Part 8: Let's Expose the Obvious Miracles

(excerpted from "Glory in the Highest," an essay in the revised and expanded edition of Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia)

The game of life invites us to change ourselves perpetually. I think we should regard this as a deep blessing.

In previous parts of this series I have discussed some of the creative ways we can respond to this invitation, like exposing ourselves to the expressions of other people. Those of us who are alive today are extremely lucky, because our moment in history provides more opportunities to learn from other people than ever before.

Another phenomenon that helps us respond to and keep up with the universe's restless creativity is self-expression. And it so happens that our era is also the champion of all eras in that regard. So claims Clay Shirky, an expert in the social and economic consequences of the Internet. In a talk he gave in May 2009, he said that we are currently witnessing "the largest increase in expressive capability in human history."

The invention of the printing press in the 15th century provoked an earlier revolution. A second major upgrade in the capacity to communicate came with the telegraph and telephone. The third was ushered in with the arrival of recorded media other than print: photos, recorded sound, and movies.

The fourth arrived when the electromagnetic spectrum was mobilized for use in broadcasting sounds and images through the air. But the fifth revolution, says Shirky, is the biggest of all. The Internet is not only becoming the vessel for all the other media, but has effectively ended the monopoly that professionals have had in getting their messages out. Now everyone can speak to everybody in a variety of modes.

Google says it has indexed over a trillion unique URLs on the World Wide Web. Technorati, a search engine for blogs, has catalogued well over 100 million blogs, and that figure does not include at least 70 million Chinese language blogs.

Add to this plenitude the amateur creators who contribute videos to Youtube and similar websites.

Count up the thousands of authors who are self-publishing their books, the independent filmmakers making low-budget movies, the aspiring photographers on, the hordes of podcasters and Web-based radio stations, and the musicians who are not signed to contracts with record labels but are recording songs in their home ProTools studios.

Factor in the millions of people discussing their intimate details on social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

While there are still masses of pure consumers who are content merely to absorb the creations of others, the Internet is bringing us closer to the ideal proclaimed by the Burning Man festival: "No spectators!"

You may already be one of the millions of people on the planet who have your own node on the Internet, complete with blog, podcasting, and video feeds.


READ PREVIOUS PARTS OF THE SERIES "Let's Expose the Obvious Miracles":

Read Part 1 of the series "Let's Expose the Obvious Miracles."

Read Part 2 of the series "Let's Expose the Obvious Miracles."

Read Part 3 of the series "Let's Expose the Obvious Miracles."

Read Part 4 of the series "Let's Expose the Obvious Miracles."

Read Part 5 of the series "Let's Expose the Obvious Miracles."

Read Part 6 of the series "Let's Expose the Obvious Miracles."

Read Part 7 of the series "Let's Expose the Obvious Miracles."