“Santa Claus has the right idea. Visit people once a year.” – Victor Borge
It’s the second half of December, a time when the world’s religions and traditions have conspired to celebrate themselves and, among the enlightened, the rest of our religions and traditions as well.
So whether it’s Hanukkah, St. Nick’s Day, Winter Solstice, Diwali, Christmas, Sir Isaac Newton’s birthday, Boxing Day, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Day, Perihelion, Isra & Mi’raj, or some other seasonal holiday you celebrate that I somehow managed to miss, I hope it’s happy.
In addition to sharing gifts, good spirits, and goodwill, there seems to be no seasonal abatement of the sharing of strongly held opinions. Nor has the reliably inverse relationship between being poorly informed and richly expressive diminished in the slightest.
As a strongly-held-opinionator myself, I occasionally wonder what motivates so many of us to insist on sharing our mostly redundant views about What’s Going On Out There, not to mention why. My tentative, introspective, non-research-based conclusion?
Start here: The universe has a radius of 45.6 billion light years. Each of us has a brain that’s roughly the size of a cantaloupe – about 0.00000000000000000000000000035th smaller, assuming I didn’t misplace a decimal place or three along the way.
Meanwhile, Earth is, as of this year, home to more than eight billion people. Each of us represents (this math is easy!) one eight billionth of the world’s population.
A mid-tier practitioner of the ghastly “Influencer” profession might have a million followers – 0.000125th of the world. I have far fewer, but probably more than you.
Which gets me to my theory of why we’re all surrounded by so much seemingly pointless opinion-sharing, which is:
We want to matter. In a universe so staggeringly large, and a planet so heavily populated, and with so many other people competing for attention, it’s hard to feel important.
And so, failing to feel important, it’s easy to fall into the trap of self-importance, if for no other reason than to avoid the even worse trap of nihilistic despair.
In his Devil’s Dictionary, the estimable Ambrose Bierce defined egotist as A person of low taste, more interested in himself than in me.
Those who engage in tiresome opinion-sharing are, according to Bierce, egotists. But much as I admire Bierce’s perceptive analysis (and lexicography), I think it’s more accurate to view those of us who compulsively share our perspectives about life, the universe, and everything as wanting to matter and not knowing any other way to accomplish it.
Perhaps because I’m guilty of misdemeanor excessive opinion sharing too, I can empathize with the desire to matter. But what matters more than wanting to matter are the decisions each of us makes as to whom we matter to, and how.
So perhaps we should celebrate this as the season we each reflect on to whom we each matter, and how, and to be grateful for the mattering.
In my case, in addition to my wife, family, and friends I’m lucky enough to count the KJR community among those I matter to. I’m grateful for the privilege, and for the occasions on which members of the community share their thinking with me.
And so, as 2022 lurches to its finish line, let me close it out with this strongly held opinion: I’m grateful for your time and attention.
Okay, strictly speaking that isn’t an opinion. So sue me.
Meanwhile, just let me say thank you!
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I’ll be taking a break until 2023 rolls around. In between now and then, enjoy everything the season has to offer.
See you in a few weeks.
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And as long as I have your attention, you might also enjoy this month’s CIO Survival Guide on CIO.com, “A CIO’s gift guide for IT and business colleagues.”