Through the Prism

After passing through the prism, each refraction contains some pure essence of the light, but only an incomplete part. We will always experience some aspect of reality, of the Truth, but only from our perspectives as they are colored by who and where we are. Others will know a different color and none will see the whole, complete light. These are my musings from my particular refraction.

3.22.2012

Professional Reading, of a Sort

We Are All Weird by Seth Godin

Seth Godin writes in sound bites. This is the second of his slim “manifestos” that I’ve read, and that seems to be his approach. It’s scatter shot, random, off-the-cuff. He talks around his points, never quite making a linear argument or delving deeply into anything, just skimming across the surface of his topics with many broad thoughts from a wide spectrum of influences. It almost feels like he’s doing pointillism artwork, hoping if he throws out enough thought splatters they will land just right to make a coherent whole. While I did in the other, I don’t feel he succeeds in this one. He brings up lots of thoughts, but instead of expanding them or working them over, he skips off to something else before the thought is ever complete. It’s superficial “google” writing instead of sustained thinking. I often had lots of interesting thoughts in response to what he said, wanted to engage his ideas, but then they’d flit away with his writing before any substance developed. It’s interesting, but I’m not sure it amounts to anything.

In the interest of hoping it does amount to something with more time to cogitate, I’ll attempt to process a few things. Godin writes:

This is a manifesto about the end of the mass market. About the end of mass politics, mass production, mass retailing, and even mass education. Although it’s a book on marketing and spends most of its time on business considerations, he says, My ulterior motive in bringing you this manifesto has little to do with helping you sell more stuff and more to do with allowing (all of us) to embrace the freedom we have. The freedom to choose. The freedom to choose to be weird.

That may be so, but it felt like a book on marketing to me. He spent a few pages near the end on education and on ethics, but it could have been so much more. There was the basis for looking at all kinds of things as they relate to the ideas of “normal” and “mass.” Things that matter. He didn’t really go there, as far as I’m concerned, when he should have. Because ultimately it’s a book about respecting individuals as individuals and finding ways to work that respect into our daily operating procedures.

As a librarian, my thoughts turned to the library. In times when budgets are tight, there is more push to market ourselves to the public and budget makers. So what does it mean for the library to market ourselves to the “weird” instead of the “mass?” Representing many diverse points of view is one of our key tenets, along with equal access of information for everyone, as part of our philosophy of the freedom of information. We like to say a good library collection has something to offend everyone. It seems to me we’re a natural fit for the “weird,” that we provide a place for people to explore their particular interests and passions.

Two quotes struck me: The challenge of your future is to do productive and useful work for and by and with the tribe that cares about you. To find and assemble the tribe, to earn their trust, to take them where they want and need to go.

And: The reason that people are walking away from mass is not so that they can buy more stuff. Material goods and commerce are not the goal, they are merely a consequence. The goal is connection.

Who is the library “tribe” and how do we help them achieve “connection?” It’s something to ponder.

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One other bit that I want to pull out to revisit later. I think it has a lot of potential ramifications that he left unexplored.

Rich is my word for someone who can afford to make choices, who has enough resources to do more than merely survive. You don’t need a private plane to be rich, but you do need enough time and food and health and access to be able to interact with the market for stuff and for ideas.

Particularly when coupled with: Researchers report that the ability to be weird, the freedom to make choices, and the ability to be heard are the factors most highly correlated with happiness around the world. Regardless of income or race or geography, when we let people choose among things that are important to them, they become happier. More varieties of jeans doesn’t necessarily make people happier, of course, but the opportunity to live where they want, say what they feel, express their desires, and choose a path certainly does.

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I’m tempted to give this three stars simply because it made me think a bit, but I think I’ll stick with two.

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