We can be amazingly self-centered. And I mean we in broadest way possible. Not bloggers, or advertisers, or Americans. I mean we as “people alive today.” This was reaffirmed, in amazingly short order, when I went to read 25 Insights on Becoming a Better Writer and was quickly slapped in the face with one of the phrases I hate the most. “Today, writing well is more important than ever before,” claims Jocelyn K. Glei. Than ever before? Really? It’s more important today than in the 1960’s? The 1720’s? The 4th century BC? Somebody better get Aristotle on the line.
Certainly there must be a good reason for this. “Writing is a daily occupation for all of us — in email, on blogs, and through social media. It is also a primary means for documenting, communicating, and refining our ideas,” Glei says, which is apparently all that’s needed to make her claim true. This is the sort lazy tool used all too often to give a writer’s own assertion importance without having to actually provide any sort of evidence. It’s like saying speaking well is more important today than ever before because we have conference calls, YouTube, and Skype. Just because more people than before do something doesn’t mean it’s more important that they do it well. The Internet, if nothing else, is a testament to that.
But because we like to think that, since today’s world is more technologically advanced, more interconnected, and more complex than it’s ever been, everything in the world must be “more important than ever.”
Expressions like this are a testament to the inflated sense of self-importance of our world. That, or the by some yet-discovered law of physics, the world is simply getting more absolute by the day, because if you read the news, just about everything is more important than ever. Logos. Teamwork. Modesty. Travel. Farm subsidies. Santa Claus.
And lest you think it’s just stuff that’s becoming more singularly salient, worry not. We’re just as self-centered when it comes to ourselves. How else to explain all the people who consider themselves so unique (and apparently uniquely unqualified) in a world of more than 7 billion people that they would claim, “If I can do it, anyone can!” (Another expression I hate). The inherent importance this statement gives to the fact that they made money, lost weight, or found success is under-thought and undeserved.
I guess the point is that, odds are most of the stuff that’s important today was probably just as important in the past, and will be just as important in the future. And while you might deserve congratulations for learning to scuba dive, it doesn’t mean it was fundamentally harder for you to do it than it would have been for anyone else. No matter who or when you are, you’re more like the rest of everyone else who’s ever been and ever will be than you might want to imagine. But that’s ok. It doesn’t make any of us, or the time we live in, any less special or impressive. It just means we’re in need of a little perspective.