You may or may not know, but I do loves me some Shakespeare. As an actor, I relish the chance to mine the depths of his texts for intent, meaning, and circumstance. As a writer, I bow to his masterful work on every possible level. So it should come as no surprise to you that oftentimes quotes from his plays and sonnets come up in my own work…or in my daily grind.
This morning, while going through my regular ritual of breakfast and online news, something resurfaced from the depths of my being…something I’ve felt over and over since the dawn of social media.
Before I continue on, I must explain the title. It, obviously, is a twist on a quote from Shakespeare’s “Merchant Of Venice”, in which Portia says:
The quality of mercy is not strain’d,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
You have to understand that by “strain’d”, Shakespeare was actually saying “restrained”. In other words, Portia was saying that mercy should be given freely. Portia effectively says those that both give and receive mercy are blessed.
Fast forward to the age of the internet, and that which Portia insisted would drop from heaven as a gentle rain, has dried up.
Don’t read the comments
One of my mantras in today’s age is to “never read the comments”. Why? When the whole system of commenting on articles, reviews, posts, etc. was first created, it was a great place to continue the thread of thought on a piece. Readers/viewers could make constructive criticism, further postulate on an issue, praise the writer or the idea. Now? Comments have become little more than a cesspool, where venom and vitriol pour down from a thunderous cloud.
There is no mercy to be found. There is no grace. There is no humanity.
Not until we, as a collection of rational, intelligent humans, do something about it.
It’s all about restraint
I get it. There are days when I read a piece and wonder if I should set fire to the source. But 99.9% of the time, I restrain myself. Why? First and foremost, to react immediately would allow me no time to offer up a truly intelligent thought. Every word I spit out would be founded in a metaphorical knee-jerk. Second, if I give myself the necessary time to ponder that which is bouncing around my head and heart, I most often realize all the “feels” that brought about the knee-jerk were just that…feels. Our emotions aren’t always logical, aren’t always intellectualized enough to form cohesive meaning. So it’s usually best to let those emotions ebb and flow until your brain can wrap itself around what is causing the churn and burn.
At least when it comes to commenting within the realm of the internets and such.
The problem is, restraint is harder and harder to come by these days.
If I were asked to find a solution for that which ails social media, I’d say this. We need to think before we act (or, in this case, comment). Give your brain a chance to kick in and make sense of everything before your heart wages war with the world.
The problem with that solution lies in a single-word title for a film many have seen.
Yeah. That’s where we are. If you’ve no idea of that which I refer, head on over to Amazon and just buy the film. Not only is it an hilarious piece of cinema, it’s a perfect parallel to where we are heading as a society. Dumb and dumber and dumber and dumber and dumber and ‘duh.
But if we can stop the conveyor of stupid from continuously delivering the donuts of dumb into our mouth, I think we can right this sinking ship of bad metaphors and parallels. To make the change, you simply have to think. For that, you have an 8-ish pound muscle rattling around in your skull that doesn’t need to be jacked in, upgraded, refreshed, liked, or swiped. You simply have let it do its thing.
Trust in science.
Use your appliance.