Franke: The Iconoclasm of the Internet
by Mark Franke
We live in the information age and that is supposed to be a Good Thing. I concede the point, partially. There is a definite benefit in being able to search Wikipedia rather than pull down an outdated Funk & Wagnalls from the shelf whenever I have a quick question I need answered.
Still, I do my human best to avoid reading things on the Internet but then I am human after all. I try to limit it to a quick review of headlines from various news outlets, understanding that the Google gods are carefully filtering what they think I should see. At least they push updates about my favorite baseball team, the New York Yankees. But why do I keep getting “sponsored” articles about weight loss? Has Google suborned my bathroom scale?
While I can control what I opt into, my family ensures that my luddite tendency is continually confronted by things they think I should know. For example:
Last week my wife informed me that my toes are Greek. Huh? Do they speak the language? Fly the flag (and it is a nice albeit busy one, by the way)? Demand to be taken to my hometown Fort Wayne’s summer Greek Fest?
No, she read it on Facebook. Any mention of Facebook generally gets me up and headed for the nearest exit but she insisted I hear her out. It seems that the length and shape of one’s toes is a semi-reliable indicator of heritage.
Every chromosome of my German heritage rebels at this. How can all my ancestors going back four generations or more be German but my toes come from Greece? Was there some kind of Frankenstein-like laboratory experiment in my family’s background? This is truly bothersome.
There is a practical aspect to this unsettling news as well. Greek toes are supposedly longer than others. I think I can feel my shoes getting tight, what with longer toes now than when I bought them. Do I have to buy all new shoes, my frugal German genes want to know?
If my Greek toes were not causing me to lose enough sleep, my daughter told me about a scientific posting that there is no such thing in nature as the color blue. It is literally a figment of our imagination, our brains fooling our eyes into thinking they see blue. Or maybe it is the other way around, but no matter. This is a seriously subversive theory to advance.
I recall with rose-colored vision a question from a test in my Philosophy 101 course. Can blueness exist if nothing is blue? A more common formulation of this question is if a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, did it make a sound?
This sort of philosophical question was gist for the conceited undergraduate mental mill. Do we look to Plato or Aristotle for the answer? We could stay up half the night arguing that one, intellectually fortified by our favorite adult malt beverages.
It is no surprise to those who know me that I came down on the side of Plato’s realism rather than Aristotle’s materialism. How can you go wrong if you side with Plato? Now I learn that the question is moot. I need to contact my philosophy prof from 1969 and get my grade adjusted based on this new information.
Or maybe it’s as simple as rephrasing the test question. Can something be blue if blueness doesn’t exist? To paraphrase mankind’s greatest post-Plato philosopher Yogi Berra, “If Plato were alive today, he would be rolling over in his grave.”
I am no longer 18 years old and unduly impressed with my own intellectual skills. I need to bring this into the here and now, and this is where the rubber meets the road. We have two bluebird houses in our backyard, each populated this spring with a nesting couple which will, we hope, produce a sufficient number of the next generation of these wonderful birds. But what if they aren’t really blue? Can I still call them bluebirds? Will they undergo some sort of avian angst resulting in multiple psychological disorders? Whom do you call to get bluebird counseling?
I know the NCAA basketball tournament is under way and our two state flagship universities were upset in early rounds to the sturm und drang of most of my friends. Who cares? I have a serious problem in my own backyard.
The only solution I can see is to keep the bluebird parents away from the Internet. I will monitor things diligently and confiscate any web-surfing devices I find in their nests. As an added benefit the time spent doing that will reduce my wasting time getting upset over things like blueness and toe size. A win-win situation, if ever there were one.
Mark Franke, M.B.A., an adjunct scholar of the Indiana Policy Review and its book reviewer, is formerly an associate vice-chancellor at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.