Expanding Networks of Mediocrity.

Today Luke, my daughter’s dog, awoke at 5:30AM on a morning, I confess, I had hoped to get a little more sleep.

I decided to stay up, read the news and peruse some Facebook postings. Often I sense in them an underlying desperation; a desire to be heard, noticed and known.

“Heard, noticed and known” came to me as a result of my career in broadcasting and also writing. When I began my broadcasting career, blogging, twitter, Facebook and all the other outlets for self expression did not exist. We who had been granted a platform for communicating our thoughts and ideas were among a select few given access to a broad audience to do so. The same was once true of writing. Only those with access to publishers of books or periodicals had an outlet to distribute their written thoughts. Self-expression via music and film similarly was the domain of a select few.

I am sure we select few overestimated our worth. We inevitably sensed the world needed and wanted to hear our thoughts, because we had made the competitive cut and were given a distribution outlet to express them!

Today, thanks to technology, everybody can distribute written words, musical compositions or homemade films. Some of these are quite good and deserve a broader hearing and viewing; some are not, probably most. But most think they are worthy and good! (Think of the talentless contestants auditioning for American Idol).

This monster of boundless indiscriminate self-expression is due in part to America’s educational philosophy of affirmation absent objective critique. Kids have been told they are really good at things they are absolutely not good at. Technology allows them to give it a go anyway!

The elitist, snooty gatekeepers of the past are being displaced by the often intellectually and creatively clueless consumers of the present. They decide what is worthy, though generally ill equipped to distinguish craft from crap.

In such a world networking replaces craftsmanship.

Ironically, the older among us leveled the same critique against the gatekeeper system. As it became increasingly commercialized, the gatekeepers selected first and foremost what would sell, not what was well crafted. It became more important to be part of the inner circle than to concentrate your time and energy on your craft.

This is a the Achilles heel for most arts movements aimed at “changing the culture.” Evangelicals specifically have always been good at marketing and technology over attentiveness to intellect and craft. Traditionally they have been networkers, marketers and celebrity makers and whatever contributions they made to culture generally reflected that. Today, too often I’m seeing them perpetuating an ever expanding network of mediocrity.

When we started the Kindlings Hearth our aim was to build relationships with thoughtful creatives and craftsmen for whom God is of central importance. We were interested in people doing good work, not people who were known or part of the inner ring.

Ironically, as our alumni group has grown to over 100, we now have people eager to be part of the movement, and we suspect many of them simply want to be in the “inner ring” we set out to avoid becoming in the first place!

What Lewis said seems to be a useful corrective for a generation eager to “reach out” and “increase their reach.”

“The quest of the Inner Ring will break your hearts unless you break it. But if you break it, a surprising result will follow. If in your working hours you make the work your end, you will presently find yourself all unawares inside the only circle in your profession that really matters. You will be one of the sound craftsmen, and other sound craftsmen will know it. This group of craftsmen will by no means coincide with the Inner Ring or the Important People or the People in the Know. It will not shape that professional policy or work up that professional influence which fights for the profession as a whole against the public: nor will it lead to those periodic scandals and crises, which the Inner Ring produces. But it will do those things which that profession exists to do and will in the long run be responsible for all the respect which that profession in fact enjoys and which the speeches and advertisements cannot maintain. And if in your spare time you consort simply with the people you like, you will again find that you have come unawares to a real inside: that you are indeed snug and safe at the center of something which, seen from without, would look exactly like an Inner Ring. But the difference is that its secrecy is accidental, and its exclusiveness a by-product, and no one was led thither by the lure of the esoteric: for it is only four or five people who like one another meeting to do things that they like. This is friendship. Aristotle placed it among the virtues. It causes perhaps half of all the happiness in the world, and no Inner Ring can ever have it.”

Do good work. Make good friends.

Posted in Staublog in December 20, 2011 by | 3 Comments »

3 Responses to Expanding Networks of Mediocrity.

  1. 122011ST | Dick Staub on December 20, 2011 at 9:17 am

    […] Evangelicals specifically have always been good at marketing and technology over attentiveness to intellect and craft. They are networkers, marketers and celebrity makers and whatever contributions they make to culture will generally reflect that. I’m seeing them perpetuating an ever expanding network of mediocrity. Read More. […]

  2. Daphne on December 20, 2011 at 10:02 am

    Your right on the dot Pastor Dick! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’m just not tired to hear more of what you have to say.

  3. […] Besides, as writer Dick Staub succinctly summarizes, we are now living in a world where “networking replaces craftsmanship”. As he writes in his own blog,  […]

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