Somewhere along the way, in the century of the self, we forgot each other. We forgot this vast and wonder-filled universe, of which we are each but a tiny and transient wonder.
We forgot that all creative work — be it music or mathematics, poetry or physics, anything we might call art — is a hand outstretched in the dark, reaching not for visibility but for the light that lives between us. Reaching for connection.
We forgot what Whitman knew even as he proclaimed “I celebrate myself!” — that “every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.” No word appears in Leaves of Grass more times than you.
We are living through a pandemic of selfing — rampant self-celebration that mistakes applause for connection, likes for love. Social media companies are capitalizing on our native need for affirmation, exploiting our compromised immunity to manipulation at every turn: algorithms prioritizing selfies over sunflowers, algorithms amplifying the word I, algorithms doping us on the dopamine of being noticed, seducing us into forgetting the art and joy of noticing — that crowning glory of consciousness. And somewhere, in the quiet core of our being, this frantic hunt for likes is making us like ourselves less.
There must be another way — a way to unself* just enough to remember each other, to grow a little more awake to this world that shimmers with wonder, of which any one self is only a fleck.