Notes From the Wasteland No. 44 ‘What Are YOU Working On Today?’

Hi Everyone

We are inundated on a daily basis with lists of tips in their fives and tens and twenties about how to be better at things and how not to do things so badly. Inspired by this avalanche of tips I thought I would offer some top tips of my own. Here is my top tip for today.

Despite All Appearances to the Contrary, The World is Still Full of Strangers

We are an optimistic bunch and for the most part we have come to believe that the proliferation of digital technology has made the world a smaller place. Not only that, this same technology has also brought people together in ways that we have never seen before. This is of course true but this does not mean that our lives are enriched in new ways by the enormous number of friends we now have, despite the various ways in which social media platforms encourage us to connect with each other.

The simple fact of the matter is that we are all now in some form of new relationship with a wider range of strangers than ever before. Once you chip away the real friends and relationships we have on something like Twitter, it is a simple fact that most people we follow or follow us are complete and utter strangers.

And here is the thing.

Once upon a time we might have understood our average potential social reach – pre- social media – as something like the number of people sitting on both decks of an average double-decker bus. We might not know everyone as well as each other but if we were to sit next to someone else on the bus it would probably be possible to strike up some kind of kindred conversation with them.

That was then.

Nowadays, especially given the constant exhortations that each and every social media platform bombards us with in terms of making new ‘friends,’ establishing connections, or adding new followers (and there is something very archaic about this very notion), it is simply the case that our new potential social reach is very often something less like a double-decker bus and now something more like a sports stadium.

A sports stadium?

I don’t know about you but the last time I went to a sporting event I was struck by the sheer logistical difficulties in gathering so many people together in one particular space at one particular time.

And by people I mean strangers. 

Yes, we might go with some friends or family and we might see other people who have gone with their family and friends but for the most part we are alone in a stadium full of strangers.

Of course, we can further understand that this stadium full of strangers all have something in common; a love of the sport, for example or the affiliation with a particular team. Nevertheless, with very few exceptions, we would enter the stadium as strangers and leave the same way.

But how do sports stadiums relate to independent publishing?

If I was sitting on the top deck of a bus and and I started telling people about a project I was working on, or had completed, it is possible that very quickly I might be able to get some people interested in what I was doing. Of those people interested, it is also possible that some of them (a few of them) (one or two of them) might want to learn a bit more about my project. That would be great but very quickly I would run out of people to tell.

Now, imagine trying to do the same thing in a sports stadium. How long would it take before you ran out of either steam or people who were interested enough?

You could start by telling the people you had gone to stadium with – but they probably already knew (I’m sure you had told them about your new project the last time you saw them).

Then what?

How do you tell a stadium full of strangers about your new project? More importantly, how do you get a stadium full of strangers to care about your project? Most of them probably already have projects of their own that take up all their time and mean more to them so why should they even care about yours?

And this is the heart of the matter.

For example, every time I am on Twitter – and I am on Twitter for an awful lot of my time – it is like being in a sports stadium and everyone in the crowd is trying to get each other to care about their projects by hoping that their voice will be louder than the other voices in the same stadium but they are not and so eventually we fall silent.

And despondent.

And concerned that our social media techniques are not as developed as they should be and then we start scouring the internet for lists of tips of how we might do things better and then we realise that everyone is offering the same and different advice and that essentially everyone is in the same stadium shouting at each other. Shouting at strangers.

Personally, I prefer to try ignore the sound of the crowd.

I have lost my voice too many times trying to shout out loud enough for strangers to hear what I’m saying. And even if they heard me they probably wouldn’t be able to listen for long enough for me to tell my story properly before another stranger caught their attention. Or before they needed to shout about their own project to the same strangers.

So what’s the answer?

I don’t think there is one. Other than the understanding that you wouldn’t walk down the street telling everyone you passed about your new project so why would you spend your time online shouting at strangers about the same thing?

Currently I’m working on simply talking to people. As many people as possible. More importantly, I’m asking people about their projects rather than shouting about mine. So, you glorious stadium full of wonderful strangers, tell me about your projects.

What are you working on?

Dr Don’t Know wants the world to be as stupid as he is.

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Don’t let stupid win!

Dr Don’t Know hates knowledge.

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Dr Don’t Know wants the world to be as stupid as he is.

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There’s only one way to find out.

