Shelter From the Storm

“Twas in another lifetime, one of toil and blood

When blackness was a virtue the road was full of mud

I came in from the wilderness, a creature void of form

Come in, she said, I’ll give ya

shelter from the storm” – Bob Dylan

I live in the country. I notice when people come to visit, they tend to want to stay outside. A common discussion we have is about how quiet it is where I live. We can hear the wind through the wings of birds as they fly overhead and Hummingbirds aren’t afraid of people. Still, something doesn’t feel right about my place to the visitors. It’s the lack of noise.

People who move into the country from cities notice an uneasy feeling that’s hard to put a finger on. It took my family about two months to detox. We had a hole that was created by a lack of background noise. We also had feelings that persisted that weren’t needed to live in our new environment.

By background noise I mean the sounds of sirens and helicopters, horns and loud voices — and gun shots. We rarely hear a siren, always in the distance. Helicopters either carry water from the aqueduct to a mountain fire or they are in formation from a local Air Base.

The strange feeling was safety. We are safe. We aren’t surrounded by people to the degree that the simple math involved in crazy-per-capita is a real number to us. We go to town; we are not in a town.  There is a big difference in attitude that is worth discussing.

There’s an attitude in the towns that is more urgent and afraid, more serious about survival than we understand in the country. Towns are actually closer to a state of nature than we are, who live close to nature.

Many people have said interesting things about humans in a state of nature. Here are just a few of those ideas. I see similar ideas today by people on social media.

The likely first conversation about the state of nature in the Western Tradition.

“… now listen to what I said would be the first topic—the nature and origin of justice. By nature, they say, to commit injustice is a good and to suffer it is an evil, but that the excess of evil in being wronged is greater than the excess of good in doing wrong. So that when men do wrong and are wronged by one another and taste of both, those who lack the power.” – Plato’s Republic [358e].

The American Founding Fathers were familiar with these ideas:

“The right of nature… is the liberty each man hath to use his own power, as he will himself, for the preservation of his own nature; that is to say, of his own life.” — Thomas Hobbes

“During the time [state of nature] men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that conditions called war; and such a war, as if of every man, against every man.” – Thomas Hobbes

“The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which […] teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions.” – John Locke

“I was burned out from exhaustion, buried in the hail

Poisoned in the bushes an’ blown out on the trail

Hunted like a crocodile, ravaged in the corn

Come in, she said, I’ll give ya

shelter from the storm” – Bob Dylan

In many ways, Social Media is in a state of nature.

Let’s assume there was an actual state of nature where nothing could be owned that could not be taken away by the unrestrained and stronger. For that period of time, the stronger – in every way – ruled. Self-interest was the law and death was the reward for opposition.

How is this supposedly mythical but likely factual state of nature any different than what we have seen in every nation building or wilderness conquering event in history? The strongest and the most willing to revert back to a brutal state of nature, conquer lands and peoples. This fact of human nature is also seen on social media.

The violent personas on social media are the background noise and the uncomfortable and frustrating reason why social media struggles to be anything more than a shouting match in black and white.

We should value time and ability more than the people who hijack or obstruct our work. This might still be the wilderness in need of taming and the Trolls and angry people are still carving out their homesteads. There might be better, more civilized places for our better work.

Social media is still the wild west and many of its citizens are still wild.

Some people want to hold back the waves, for the good of communication and “Social Dialogue” They are the voices in a hostile and yet untamed wilderness. They take the brunt of the destruction that goes for, “Getting my rights” in the “Land of the free without responsibility”.

Social media is a free for all that looks a lot like the cities we all are talking about and running from — an untamed land, rich in natural recourses and in a state of nature.


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