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While attending the university, I was once asked to join a faculty represented panel in order to help choose a candidate for a tenured position. Five well regarded applicants were vying for the post and the already tenured professors wanted my opinion on which one could better engage a student's interest. I did not need to be told twice what my purpose there was. I'd been brought in to point out the kind of teacher who could make me sit up and pay attention while he shared his expertise for my benefit. That is why my enthusiastic vote went to the guy that said this during his mock lecture - I want you to leave my class everyday having relearned for the better what you think you already know. I want you to leave me everyday with something new in your pocket of information.
As you can see, I still remember quite clearly what he said, especially those ending words - my pocket of information. Visually, it made sense to think of my stored accumulation of learning as a pocket from which I could pull out something that would be useful to me or that I could apply somewhere. Intellectually, the idea of viewing from a different angle what I thought I knew, was exactly what I wanted from my schooling because, to this day, I view most new knowledge that I bring into the fold of my existing one as an extension of what was already there. I had the building blocks to most everything I have learned in life by the time I left high school. The rest then, has just been a polishing of those same blocks. An upwards, sometimes downwards, more often than not lateral reinterpretation of my knowns. All this to say that I love- belay that- I really adore learning. It makes me feel good to go to bed at night with some new little treasure in my pocket, something relearned for the better as that teacher, who eventually won the position, said so long ago.
This has probably happened to you - you learn the meaning to a new word that suddenly, and only after you've discovered it, appears to crop up everywhere. Well, chances are that the word was always there. You, just started paying attention to it once its meaning became clear. Do you find this to be true?
Here's one new word I learned a couple of days ago: The meaning of meme. Before you groan as many of you seem to do when faced with the possibility of having to continue one, I want you to know that I personally believe (now that I've understood what it stands for) that memes have gotten a bad rap. Its very popularity has been detrimental to its purpose and made it a sort of pariah amongst some of you who now tend to view memes with disdain. I can tell you what I discovered after I sheepishly had to ask my new friend Melissa at Melissa the Mouth to explain to me what exactly I was supposed to do after she tagged me for a "no-pressure" (her words) meme.
Indeed, the answer to my question came partly via Melissa who explained how a meme propagates itself from blogger to blogger through a chain of questions which are answered and then passed on, or tagged to, someone else. When her reply came, I began to understand the subtext behind her 'no-pressure' comment. It turns out I'd been reading about but not really processing the underlying backlash against memes within the blogosphere. I also remembered that a few days prior I'd read a simply superb post by that guru of blogging, Brian Clark. Mister Copyblogger himself, spent the better part of one of the best blog posts it has ever been my pleasure to read explaining, how looking for an intersection or crossroads of ideas can help us to tap into a wellspring of creativity that can lead to exceptional content in our writing. If you want to better understand what I'm talking about check out The Content Crossroads: Supernatural Success at the Intersection of Ideas. But I'm deviating from my true purpose here which is to tell you, what I learned about the origin of memes from this section of his post.
An Example Every Blogger Understands
Richard Dawkins is an evolutionary biologist. In 1976 he wrote a book titled The Selfish Gene that moved his field of expertise sharply ahead, thanks to his assertion that evolution occurred at a purely genetic level, irrespective of species and organisms.
In the midst of making his point, he went off on a tangent, and that tangent is what he’s most well known for. Essentially, Dawkins equated the way genes propagate throughout the gene pool—jumping from organism to organism through reproduction—to the way ideas spread from brain to brain.
In short, Dawkins coined a term that demonstrates the natural selection process for ideas.
He called an idea that spreads from brain to brain a meme. You may have heard of those.
Dawkin’s insight about the way ideas spread sprang from the intersection of genetics, social psychology, and cognitive science. The meme of the “meme” has hugely influenced marketers, historians, sociologists and bloggers, and it helped Malcolm Gladwell reach his Tipping Point.
There, you see? Now you know not only know what a meme is, but who coined the term, how it came about and what the practical applications of such a concept have given the world. Don't you like memes better now?
I hope you do, because next up is my response to the meme for which Melissa the mouth tagged Lulu Fabulous, Erin, Robyn from the Mommy Esquire Diaries and myself. This will be my first, though perhaps not the only meme I will be asked to participate in. You can skip to my conclusion if you are not interested in all the fabulous bits of information that I'm about to impart here.
How long have you been blogging?
I had the guts to put up my first post on October 17th, 2007. That makes 3 months and 11 days since I've been blogging and in this respect I am much like a mother with her new baby. It took me almost a whole year to reply in months rather than numbered days whenever somebody would ask me how long it had been since my son had arrived on this earth. Blogging inspires the same mindset.
