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The Reference Point

By Richard Skidmore

We are adrift in the sea of thought, and our thoughts, our words are
turning inward, drowning themselves.

The age of information has resulted in an insidious depletion of


originality--- extreme low tide in the sea of thought. So much data,
so little reflection, so much reflexive cognition.

We are not ignorant. We are knowledgeable. A day’s worth of


satellite dish TV overwhelms, and confirms that in the factual sense,
we know more about ourselves around the world and the world
around us than ever before.

But at the same time we are being stunned, shocked, forced into
recognition and snapped out of understanding. We are being
programmed referentially. We have the facts; the references wash
over our eyes and ears. Info-flood stimulation tricks us into thinking
we are thinking.

What do I mean exactly? For example, a print ad for a television


show produced for the Smithsonian Institute is headlined with the
show’s title, “THE WAY WE WEAR”. First we recognize “THE WAY
WE WERE”. Only one letter different, it is the obvious referent.
“THE WAY WE WEAR”, “THE WAY WE WERE”, is this cleverness?
Or its absence? Expectation twisting is an old gambit. As Mr. Oscar
Wilde said, “I can resist anything except temptation.” That is
cleverness. But we are adrift in the sea of thought, and our thoughts,
our words are turning inward, drowning themselves. Cannibalistic
puns wash by with the regularity of seaweed.

We are missing the pleasure of creation. The language of commerce


has become the language of life. If there had not been a movie
titled, “THE WAY WE WERE” and a song from the film titled, “THE
WAY WE WERE”, and if there hadn’t been a book titled, “THE WAY
WE WERE” that begat the movie. And… if they hadn’t been a
success, it is highly probable that the Smithsonian, guardian of our
heritage, would never have thought to use the syntactically
awkward title, “THE WAY WE WEAR”.

If this were an isolated instance, we could still have hope for original
thought. But in fact, the majority of us are communicating
referentially, locked in the media mobius strip. A glance through any
weekly news mag, or an hour of broadcast TV proves the point. So
much reference removing the personal, removing the emotional, it
becomes deflection. Worse--- this orgy of the trite passes for
cleverness, creativity, originality.

Derived from the once derivative, we have lost the source, soul,
essence, the humanity, the expression of something from within that
was once the reference point.