Read on and remember.

Don’t let stupid win!!

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Inteachán – Book Five: The Tallest Tower Crane 5: 50 ‘a merely malevolent whim’

An old man wearing a ragged tweed suit and broken brogues stands at the side of Front Square. He has stood here every day for as long as anyone can remember. When Trinity College teemed with tourists this old man and his daily vigil was a noteworthy addition to the guided tour of the grounds. Now that the College, like the city, the country, and the world, is about to be finally destroyed this old man is no longer remarkable, is no longer anything. He is just someone else about to die like everyone else.

Since the very beginning it has always been considered that the most likely cause of the final downfall of the human race will be plague or flood or pestilence or virus or war or blast or heat or a final collision with a passing heavenly body. This is the sensible and serious narrative that has caused the world to always be wholly concerned with its own destruction.

The world could never have known that its absolute end would come about as the simple expression of a merely malevolent whim.

Inteachán – Book Five: The Tallest Tower Crane 5: 49 ‘the chaos and the screaming’

Amidst the chaos and the screaming and the suffering and the hatred and the horror and the hopelessness and the gunfire and the pleading and the taunting and the sheer futility of it all, a small child works alone in Front Square. A small child with a broken nose who works all day, using a household hammer to smash bricks until her arm burns and she cannot lift it any more. Spent and close to collapse, this small child then falls asleep near where I am laying. No one pays her any mind.

Inteachán – Book Five: The Tallest Tower Crane 5: 48 ‘even in the darkest darkness’

And yet existence can live alongside the very destruction of the same and though the notion of life here is clearly finite in its duration it is the same life that resolves to sing as the firing squad takes aim or signal eternal defiance with a shout from the scaffold and until there is no-one left to hear the song or hear the shout then there is always the hope that even songs and shouting might actually signal something more than simple silent resignation.

And even in the darkest darkness ever to have descended from way beyond on-high there are still voices to be heard. They may be single. They may be strangled. They may be shortened. But they are voices all the same.

Inteachán – Book Five: The Tallest Tower Crane 5: 47 ‘an invisible ink’

The evil of the NotBeSpeak would make great art, were both things possible of existing in the same space. Which, of course, in this instance, they are not.

New and dizzying depictions of Hell and human suffering to be captured with oil and gauche and mechanical reproduction.

Images capturing earthly contortions and the agony of existence with a clarity and ferocity not witnessed since the Renaissance.

But much like an invisible ink designed to disappear during the very act of writing, any recording is doomed and must likely die in the same second that it is born.

Inteachán – Book Five: The Tallest Tower Crane 5: 46 ‘coffee, committee and conversation’

None of this is to suggest or even suppose that the evil of the NotBeSpeak is founded on coffee, committee and conversation. This evil is very different altogether.

It is of the random.

The indifferent.

The deliberate.

Mechanical.

And other words now.

Cold.

Impassive.

Indurated.

Wholly detached from reason and emotion and therefore alive in the heart of other words.

Unfathomable.

Bottomless.

Abysmal.

Illimitable.

Inteachán – Book Five: The Tallest Tower Crane 5: 45 ‘What claim the Earth over any other?’

Alternatively, these explorers might just leave this planet and cross it off as ‘dead’ on their maps and never wonder how Humanity lost its light. After all, the universe is scattered with countless stars all vying for the attention of anyone capable of exploring them.

So in this way, why should the Earth be any more privileged than any other dead rock floating in the endless void?

Imagine a list complied somewhere and then put before a committee and each item on the list was a planet being considered for further investigation.

What claim the Earth over any other?

Inteachán – Book Five: The Tallest Tower Crane 5: 44 ‘each single set of bones’

When these same explorers broaden their archaeological investigations further from their landing site, they will probably be perplexed by the layers and layers of intertwined skeletons they will find surrounding every half-buried ruin for miles around. Skeletons that will likely take decades to separate so that the story of each single set of bones might be better understood.

Perhaps one of these skeletons will find itself painstakingly rebuilt one day in some distant museum somewhere and maybe the NotBeSpeak might somehow become aware of this rebuilding and be momentarily amused by the wondrous possibility that this very skeleton now on display might once have belonged to one of the humans charged with the destruction of a museum full of skeletons so lovingly rebuilt and displayed previously before they initiated Terminal Transit?