Sitting in a sun-dappled parlour a while ago, some friends and I were talking about TMI and TLI. Too Much and Too Little information. We discovered that we definitely wanted to know more.
Where do we look foolish sharing too much – and what does it matter if we do? We all have a private side. Patricia Sun said that we’d do well to decrease the gap between our public selves and private selves. And Dylan said, “If my thought dreams could be seen / they’d probably put my head, in a guillotine.” Could that be your head too? If we don’t have thoughts that are out of the box then we’re thoroughly in the box, creatures of convention.
What if this border between the inner and the outer started to disappear? And why is it there in the first place? A picture of this came up in a conversation I had with my friend Rainer Leoprechting a few weeks ago as we had lunch outside the Hotel Dubrovnik in Zagreb at the ISCA constellation conference. It’s as if we carrying a little filing cabinet around with us that contains the answers, our identity, our little package to present to the world. Like bureaucrats we reach into this filing cabinet to find proper responses and present it to the world with a flourish. There you go!
But Rainer was saying that the answers are there in the cloud. They are made up in the moment and present themselves directly. I know the idea but received it as a fresh transmission that we really do have the capacity to bring forth whatever we want, in the moment, and it’s richer and better than the canned answer from the filing cabinet. What comes makes use of whatever’s in the filing cabinet anyway.
We usually use this ability because we don’t trust the unknown. We really don’t know what our spontaneous response is going to be. We censor it to keep it under wraps so it doesn’t make us look foolish. Even here in Berlin where I am now, where I don’t know a soul in this city, I’m loathe to act funny or sound stupid with my execrable German. Does my self-cut hair look stupid the way it rises to a little pointed nub at the top like a mini-Mohawk? Does anyone notice the mud on my shoes from the farm in this city of beautifully shod people. Of course, which people, is a question too. The beggar in the subway and the one outside in the cold (he was there when I passed again hours later) were kneeling. Kneeling, paper cups out. I couldn’t see their shoes. I don’t know the story of either of these men but I know there’s a story and one that would be deeply instructive.
I’ve never seen a beggar on his knees before and was pained to see this misery on display. It felt like walking past a crucifixion. I want to be not like him, to not catch his eye. My first response is to feel like an arrogant prick and ignore him. I remember how I felt when I was a student hitchhiker and the priest rolled by in his big car. I despised what I felt was his fat arrogance.
A priest is the very battleground of TMI and TLI. The priest is on his knees, he and his priestly brethren wherever they might be, praying to the Lord, that advocate of humility and earthiness, while living in a world that more or less worships success and prosperity. (I don’t make the world or the church wrong for this and not only because I’m not out on a lonesome highway. We’re the descendants of tribes for whom survival wasn’t assured over hundreds of thousands of years. We come from a world of our kind and their kind and it’s a hard habit to break.)
Does the priest have to navigate the terrain of showing or not showing what’s in his heart each day? Is he anxious about what’s God and what’s mammon? On his deathbed does he regret where he spent his time and wonder whether they’ll let him into heaven? The aforementioned Rainer did a workshop for Catholic priests and they were starved for real conversation about being individuals under the muting authority of the church. Starved for what the church labeled TMI. As a young man I remember Catholic books with Imprimatur written in the front matter. “It may be printed.”
Examples spin off in all directions but consider, as I know you do, the secrecy and the information that we’re getting and not getting from our governments. The US government is a visible example but it’s little different in Canada or Germany or wherever you are. The secret life of government is more or less diametrically opposed to the cover story about our altruistic intervention in other lands for example, our sweet talk of bringing democracy or equal rights for women. Julian Assange and Wikileaks, and Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, have credibly destroyed key illusions for those who care to know. And of course, they’re most thoroughly vilified for revealing too much information. On the other hand the powers that be have a great deal of information about you, maybe enough to hang you with your private thoughts if they should wish to.
I love it when I see or hear about someone who has nothing to hide. You can taste the freedom. Because what can “they” do to you then? What’s to fear when you’re already out of your own closet. Everyone recognizes this free human when they see him or her and says someday they’ll be there too.