02 January 2009

a new year’s meme

From Jon Katz’s Bedlam Farm Journal:
I am a big believer in memes*, ideas that are spread electronically through the culture. The media meme, popular right now, is that we are all doomed, going over the cliff, heading for ruin. My meme is that things are going to get better, healthier and more meaningful, despite the pain and trouble. Do your part. Spread the word. Send your signal. Our meme is better than theirs.
Say it like it is. I’ve spent way too much time this past year wondering and worrying to no great effect about world economic events. This isn’t to say that I don’t want to be—and it isn’t my responsibility to be—as informed as possible. But a constant diet of panic is not healthy. We need to focus on calm and control.

I think everyone should hang out some at Jon Katz’s blog. He’s an author/journalist who moved to Washington County a few years ago. B and I read his Running to the Mountain: A Midlife Adventure (more information from amazon.com) when we first bought Pleasant Hill, because in it he describes local haunts and people, and we wanted to learn about the area. The book’s primary focus, however, is about a necessary reorientation in life. And because Katz is a big fan of Thomas Merton—one of B’s heroes—he references Merton quite a bit. We really enjoyed this book.

His blog, Bedlam Farm Journal (linked from the left as well as from above), is full of beautiful photographs he takes (most recently of the remarkable winter storms we’ve been having up here) and posts about simplifying, paring back, slowing down, breathing. He thinks that our culture is headed toward “a simpler, healthy life to come, a time of limits, realism, greater awareness of waste and the environment and greater connection to people and community.”

Spread the word! Our meme is better!

* I’ve never really known what a meme is. I knew it had something to do with diffusion of ideas and that it related to the electronic media, and it turns out I’m not that far off. According to Wikipedia, a meme “comprises a unit or element of cultural ideas, symbols, or practices; such units or elements transmit from one mind to another through speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena.” The term was coined by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in 1976 to describe how evolutionary principles could be used to explain the spread of ideas and cultural phenomena. More recently, it’s being used to describe how ideas spread electronically via the Internet.

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