December 12, 2018
by Doug “Uncola” Lynn:
One of my favorite quotes of all time comes from the movie “Almost Famous”. I enjoyed that film because I sort of lived it; and it does have a lot of great lines. But, for me, the most treasured words of advice in the movie came from a famous music critic who was encouraging a young aspiring writer. He said:
The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool.
As mentioned before I’m an obscure businessman who’s found a late-in-life catharsis with writing. Honestly, I was inspired by the courage of others throughout the unregulated internet, and started my blog in the fall of 2016 when I fully expected Hillary Clinton to win the U.S. Presidency.
There’s another quotation, often wrongly attributed to the author C.S. Lewis, that says:
“We read to know we’re not alone”
Actually, those words were penned by the author William Nicholson who wrote a play about C.S. Lewis called “Shadowlands”, which later became a film starring Anthony Hopkins.
It’s a good example of why I would ask my offspring when they were little:
“Have you noticed how everything always starts with words?”
In fact, I used to read them children’s books like “Motorcycle Ralph” by Beverly Cleary, “Charlotte’s Web” by E. B. White, and “Little House on the Prairie” by Laura Ingalls Wilder. One night before turning off the lights, my oldest looked up to me and said: “Dad! When you read, I can see what happens in my thoughts”.
I smiled right then, because I knew the hook had been set.
For me, it was in my third grade class, my head resting in my arms on my desk. My teacher was reading a book entitled (something like) the “The Artist” or “The Clown”, about a traveling circus. The story was woven into my mind and remains there still; even if only now in tatters.
We also play an ongoing game in our family whereby everyone tries to stump me with various words and their definitions. Part of it’s because I showed the kids how society was stratified by vocabulary; with those at the top commanding the largest percentage of any particular lexicon, and layered downward unto the societal dregs who can barely conjugate a sentence.
It’s true: Words control us or set us free, they guide or mislead; kind of like how the right partners-in-life will make you and the wrong ones will break you.
Another thing I used to tell the kids:
“Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.”
Indeed. As with friends, we must also choose our words with care; even those cast into the ether, before the end of things.
Recently, in an e-mail discussion with another online contributor regarding the topic of blogging, they used the designation of “ingrown forum-style sites” and, specifically, how these facilitated “hazing” as a mode of “earning one’s stripes” and “gaining respect points”.
Of course, that’s true. All of us are subject to the occasional bad review, but I will say the author of this article (i.e. the one you’re reading now) was definitely refined by the fires of many previous online shitfests.
I told my fellow blogger I believed there is an attraction on ingrown forum-style sites similar to cage fighting. What some people like about mixed martial arts are the no-holds-barred factor and the honesty behind the best contestant winning. On the unregulated internet, these manifest as free speech (i.e. no-holds-barred) and the immediate eradication of bullshit (i.e. honesty and “may the best ideas win”).
Of course, the one thing hazing does well is to weed out the lies, and liars, with profanity and insults as a form of “augmented expression”, if you will. In other words, it’s the icing on the cake.
I will also say that some bloggers are wise to remain above the fray; because even a moderately snarky rejoinder could start a flame war of which would affect how they’d be perceived thenceforth by their readers. To be sure, if you’re a blogger in the middle of a digital dogfight, you better win; or, at the very least, save face with a respectable stalemate.
Which raises another interesting aspect regarding ingrown forum-style sites. If I were a researcher, I‘d call it “acceptable fragmentation“. To summarize, people generally favor consistency. It is a fact the number one managerial complaint that employees, customers, and clients have with businesses and organizations around the world is any form of inconsistency. It’s not surprising because people are creatures of habit, they desire stability over change, and fairness above favoritism.
However, on the unregulated internet, everyone views one another as if through a straw. Correspondingly, if our personalities were visible as pie-charts – then, in the real world, people do perceive a more significant percentage of our “pies”; so to speak, with the respective “slices” consisting of appearance, body language, conduct, etc. But online, I’ve learned the hard way that people have difficulty seeing, and therefore accepting, the entire package. Perhaps it’s because, without any augmented background to provide properly-weighted perspective, it becomes easy to pass judgement on any self-perceived and seemingly apparent inconsistencies.
This is why I sometimes utilize various monikers to test-run ideas on the unregulated web: Primarily, to process the concepts easier in online fragments. It’s true, just like in politics, grift, and adultery, online plausible deniability is pragmatic. It’s because an overabundance of questionable online positions taken, as well as a plethora of perceived inconsistencies, will cause people to correctly question the trustworthiness of any internet contributor.
