The Power of Sharing

hughmacleod

The individual’s function is to inform and be informed.  You really exist only when you’re in a field sharing and exchanging information. — Timothy Leary

I wrote this before but let me write it again:  my favorite thing about the internet is food blogs. Because of them, I’ve made many delicious meals I wouldn’t have attempted on my own, I learned how to perfect classic dishes, and if you’re on a special diet you can find others who are on that diet too, as well as suggestions for recipes that don’t make you feel like you’re on a special diet.

Most food blogs consist of three simple things:  a photo, a list of ingredients, and a methodology. (And, sometimes helpful comments by those who’ve tried the recipe.)  No, that’s not completely accurate — food bloggers share photos, ingredients and a methodology.

The success and ubiquity of food blogs is not just a reflection of our culture’s obsession with food.  They are examples of the power of sharing and sharing is what the internet is all about.

Think about this:  a blogger I follow, Infinitefreetime, finds a recipe on the blog J&A Gourmet for Sriracha’d and roasted Brussels sprouts (Share #1).  Infinitefreetime reblogs the post (Share#2).  I read that post and Google “roasted Brussels sprouts”.  I find a recipe on Nom Nom Paleo that includes bacon (because bacon makes everything better and that’s share #3).  I make the roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon three times and will make them again for the fourth time tonight. (Writing about it here makes it share #4.)

Isn’t that amazing?  Someone I don’t know shares something they enjoyed which becomes part of a meal that I enjoy, a way to feed myself.

The truly amazing thing is that everyone has the power to affect other people in the same way. An even more amazing thing is that everyone has access to this power and not everyone uses it.  I didn’t until recently.

All it takes to exercise this power is a platform (like WordPress), paying attention to the things that delight and inspire you, ideas you can’t get out of your head, or anything that makes “your whole body light up with joy”  as cultural analyst and writer Sharon Ann Lee said in an interview. Most likely if it lights you up, it will light someone else up.  That person needs you to point it out.

These platforms provided by technological innovation are worthless without the act of sharing. Cartoonist/blogger Hugh MacLeod wrote “the most important word on the internet is not ‘search’. The most important word on the internet is ‘share’.  Sharing is the driver.  Sharing is the DNA.”

sharing

I think a lot of people worry about or strive to be original when starting any creative endeavor.  I certainly did when I first started writing but gave up the goal of originality after reading this by Fran Leibowitz:  “Original thought is like original sin:  both happened before you were born to people you could not possibly have met.”  The only original thing about anyone is how they see the world, how they feel while being in the world, and the particular things that inspire them in the world.  Sharing these things is our constant, life-long art.

And your way, is it really your way?

{…}

What, moreover, can you call your own?  The house you live in, the food you swallow, the clothes you wear — you neither built the house nor raised the food nor made the clothes.

{…}

The same goes for your ideas.  You moved into them ready-made.

From Stand Still Like the Hummingbird by Henry Miller

I read the Henry Miller quotation above on the blog of one of my favorite bloggers, Maria Popova of Brain Pickings/Explore blog. She shared the quotation after a reader shared the quotation with her and now I’m sharing it.  Brain Pickings and another of my favorite blogs, The Dish, have a simple and successful formula:  share interesting things several times a day.  That’s it.  Those two blogs have have informed and influenced so much of my thinking, writing, and my blogging through the power of sharing. I have discovered more authors, books, articles, videos, ideas from those two blogs than I have from any other sources.

Just today the editors at The Dish shared a link to an article on Deadspin titled “Why I Fixed Fights”.  I would have never discovered this article on my own and it’s an example of how the topic of a well-written story doesn’t matter.  You may be thinking “I’m not interested in boxing” but I said the same thing about lobsters before I read David Foster Wallace’s essay “Consider the Lobster”.  That essay wasn’t just about lobsters and “Why I Fixed Fights” isn’t just about boxing. It’s about the beauty of great storytelling. Sometimes it isn’t necessarily the what that someone writes about but the fact that they’re sharing it in the first place that inspires you.

I’m mentioning that article because it’s what gave me the idea to write this post.  I wanted to share it, but I didn’t know how.

MM

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