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COMMENTARY BY WILLIAM CARTER: Too many pictures, not enough memories

Tall-Boy and Miss Vickie are huddled together on the sofa laughing their way through page after page of old, faded photos while Love-Weasel sifts through a box of still more photos she hasn’t found time yet to put into albums.

“Who’s this?” she asks, holding out to me a picture taken on some long-forgotten Christmas morning.
I squint a bit in pretended interest at decoding the image of what absolutely appears to me to be a picture of one of my many nieces or nephews when she/he/it was still a fat and malformed and ugly baby and then I throw out a name at random in answer to her question.

“No, that’s not him,” Love-Weasel tells me – just as I knew she would – and then gives another picture to Big-D.  

“Look,” she says, “your Daddy used to have hair.”

“Dad!” Big-D cries in mock amazement.  “You used to have hair! What happened?” – 

And then, as usual, everybody laughs at the bald guy’s expense.

Though I’m not much of a picture person, I think gathering around – only every now and then – with your family and opening up a dusty box of photos instead of touching a button and leafing through screen after screen of – more than likely taken only moments before – digital images is still the best way to share memories … or even the lack of memory.  

And there’s something weird – to me, at least – about how just about everybody with a smart phone seems to think everybody else they know or are merely acquainted with is eager to see or have their e-mail in-boxes infested with a pictures of their boring kid that’s only a day older than the pictures they sent the day before or pictures of the pie they ate or the shoes they bought or pictures of the strange dog they saw … all captioned with inane comments.  

There are too many pictures of too many people and of too many things and too much information floating around these days, I think.

As an old guy, a couple of things I’m really, really thankful for is that there weren’t cameras everywhere recording my stupidity when I was growing up and that the Internet didn’t exist. If there had been, I’m pretty sure I still wouldn’t be able to sit down after all the, admittedly, deserved butt-whippings I would have received from the old man.

Here’s a fact: Some things – most things, really – should be left to memory; kept secret, incubating and growing; privately remembered epic without the restrictions of recorded contradiction. And if you DO decide to tell on yourself, you SHOULD feel free to lie about what really happened in Panama City or Vegas without fear some smart-assed friend of yours is going to show up later with his smart-assed smart phone to embarrass you with the truth.

It is exactly because cameras and other recording devices weren’t so prevalent decades ago that no one can prove the super-model I remember I hooked up with at the beach when I was 18 was actually uglier and, uh, probably older than I am now and I like it that way. 

Myths and legends abound, still, because, way back when, our lives had not yet been tainted by technology. Imagine how disappointed you’d be to find out – just because somebody had a smart phone – that King Arthur ate boogers and had sores on his face and talked like Pee-Wee Herman. What if it could be proven  through the miracle of digital recording that Abraham Lincoln farted a lot, gratuitously and with great abandon? Who wants to see photographs of the great beauty Cleopatra picking at her toenails or film of literary genius Mark Twain scratching his butt?
I don’t.
Our icons and heroes are our icons and heroes not only because of all the wonderful things we know and love about them … but equally because of the things we don’t – or shouldn’t – know about them.

This infatuation we have with instant information and telling and showing everybody everything – right now … right this second – and “social media” in particular will, I think, be judged by history to be a curse.

Few people take the time to muse or meditate or ponder anything anymore before “posting” it or “tweeting” it or whatever the hell new thing it is everybody’s doing these days. The value of good stories reflected upon then steeped in time and flavored with minor lies – without the benefit of visual effects for back-up - seems to have been de-valued. 

And because of this, I promise we’re a whole hell of a lot less interesting than we probably think we are.

That’s it … that’s my rant.

I’m going outside now to sit in the sun and not take pictures of anything. 

Posted on: 5/17/2013


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