How pleasant it is these days to pick up the newspaper or view internet news sites that say something that catches my attention. Bit by bit, the stuff that used to be 'important' just seems repetitive and incapable of salting my eggs.
Today, there were a couple of things that tickled my willingness to engage.
The first was a front-page article in the Hampshire Gazette, our local newspaper. The hard-copy headline read, "WFCR newsman Bob Paquette dies unexpectedly." The internet version read, "Respected longtime WFCR newsman Bob Paquette dies unexpectedly." The story was the same, but the exegencies of hard-copy and internet headline writing are different.
"Dies unexpectedly" was the first thing that caught my attention. How can anyone die unexpectedly? How reasonable is a 'reasonable expectation?' As a social convenience, I can understand the wording, but as a matter of fact, it just struck me as odd and probably a catalyst for sorrow ... unexpectedly -- imagine that! Expectations have a way of running into facts and looking into such train wrecks is probably worth the price of admission, I think. It was a small munchie of interest.
But within the story itself were these words:
Martin Miller, CEO and general manager of WFCR and its sister AM station WNNZ, said in a statement released Sunday that "There are no words to express our shock and grief over the loss of our colleague and friend Bob Paquette. Our heartfelt condolences and sympathies go out to Bob's husband, Michael Packard, and to their families, friends and colleagues."Homosexual marriages are legal here in Massachusetts, but I have never quite nailed down the etiquette of who is the "husband" and who is the "wife" in same-sex marriages. Are both men the "husband," are both women the "wife?" Or do the designations accord with the socially-popular definitions of "masculine" or "feminine" behavior -- i.e. if one party is more "masculine," s/he is the "husband" and if the other party is more "feminine," s/he is the "wife?"
But more interesting than my personal ineptness, I liked the fact that the article acknowledged a same-sex relationship without pussyfooting or aggrandizement. Sorrow, like love, is an equal-opportunity employer. Sex, color, political affiliation or the car anyone drives is secondary stuff.
The other article that ignited a jet of interest was a story from The Washington Post, something headlined "Wikipedia Goes to Class." The story, as I get it, is that students studying a particular topics are being encouraged to submit their findings to Wikipedia, the internet encyclopedia that is increasingly a source for research information. Students and non-students find a lot of the data they want on Wikipedia. It is a kind of 7-11 for research.
But the question Wikipedia raises, no matter how many checks and balances the site may profess, is, "Who's minding the store? Is this really the best information anyone could get on the subject?" In the days when people used encyclopedias, individuals who had studied topics for years were invited to submit articles. Their observations were checked and rechecked and the result, while not claiming to be exhaustive, had a kind of heft and substance. But now high school research will be submitted as a means of informing the less informed? It all strikes me as another example of the kind of diaphanous and widening net of acceptable mediocrity.
Oh well ... I guess everyone has to do the dumbed-down before they decide to smarten up. Or, as American observer and humorist Will Rogers put it,"There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves."
Isn't spiritual endeavor like this too? I think it is. Scriptures and temples and rituals and beliefs and eventually ... well, you just have to pee on the fence and find out.