Shouting about the noise

“When I heard Davy Jones had died I was like, whoa.” So spoke a bloke on BBC Radio 5 this morning.

That’s some beautiful communication happening there. A man using a mobile phone wherever he is to contact a national radio station to assert that he feels whoa. It is real, spontaneous and instantly nationally accessible.

As a process of information exchange it fails slightly in that I, the person being communicated to, don’t really understand what he, the person doing the communicating, means. But that is very much my problem. His need to bellow whilst everyone listens is being met, and if I want no further part in this then there is a button on the front of my radio that can help me.

I didn’t know Davy Jones and I never met him. However I did quite enjoy The Monkees on TV when I was a kid, and I own a rhythmically suspect but nonetheless enjoyable Cassandra Wilson cover version of Last Train To Clarksville. Who do I tell? More pertinently, why would I tell anyone? Davy Jones’ death, sad as it is for those who loved him, isn’t anything to do with me however much the clamouring media with their need to fill 24 hours each day reckon it is.

Here are Mitchell & Webb putting it better than I can. Sadly I don’t know who wrote the sketch.

On the day of Davy Jones’ death I had attended the funeral of a friend called Gordon Urquhart, a man I’d only met twice in real life but with whom I’d had a delightful, ebullient Facebook friendship. Gordon died shockingly young but he did a lot in his life and touched many people.

The humanist service was held in Eden Court here in Inverness and, in between personal reminiscences of Gordy we got music. Kraftwerk, Sandy Denny, Gordy himself on video doing a cover version of Brian Eno’s Here Come The Warm Jets on what looked like a ukulele. Towards the end of the ceremony the congregation was invited to join in a sing-along version of Yellow Submarine. We were also treated to a recording of That’s Life by Gordon’s band The Pheasants. There were some gentle deprecating remarks about the group’s musical achievements but to my punk-sensitive ears they sounded like the missing link between XTC and The Only Ones, and the song summed up beautifully the simultaneous simplicity and complexity of this short developmental phase between our being born and our dying.

Sitting with all those people in that place I just felt engulfed by emotion. Jubilant to have known Gordon. Desolate that there was no more Gordon to know. Gladder than glad to be there with people that felt the same. In my way I felt whoa. And here I am telling you about it. Or more to the point telling you about me when, in fact, the afternoon wasn’t about me at all.

If you want consistency try another blog. I understand there are thousands of hundreds of tens of them out there. (Also legend has it that somewhere on the internet there is a picture of a lady with her vest off but I’ve never been able to find it.)

And that’s the crux of the matter isn’t it? The sheer fucking amount of noise there is in the world.

Before speaking ask yourself: Is it kind? Is it true? Is it necessary? Does it improve upon the silence?

Hmm. Nope. Can’t remember who said it. I like to think they said it over and over and in a very loud voice though.

Are we reaching the point where there are more writers than there are readers to read them? More performers than there are people in the audience?

More and more I have become convinced that I am contributing to more problems than I am helping with solutions. Twice recently on Facebook I have posted what I thought were fairly innocuous comments about genuinely held beliefs and have had flaming responses back that lack civility and, to be barbarously frank, logic.

A suggestion I made that a democratically elected, self-determining council should be allowed to say prayers if it wants to (stupid though I think this is) was met with an implicit accusation that I support the teaching of creationism in schools.

I really don’t.

When I mentioned, in the aftermath of Marie Colvin’s death, that IN MY OPINION journalists tend to over-report themselves and each other I was flamed by people who suggested that, amongst other things, I want my news full of Whitney Houston and Katie Price.

Again I really don’t.

It is convenient to have all these people doing my thinking and holding opinions on my behalf but, at the risk of sounding ungrateful, they don’t actually represent what I am thinking and feeling.

I can write what I like, but I have no control over how it is read or how people will respond to it. I like it when people agree with me about stuff. I deep-down love it when people disagree and we can have a courteous ding-dong about what our differences are, agree to disagree and celebrate the diversity of life.

What I don’t particularly like though is the snarling and hostility that seems to be the basic currency of most online debate, and God knows I get sucked into it quickly enough myself.

Why, I increasingly ask myself, am I even bothering to express my opinions. So what if people agree? So what if they disagree? Why am I putting myself at the middle of things? Has Copernicus taught me nothing?

So I have turned off Facebook for a little while. I miss the constant background hum of my friends’ activity and the knowledge that they are all still out there sucking in air. But in the week since I pressed the button I have regained a lot of peace of mind. My appreciation of the difference between the two piles of stuff marked “My Business” and “Not My Business” has focused sharply and guess, if you like, which of those two piles is the larger one.

Also I have started re-establishing communication in the four-dimensional flesh-o-sphere. A spontaneous chat I had with a former FB pal in a car park was among the most nakedly honest and compassionate conversations I’ve had in months. We didn’t record it. It’s not available to download as a podcast. It still happened and it was a lot more rewarding than its FB equivalent would have been.

I don’t know when I will turn Facebook back on. I don’t know when I’ll blog again. I don’t know precisely at what times I will be shouting at passers-by on street corners. My intention is to carry on tweeting (@feexby) sporadically which is nice if you really need to know my ad hoc reckons about vital issues of the day like why the dog’s performance in The Artist came in for such adulation when the dog in Wrong Turn 3: Left For Dead was completely overlooked two years previously. Or why Christopher Plummer should have got his Oscar in 1978 for his astonishing turn in Starcrash.

In the physical world I haven’t changed my address since 1998 and I am still the only John Feetenby in the Inverness phone book.

My email address is on this page somewhere.

See you around.


By Feexby Posted in Diary

3 comments on “Shouting about the noise

  1. i was deleted, once, because I posted stuff that was not considered, apt for Facebook, and I was glad, but I am sad that Gordon Urquhart has been deleted

  2. Loveyouhello!

    I have seldom, if ever, left one of your blog posts without wanting to have coffee and talk about some part of it. Communication is essential to our sense of connectedness , but sometimes messy. I get ticked off, but more often I’m truly grateful for the smart, funny, interesting people in my life. I’m glad you’re among them.

  3. Hello John
    For what it’s worth, we’d noticed your absence on Facebook – a hole where interest, intelligence and humour usually was – and we missed you, and we were worrying gently about you.
    Whether you come back is Your Own Damn Business, and your choice deserves respect. But we’ll still miss you.

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