Do you ever feel like there’s so much data coming your way from so many different channels that your brain might explode? I read something a couple of years ago that explored the theory that humans can only care deeply about individuals up to a certain number and that, beyond that, greater numbers make genuine empathy less and less possible. A person might go to enormous lengths to help the family next door whose house burned down but be completely unable to process – on a personal level – the idea of 610,042 homeless people in the U.S. on a particular night in January.
As a coping mechanism, this makes sense. If you’re tending your own fire and keeping things that go bump in the night away from your own cave, you can’t afford to expend too much time and energy worrying about the people in the caves over the mountain or across the ocean. The effort probably won’t help them, and it might cause you to get eaten by bears.
With our current interconnectedness, though, so many important things are just a website or a TV channel away. Now, we’re all in one big cave together.
Only we aren’t. It seems to me that human connectedness has become a much more complicated thing than it once was. “Can you hear me now?”
On one hand, as knitters, we can come together through Ravelry and thousands of individual blogs and websites in a worldwide community of people who share a passion. Fiber lovers in Australia can share patterns and ideas with people from Lebanon to Duluth. We’re a small world, and it feels great!
On the other hand, while many of us are busy planning our knitting projects to coincide with long stretches of TV watching during the Winter Olympics coming up in Sochi, we’re learning that the Russian cave can be a pretty awful place if you’re on the wrong side of what passes for “normal” in that country or if your views differ much from the state-sanctioned ones.
Over the last few days, a big section of the usually friendly world of Ravelry has exploded into a fractured, angry place, and it all has to do with this one big cave idea.If you’re not familiar with Ravelry, it’s a social networking site for fiber people. There are well over three and a half million registered users, and in my experience, it is generally a constructive, rich environment for connecting with other people who love knitting as much as I do. Every two years when the Olympics roll around, Ravelry hosts the Ravellenic Games. Knitters (and crocheters and spinners and weavers) challenge themselves to various feats of fiberly daring while everyone enjoys the Olympic Games on TV.
This year, the normal camaraderie has been turned on its head. The line between a “no politics in the main games forum” rule and the need to respond to Russia’s wide range of human rights abuses in the lead-up to the games has become a very blurry one indeed. I’m the co-captain of one of the Ravellenic Games teams, and I’ve spent many hours over the last two days trying to keep up with it all. In the process I’ve been challenged to think long and hard about the nature of our global connectedness.
At one extreme people want to “just get back to our knitting,” and at the other extreme people are accusing fellow Ravelry members of practically being Putin himself for looking the other way while outrageous persecution is going on.
In the main thread alone, there have been well over a thousand posts since Monday morning with some pointing out that this is a life-and-death issue that can’t be ignored and others pointing out that their own lives are dire beyond repair due to illness or personal tragedy and that knitting, crochet, Ravelry . . . is the one blessed escape so please stop talking about the idea of athletes and their families being arrested and hidden away indefinitely in Russian prisons for being gay. A few times the same people have found themselves actually voicing points from both sides.
By the time last night wound down, I was feeling mentally flattened by the whole thing. Everyone is right. Everyone is wrong. Where do you situate yourself to sort it all out? I truly don’t know. My plan today is to spend less time reading posts and more time knitting as I think about it.
Meanwhile, the current winter storm has brought record low temperatures to caves all over the U.S. Here’s what our house looked like yesterday.
The weather is beautiful but extremely cold. And look at this:
That is a picture of thyme. I found it on a little shelf full of organic plants at the grocery store last Spring. It had pretty well died by mid-summer. For some reason, I planted the “dead” stalk in an empty space in the garden. I’m so glad I did. It’s come roaring back and appears to be surviving even this below-zero stretch of temperatures.
Stay warm, my friends, and try to find yourselves a little time to knit.