on the net, than take my chances of meeting a very decent person at a White House dinner.//
I think it's true, not because those people you might meet at such a place are not decent but because they wear masks. And we cannot relate to that. In their hearts they are as vulnerable as most of us...
but about online people, well, I have met some real nasty people! I have not met such people in real life maybe because I have been protected. I don't know. But people have come to my blog and abused me, and why? Because I hold a different opinion!
Also there are people on the net whom I have met who are rude. Again I do not interact with such people in real life.
I have very strong friendships in real life but at the same time I must say I have met some real nice people on the net too!

Webs said...

It works both ways Nita. For every bad person you can point out on the net, I can point out at least one good. And vice versa.

But I think the point is that the net can simultaneously connect one person, say Paul with this post, to hundreds and thousands of people. If he only reaches 20 good people from posting entries on his blog, that's still 20 more than he would of got from not posting entries and not building relationships.

Which to me is the fascinating thing about the web. It instantly connects you to people you would have never gotten in touch with. And makes it easier to connect to those people and much faster than previous methods.

ordinarygirl said...

..which is part of why I chose the moniker "ordinary girl", but have never put into words. But you hit right on it. I think most bloggers you've described don't want to be famous, they just want to be real.

enreal said...

As I read your words I began to think. I get home from work, late at night...the first thing I do is get on the net. I look for words of wisdom, words of joy, humor, laughter and enlightenment. I don't look to the famous or rich for reassurance, I look to the world and the wonderful people that I have met along my journey. You are blessed Paul, you have the gift of Life and Sight. You can see way beyond and find beauty and with that you will always be a "Good Citizen of the World".

C. L. Hanson said...

What a beautiful and hopeful post!!! I feel excatly the same way, and this is why I love the Internet.

I hope you'll submit this one to the Humanist Symposium if you haven't already!! :D

Paul said...

Thank you for some beautiful and thought provoking comments everyone!

Anonymous said...

Sorry I'm late. Just discovering this wonderful blog has made my week. To be "real" in this upside-down, bass-ackward world is to be called a looney. My sincere thanks for your insightful writing.

Blake Stacey said...

Very well said.

It's been a while since I dared write anything so optimistic! With your example, I might be able to sustain such a mood for a bit longer. :-)

Paul said...

Hi Anonymous! Thank you so much for your very kind words! Sometimes, I think the main purpose of society is to support people's fantasies. If so, then being real is almost anti-social, isn't it? Welcome to the blog!

Hi Blake! Thank you so much! I read your article and was greatly pleased and impressed with it. So much to think about! Welcome to the blog!