The more we have of any thing, the more devalued that thing becomes.
With abundance, comes scorn. This is a paradox.
The age we live in makes more “good” things possible than ever before. The largely unforeseen consequence of this has been a greatly heightened degree of anxiety. We have more choices than we are capable of making.
We all have economic limits, of course. But if you have an Internet connection — and if you are reading this, I can assume you do — you have more music, art, poetry, literature, news, and history available to you than did the most learned or affluent person of prior times.
As supply has become more plentiful, choice has become more difficult — even overwhelming, at times. Online, people nudge, wink, grab, and even scream for our attention.
As it is, two ultimate boundary conditions seem to dominate many of our discretionary choices:
- That a thing be completely new: a new movie, new book, new music. It did not exist before now, so it is a completely new choice.
- That a person be dead. When an artist, musician, actor, producer, or writer dies, it creates a new boundary: no new works by that artist or producer will ever be seen again. (With the exception of artists like Tupac who had a large unreleased library that almost no one was aware of.)
The first one above has been part of popular culture for as long as anyone can remember, but as to the second one: how many of you, within the last few years, have found yourself listening to musicians you hadn’t listened to in years, simply because they died? It’s not to say you didn’t enjoy or even love them all along, but limitations in supply, of whatever kind, make choice more appealing.
To add to our general level of anxiety, much of what we read that claims to be factual is not. This has been much discussed with news, but shows up in more homely places; for instance, the ubiquitous prevalence of quotes with false attributions. I come back to this example often, because few things seem more utterly depraved and pernicious than dressing up “inspiration” in falsehood.
For example: Albert Einstein did not say, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” I am willing to bet most of you reading this think he did, because the false attribution has been requoted (according to Google) a hundred and fifty gajillion times. Modern times have made reinforced falsehood something of a popular art form.
Lying has always been an art form, of course. Early novels in the English language gained much of their cachet at the time from being thought of as true stories.
Fiction is that form lying where the listener, reader or viewer, to use the popular phrase, “willingly suspends disbelief” in order to enter into the drama of the story. A good rule of thumb, then, when reading any story, is not to suspend disbelief when it either (a) doesn’t openly claim to be fiction, or (b) has been written by someone you feel is trustworthy on other grounds.
Much of marketing, then, (in its broad sense) consists of trying to create grounds for belief in one set of people, or to destroy any grounds for belief in opposing parties, brands, or ideologies. This is done using all of the psychological techniques available: good-looking people, artists or athletes we admire for what they can do, humor, or our desire for acceptance, or sex, and so on; or, by portraying opposing parties, views, products, and services through opposite means, as ugly, evil, humorless, socially unacceptable, or undesirable.
If limitations in supply make a commodity more valuable, my poetry must be nigh on worthless. I’ve posted 1,714 poems this year (as of this writing), which is an average of 6 poems per day.
I am not going to reread them all this moment, but hopefully there are no misattributed quotes in there.
However, as to the lying part, I freely confess that much of what I write is pretty heavy fictionalized.
Which is not lie, and you can quote me on it.