I want to tell you a little story about a beautiful vase that always did a tremendous job at keeping its contents together, its surroundings dry and the flowers it held in splendid condition:
One day, by the pure act of chance, someone knocked it over and it crashed to the floor, breaking into tiny pieces in the process. The owners, loving as they were of that special vase, picked up every single piece and glued the vase back together. In the spirit of the Japanese “Kintsugi” (golden joinery), they even used golden glue, reminding everyone that this piece is not what it once was, but making it even more beautiful in the process. And like that, the vase received a second chance. With its added beauty, it looked even better – so no one seemed to care that it leaked every once in a while. I like to imagine this vase as a rather happy vase, holding its contents with a proud and determined smile, trying not to leak too much but accepting of its own struggle.
When I first heard Greg Laswell’s “Comes And Goes (In Waves)”, a certain line resonated within in me for much, much longer than any other one: “This one’s for the torn down, the experts at the fall.”
My first reaction was one of surprise, as I felt like this was put oddly positive (“experts at the fall”). Though after a few seconds of wonder, it clicked: There’s an intrinsic part in “becoming an expert at the fall” that’s both uplifting and positive, which lies at the center of various areas of psychological research and knowledge (such as resiliency, coping, hardiness, grit). It’s the basic fact that also made the saying “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” one of the best known (and most quoted) idioms of our time: Growth is always preceded by the overcoming of resistance. Obstacles and trouble are preconditions for change and progress. (Think of muscle growth following resistance training, same principle.)
… or at least tried to.
With Edward Snowden’s revelations still coming in at a steady pace, more and more people seem to become enraged by the behavior of intelligence agencies and “big data” companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo and Apple, and rightfully so. Knowing that all your data is at stake, you might find yourself beginning to think about reclaiming independence regarding your (digital) life.
That’s what I did, once the news about pretty much everyone being spied upon by various agencies worldwide started to emerge. I was suddenly thrust into a place where all these comfortable solutions (free email, free synchronized cloud storage, free social networks) showed their real cost. And it wasn’t astonishment that characterized my emotional reaction, but rather shame and a nagging feeling of “I knew, but didn’t act upon my knowledge”. You see, I knew of sayings like “If the service you are using is free, you are the product” and was generally a rather skeptical person, but I didn’t seem to really understand the scope of it. It was just too convenient to go along with a lot of new (and convenient) developments. I was responsible, and for that reason, a feeling of shame seems pretty appropriate.