Sunday, June 08, 2008

Notes From My Knapsack 6-12-08
Jeff Gill

Why A Knapsack?


You may have read one of my columns before, and I’ve written the stray piece or two for the Sentinel, but an introduction seems in order.

I’ve lived in Licking County since 1989 with a sojourn in West Virginia, and resided in Granville since 2004. That makes me a new guy, but with my historical interests, I get to sound like I’ve been around here for ages.

My knapsack represents the odd stuff I pick up as I meander around the terrain of the Land of Legend, and then I pull items out and tell stories about them. The knapsack is not quite entirely virtual, but pixels and links are more and more part of what I lug around.

Six months or so ago a very rude and profane site called (you’ve been warned) ran a very useful piece about “7 Reasons the 21st Century is Making You Miserable.” This is exactly the kind of bright shiny object I pick up and stuff in my knapsack and bring out later to tell you about, and this summer seems like a good time to pull out this one.

Number one is that we don’t have enough annoying strangers in our lives. Sound crazy? Here’s David Wong’s point in a nutshell: “The more we're able to edit the annoyance out of our lives, the less we're able to handle it.” And we can use technology to edit all kinds of everyday aggravation out of our day – this may not be as good a deal as you might think.

Two: We don’t have enough annoying friends, either. No, really. Older folks grew up in towns they had to go fight Hitler to get out of; lacking Hitler, you had to learn to get along with some real hard cases (not to say head cases).

Three and Four are about texting and e-mail, and the fact that they are forms of communication, but just barely. If anthropologists can tell us that 93 percent of a statement’s impact is communicated non-verbally, no wonder we get so many misunderstandings with virtual comm. 7% doesn’t give us much margin for error.

Five has to do with the fact that we handle criticism poorly, but can dish it out invisibly, behind masks and aliases, instantly and around the world. Six speaks to the “Outrage Machine,” which is a whole column in itself .

And Seven addresses why we “feel worthless,” suggesting that it’s “because we actually are worth less. There's one advantage to having mostly online friends, and it's one that nobody ever talks about: They demand less from you.”

We’re working on building a new Granville in the middle of the olde village, a smaller place where folks knew each other face to face, over the butcher’s block and around the blacksmith’s forge. We want those vital connections, but we want out wi-fi, too.

My plan is to keep picking up those pieces of the older way of being, and keep looking for ways to fit them into the mosaic of a diverse, new, but tradition rich Granville. Hope you’ll enjoy puzzling along the path with me!

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him a story at

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