I liked a funny Tide Pod meme my Facebook friend shared from Instagram and posted it on Twitter. It got a lot of retweets.
But a woman from Kentucky emailed that she created it and I should have given her credit. By the time I saw her email, Tide Pods were old newsbecause everyone moved on to funny YouTube videos about Lady Doritos.
If you didn’t understand the previous sentence, I envy you.
Those of us who spend too much time on social media (for me, it’s a job requirement) are all too familiar with the firehose of the latest news, trends and jokes. Within hours, they’ll be replaced by new topics just as meaningless.
Many experts have sounded alarms that this torrent of ephemera and the mad chase for clicks are rewiring brains, reducing attention spans and altering how we process information. Too often, our focus is locked on the transient and new as we abandon the meaningful and eternal.
Not wanting to waste so much of each day, I embarked on a new media journey. Or, should I say, a very old one.
At the start of the year, I cracked open "The Iliad" by Homer. Apparently the 3,000-year-old book is kind of a big deal, which is why every smart person I know has read it (or at least has claimed to). But, as with most classics, I had never quite gotten around to it.
It was a bit slow-going at first (I apparently chose a dated translation), but I soon fell into the rhythm of the brutal war epic. After a few days, I was done and … I actually enjoyed it.
Might as well knock out the sequel, I thought, so I read "The Odyssey." This adventure story was more readable and a lot more fun. Someone recommended Xenophon’s "Anabasis," the first behind-enemy-lines story, and that was the best of the three.
What about Virgil’s "Aeneid?" Why not – I’m on a roll!
A month and a half into 2018, four classics are down, and I’m still eager for more.
I began the classics out of a sense of obligation. My high-school daughter has been assigned a few of these titles, and I’m not yet ready for her to discover that she’s smarter than me. I was expecting it to be a slog; the literary equivalent of eating my vegetables when all I want are Buffalo wings.
Instead, in a very short time, I was hooked on these ancient tales. Popping onto Twitter or Facebook quickly felt like an obligation. I would open my laptop, discover that one of the lesser Kardashians was pregnant, then return to that old book to find out how Aeneas would defeat the Latin army.
In the modern academy, these dusty texts are denigrated as hopelessly retrograde. What can we learn from dead white males like Homer and Virgil when they were steeped in such a politically incorrect age?
As another dead white male once wrote, “there is nothing new under the sun.” Today, we’re struggling with similar questions about how to do the right thing in a petty, ugly and violent world. Granted, if we choose the wrong side today, we aren’t likely to see our city sacked, but human nature is a pretty consistent thing.
Whether you choose the books mentioned above or pick up something more recent, you’re going to learn a lot more about people, politics and principle than you will on your smartphone.
Better yet, you’ll be filling your life with ideas that have stood for centuries. And that’s a lot more entertaining than that dumb meme about Tide Pods.