What inspired you to start your blog, and who are your mentors?
I actually read a news piece about the mother of six children who had auctioned off a dirty and used baseball on ebay. She managed this feat by attaching a supremely funny story explaining why she wanted to get rid of it. 220,000 unique visitors later having read her anecdote and $1125 richer after someone actually bought the used baseball, she was asked to write a book but instead, decided to blog.
I'll confess that initially I had visions of an equally witty and smashing success for myself as this lady had even though, I had no used baseball to sell. But that vision has changed. More on this later.
My mentors - hmmm... I suppose I could go the established route and list teachers or people I've met who have meant something to me in terms of inspiring personal growth but, I'll be somewhat unconventional and say that books are my mentors. I've learned more through books and reading than any two people combined have been able to teach me. I therefore thank for mentoring me the biographies, histories, cookbooks, poems, fictions, romances, fantasies, mysteries and all the other lovely genres I've left out only for the sake of word economy. They have furthered me to points beyond those which the people who have had a hand in shaping me, ever imagined I could be furthered.
Are you trying to make money on-line, or are you just doing it for fun?
Both. Though the fun part of this endeavor holds a stronger appeal than the money making. I subscribe to the mindset that when you are enjoying what you do, the money is almost certain to follow. That being said, if it shouldn't, I am also OK with this outcome. For the moment, what is important to me is this unfurling of my thoughts that I'm engaging in. It takes effort to sound moderately coherent. I am getting more pleasure than I thought possible from forcing myself to be rational, sequential and articulate. Blogging is also helping me in ways too numerous (or too private) to explain here. Further, I would like you to know that discovering all of you out there has fed something in me I didn't know needed the nourishment. Thank you for that.
What 3 things do you love about being on-line?
My absolute #1 is discovery. The internet for me has been like an outwardly aimed funnel through which I explore uncountable worlds. Being on-line is like walking through the door of infinity. Door after door after door opened via the key of my laptop. How incredible this is for me. Blogging has only added positively to this on-going exploration.
#2 - Can I say shopping? There's no dressing and no going out (I'm Latin American and we do not leave the house unless we are gussied up). Some days, I just do not wish to get all gussied up. There is also a symphony of offerings to recommend it, an anonymous selection of products (meaning you have no salespeople hanging over your shoulder) and best of all, you get instant service (when you are ready to purchase, all you do is check out).
#3 - A sense of community. Like me, there are other stay-at-home mothers with children, people seeking to express the world of parenthood, learn from it, understand what it's about and humbly share the inspiring and the not so inspiring. I am enjoying the still untapped benefits of joining this unique club, of carving out my own little niche within it. I almost forgot to say that I love visiting your spaces and feel flattered that you visit mine. This last part is truly gratifying.
What 3 things do you struggle with on-line?
- Like Robyn who was tagged before me, I too struggle with knowing when to stop editing what I write. You didn't know this but I rewrite published posts continually. Not major stuff, just little things. I like the tweaking.
- Finding the time to be on-line without having it interfere with the more immediate and physical requirements that my days demand. Namely, the care and raising of my child or the sharing of couple time with my husband.
- Last but most important, resisting the impulse to remain awake long after I should be in bed. I'm getting better at this, but it has been a bit of a struggle. The computer screen is seductive. My keyboard keys do beckon. The on-line world really sings to me like a siren. It is therefore easy to lose track of the time I spend surfing when I find the time for it which, is mostly at night after everyone has gone to bed. My mother has been putting the fear of wrinkles into me. Lack of sleep, makes for wrinkles deep. If you didn't know that one before, now you do.
So, you could say I've taken a roundabout and longish way to get to this point but I think I've accomplished my goal of presenting Brian's crossroads, answering a meme and squishing a blog post in between. If you've stuck with me and found it interesting so far, I thank you for that and pay tribute to Copyblogger for teaching me about the circular nature of creative thinking. All that is left to do now is continue the cycle. I tag Amy of You are a fly on my wall, Manda at Shamelessly Sassy, Victoria from Teachings of the Horse, and Zoloft mom. Like Melissa said to me, this is a no-pressure meme. Do not feel compelled to send it further on its way. All I wanted was for you, whom I have tagged, to know that I chose the four of you because lately, your blogs have been my therapy. I'm listening, learning and digesting. You add a little something to my pocket of information everyday and I would like to learn more about you even if these are not the questions I would have originally chosen to ask. To Zoloft mom in particular - I've only lurked at your site but you completely crack me up. I am working myself up to comment.
Have a lovely evening everyone and I'll see you at my next post.