It’s All About We
The act of a baby “finding its hands” is as wondrous and beautiful a thing as happens in the span of a life.
If “finding its hands” is a country idiom lost on better-heeled readers, I’ll elaborate. It’s that magic moment when an infant figures out that those floating-around-fingered-things are a part of me. Look at ‘em. I can will them about. There’s more to me than what’s in here. I’m a, um, something. With hands.
It’s a stunning revelation, I’m certain. Pity it happens before we figure out the memory thing. It would be worth remembering.
I believe that the “finding of hands” is the first step in a life-long process of moving past the assumption of self as the center of the universe to accepting the universe as an infinitely enormous self holder that dwarfs our existence entirely. It can be daunting. Some never come to grips with it. The self centered. The self absorbed. The egocentric. You know the type. You can tell by the way they talk. “It’s all about me,” goes the expression and it’s apparently catching on.
The San Diego State University Department of Psychology published a study this month that tracked changes in pronoun use in a database of 766,513 American books published 1960-2008. They discovered that use of first person plural pronouns (e.g., we, us) decreased 10 percent over the period and first person singular pronouns (I, me) increased 42 percent. They concluded that “Change over time in culture can appear among individuals and in cultural products such as song lyrics, television, and books… [P]ronoun use will reflect increasing individualism and decreasing collectivism in American culture.”
This squares with my decidedly nonscholarly observation of the evolution of song lyrics. In my younger days, a popular song was very likely to be in the third person. A story about a character. Think Eleanor Rigby, Casey Jones, Aqualung, countless others. Nowadays, first person rules. I did a spot check of the Billboard top-100’s top 10 songs. Every one of the 10 informs us of how the artist feels about whatever the artist is feeling. I sing, therefore I am.
Okay, songs are not life and death matters but one should wonder if this “increasing individualism and decreasing collectivism in American culture” gives rise to tea parties and Rand Paul calling for eliminating foreign aid and Congress cutting Food Stamps and all the other unapologetic selfishness that passes for policy these days.
Look, I’m no Commie. I came of age in a time when the pendulum swung too far in the free love, we are fam-il-y, direction. The resultant backlash produced a bunch of young, soulless, adults that brought us disco, cocaine and Reagan. We got lucky that time, we’re still here to self-indulge.
We’re taunting nature again friends. Showing a bit of interest in and having some compassion about the other fellow won’t make us Che Guevara. It’s a lonely place, in there all alone. Ask a baby, the world begins at our finger tips, not in our minds.
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