The Strib is running a commentary by me about flying the flag. Here's another part of the back story...
Last month, I read Jim's post about how he responded to coming across a homeless person's camp.
It struck a chord. He runs a business and has two small kids, not to mention an esoteric set of other interests. What's my excuse?
I shot him an email and asked for the name of the place and if it needed other volunteers. It turns out, People Serving People has an online form, and within the week, I'd sent it in, completed a tour and signed up for one morning a week in the children's center.
Since I run into Jim occasionally at his shop, it's very remotely possible I might've eventually heard a story about his volunteering. And then I might've gotten around to doing more than congratulating him for being a good guy. But the internet and the communication it enables — both intimate and transactional — deserves a lot of credit for getting me into my own volunteer gig.
Clay Shirky talks about the "cognitive surplus" created by our current accidental prosperity and the web putting us on the cusp of "the greatest expansion of expressive capability the world has ever known."
And what did we do with that free time? Well, mostly we spent it watching TV.
We did that for decades. We watched I Love Lucy. We watched
Gilligan's Island. We watch Malcolm in the Middle. We watch
Desperate Housewives. Desperate Housewives essentially functioned as
a kind of cognitive heat sink, dissipating thinking that might
otherwise have built up and caused society to overheat.
And it's only now, as we're waking up from that collective bender, that we're starting to see the cognitive surplus as an asset rather than as a crisis. We're seeing things being designed to take advantage of that surplus, to deploy it in ways more engaging than just having a TV in everybody's basement.
Some of us may spend that surplus time gaming or creating YouTube parodies, while others will innovate in unpredictable ways.
We also have the option of saying, why am I sitting here pecking and clicking about change?