Therefore, the moniker of “Uncola” represents this blogger’s higher self; effervescing, but not Coke or Pepsi. Different, but sort of bittersweet too; and with just a slight hint of abrasive carbonation. It means, during any online debate, “Uncola” strives for accuracy and freshness while for the most part, remaining semi-sweet and enjoyable.
However, if I, as Uncola, while making my points, were to call other commenters “fucking moronic douchebags” during any exchange, then many readers may have difficulty reconciling that with who they believe Uncola to be. Nonetheless, if I post that profanity under a different unknown or unexpected moniker, then the comments are usually accepted easier because it’s probably not me.
Is it honest? I’d say so because it’s accurate of my own inclinations, irrespective of any bias of the readers. Stated another way, utilizing “acceptable fragmentation” to refine ideas at fiber optic speeds, places focus on the message where it belongs, as opposed to the messenger.
Obviously, this method could never work in the real world; at least not without introductions, small-talk, and hidden identities. Who has the time?
But there are similarities between the two universes.
For example, I once did business on the phone with a guy for ten years. He was from Louisiana and I had him pictured as a white southern gentleman along the lines of a mix between KFC’s Colonel Sanders and an older Kevin Costner. When he sent me a link to a newspaper article with his picture, I discovered he was a black man. I was in shock for weeks after that. How could I have been so wrong? Yet he was the same person I’ve known for ten years. A friend really.
Still, after a while, I forgot about the photo and he went back to being who I initially envisioned him to be. Then, later, when I flew there to accompany him at an event, I was shocked again every time he spoke to me because the voice was Sanders/Costner but his visage was more akin to Bill Cosby. Yet, as soon as I came back and resumed working with him by telephone, my mind, once again, turned him back into Sanders/Costner.
I believe the internet is like that.
So what does it all mean? Simply this: Our respective three-dimensional realities and the internet are parallel, but with differing time-perceptions and divergent fundamentals of communication. Both contain truth and falsehoods; and real people, but these are processed quicker, and in smaller fragments, or bytes, online as it were.
Regardless of any communicative mechanics, however, I will say it’s always the people who draw this blogger out of my Land of Habits and back into the interwebic ether on a daily basis – all of you amazingly intelligent and interesting personalities; and the ensuing magic of the interactions here.
For whatever reason, on my own blog, readers seem to prefer e-mailing, or sending notes via the contact page, as opposed to commenting in the threads of the articles themselves. Accordingly, one of my favorite recent e-mails included some very kind words, encouragement, and even an invitation. They wrote:
I’ve followed and enjoyed your work for some time but your Modern-Day Paul Revere piece really touched me. And, it was an exceptionally nice piece of writing – but you shared some thoughts that I’ve shared with my few friends and friendlies, for example how I related so well with Noah, standing at the rail with rain dripping from his beard and the sounds of a party in the distance, watching the empty gangplank.
I’m a fellow author and minor historian. I’ve lived in Germany twice and used to count many Alte Kampfers as my closest friends – now all gone and Germany with them. I’m 78 and count each day of decent health a real plus but, like you, I know too much and like the smoke you described, it permeates my thoughts and guides my actions.
I have less and less in common with the world outside my ranch gate (actually a wildlife habitat I built from scratch) and haven’t been invited to a wedding or other social event for a number of years but I count as friendly and regular acolytes good minds and hearts such as Jim Kunstler, Charles Hugh Smith, Mike Whitney, Conn Hallinan and many others who don’t know me but are close to my heart like HollyO.
… you are most welcome at my forested retreat. You write beautifully and have reflected much of what I feel and think. Come visit. I’m a sour mash bourbon guy with a French enjoyment of wine. There’s still time for a Porterhouse.
Honestly, that moved me. There is such an endearing humility and honesty there. If only the D.C. crowd would be so humble, maybe America would be made great again.
So – let me just say it’s nice to know you’re there; even if only online.
I’ve received additional incredible words from other good people in areas where I couldn’t be elected dog catcher; Europe, large U.S. cities, blue states, and even Washington D.C. It appears like-mindedness and rebellious hearts transcend interstate and international borders.
My kids now tease me for being almost famous since my blog has obtained readership in 119 nations of the world. In response, I smile and forget to tell them it’s never all at once or on any given article; or that it’s more comparable to a digital daily drip as opposed to a rushing river.
But what’s most important to me is how, during any random moment of any given day, I might smile while remembering what someone else had written online. Even the most trivial posts; like when a regular commenter off-handedly said I turned one of my threads into an AA meeting. That still cracks me up. Another time a newbie said they envisioned the regular commenters talking to each other through clenched teeth and with cigars in our mouths. I didn’t see it before, but now I do.
“We read to know we’re not alone“.
It’s also why I write. Thank you for reading; and for your words.