Enabling the Inner Jerk

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law

I have a friend who says she wants to give the internet back. “Thanks, that was fun. I’m over it.” While I’m the type of person who feels like a limb is missing if he’s left without access to the Borg Collective, I can sympathize with her as well. The internet, for all the ways it allows us to communicate, for all the opportunities it gives people to share their creative work to a much broader audience than they would have been able to even as recently (relatively speaking) as when I was in high school, is also kind of like the gym teacher who left the room when your class played dodge ball on a rainy day. He wants to believe you’re just getting your exercise, rather than doing a ninety minute crash re-creation of the Stanford Prison Experiments.

The internet is a champion enabler of the Inner Jerk. Not only are you allowed to act like a complete prick online, you will be applauded for it. Watch your Facebook feed for an hour. Scrolling before your eyes will be a cross section of just how glib, insensitive, and self-righteous a peer group will encourage their comrades to be.

Provided they agree with what’s being said, or, more often, captioned over the creepiest still of Gene Wilder some enterprising sociopath could pirate. The Inner Jerk is happiest, after all, within the cozy gated community provided by a Circle Jerk. When the “likes” fall like bukkake mana from heaven, then doth the Inner Jerk swoon with the joy of momentary validation, yeah, the joy of momentary validation.

Those of us who write (however irregularly-shut the fuck up) about subjects that touch on spiritual communities, and spiritual development in general, need to be especially aware of this. The tendency is often to go the opposite route, to be so saccharine and “uplifting” that the reader gets a dizzy case of insulin shock. This actually ends up coming across as a more subtle form of bullying, in my opinion. Never saying anything negative, and proscribing negativity on the part of others, pretty much guarantees that everyone will settle into an almost numb state of accepting every ridiculous opinion as having the same value as a well thought out one grounded in facts.

But writing about topics such as enlightenment, spiritual growth, or whatever you want to call it, is a very tricky double-edged chainsaw to manage. First there’s the inherent impossibility of putting the most important insights into words that don’t read like a bumper sticker. Then there’s the obvious question of “who the fuck am I to even talk about this?” This is important, because the written word carries with it the implication of authority. Even when a person can comment on a post, the fact of being physically distant from the author, usually unaware even of what he or she looks like, puts the writing is a space that is cluttered with all the baggage attendant upon The Word. And of course you have to try to write something that people will actually want to read. On the internet. Where everyone else seems to get off on being an asshole, and there’s a certain “voice” that folks expect a critical piece to affect.

I’m pretty sure there’s not a one-size-fits-all way to handle this. It really boils down to being more aware of what’s going on inside you when you write, and the impact it is likely to have. Since this is a function of how aware you are generally, it seems the best approach is to just keep working on yourself, and trust that what comes out is, at worst, a record of where you were at when you wrote it.

Until some dipstick comes across a five-year-old post of yours and you end up in some cyber-version of a past life regression. Which is kinda fun, in a way that also sucks.

Love is the Law, Love under Will

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