Everything Is Everything
July 2008

by Beverly Spicer

photo by Eli Reed

People in the publishing industry are starting to obsess about the evolution/devolution of the newspaper and magazine industry, and the future of print media. But of course, print media is just a small part of the big picture. There is also the future of the economy, the future of the environment, the future of endangered species, the future of the world, and even the future of the future to consider. We are hearing every single day about crisis, and it's getting serious. You name it, everything has now been tossed up in the air and is rapidly scattering in a global game of 52 Pickup. My aunt Forrest Vogler often quotes a man named Garland, who worked at our family's funeral business (that's right—we were undertakers). "Oh, Miss Forrest," he used to say, "everything is everything." I was never sure what he meant, but I'm beginning to think I have some idea. Is all this crisis real? Yes and no. Even a made-up crisis affects reality—so, everything really is everything.

Here is a fun animation you can save till later, unless you've got time to view it now. It's called "We've Got Everything," by Modest Mouse. I like the graphics, and of course, the name.

Technological changes are opening up new avenues of growth like rivulets after a rain or bacteria multiplying in a petri dish, but they also herald the Darwinian extinction of many things that cannot survive the evolutionary process to a new form of existence. For the print industry, the leap into what seems like the void of nonexistence is really just a jump to cyberspace. It takes an enormous amount of energy to achieve the escape velocity (actually, speed) needed to escape the earth's gravitational field. Once successfully free of the gravity that would pull it back to earth, the object then goes into orbit. The further away it gets from the earth, the lower the escape velocity it needs to get away. Maybe that's what is metaphorically happening to print media. It's going faster and faster and getting further and further away from print and closer to cyberspace, and one day may just pop itself into an orbit where it is out of the physical realm altogether. Floating out there in cyberspace may seem terrifyingly like the void, but in fact, maybe it is The Garden. Cyberheaven. However, for aspiring space travelers of any kind, there is the very sticky problem of gravity (in the case of media, the grave problem is economics). Hence, print media are still very much earthbound even though many entities have launched their own journalistic rockets. There is an awful lot already in orbit—some junk, yes, but there are very many sophisticated communications devices out there. Take a look at some real satellites orbiting in actual space by clicking on this image of Rosetta, the first space mission designed to land on a comet that is transmitting images of Earth's true colors.

I want to put technological revolution aside and take a moment to speak about another area underlying much of our shifting times. With the cost of oil this moment at $135.36 per barrel for crude—which one week from now when these words are published may be vastly different—we can see how everything besides oil comes into crisis mode as well because of the relationship between energy and the material world. When it comes to energy and matter, again we see that everything is everything. As one documentary puts it, we of the material world are experiencing "A Crude Awakening."

In collecting at-the-pump gasoline facts, I found people are paying $4.50 per gallon in Los Angeles and packing onto buses. Charts for today cite $5.06 for premium gasoline in Alaska, and in Texas it was $4.05 the last time I filled my tank with regular. According to a Wikipedia update a month ago, average gasoline prices around the world for ordinary consumers are weighing in at about $3 USD per gallon in China, $4.44 in India, and France pays the equivalent of $8 a gallon. The Netherlands is gasping at a $10 price tag, and consumers in Sierra Leone pay $18. The same charts tell us consumers in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, and Egypt are casually yawning at the pumps at prices of about $.45-1.50, and here are the two most surprising facts of all: Iran is paying 42¢. Venezuela, 19¢. Very interesting.

It is impossible to wrap one's mind around such disparities, and it seems the whole world is being held hostage in wars we neither understand nor even know anything about. Oil and war. Commerce and the globalization. Oy, vey. War, war and more war. Humor helps. Here's an animation worth repeating that makes me laugh even though I think the reason it is funny is because it's true.

At The Digital Journalist (TDJ), though we think big sometimes, we must also focus on the same thing that is everyone's most basic concern—survival. Luckily, TDJ was never a print magazine to begin with. We are all about the digital world and cyberspace. There is nothing at all physical about our product so there was no initial process of transformation from paper to ether, even though we are very much concerned with others blasting forth into virtual reality and the digital world. We were born in cyberspace. We are a product of the Internet. Our publisher envisions TDJ being the cyber-version of LIFE magazine, or at least a forum for visual journalism to bring news of the world into readers' living rooms. I think his vision is being realized. Notice I did not say materialized. Just realized. These are two different things.

The only things truly physical about TDJ are the people who are staff and contributers and the printed brochure that advertises us. The rest is gloriously abstract, living only on the Internet and in the minds of our readers, and we are happy to be that way. Sadly, though, some of us still love ink on paper. I do. And those who similarly love their newspaper and magazine subscriptions are having some tough decisions to make. Deciding which subs to toss out and which to keep may be a relatively banal and meaningless concern in the grand scheme of things, but when I really think about it, to subscribe or not to subscribe, that is indeed a question. Enough readers doing the same, and advertisers jettisoning publications from their budgets will determine the survival of print media. The publications depend on their advertisers, advertisers depend on the readers, and readers depend on their publications, and vice versa. Everything depends on everything. Read more about subscription triage and painful decisions over what to keep and what to catapult from Earth to Sky by clicking on the image.

The way information is delivered is critical, because it ultimately boils down to what information we receive and what we don't, who gets to keep the job and who doesn't, which institutions survive, which do not, and ultimately, what our world currently is compared to what it will become. I realize more and more the truth of what we pondered last month about chain reactions and things being interconnected. An imperiled future for print media also jeopardizes professional journalism, its associated economy, intellectual life, and everything else connected with the industry of news and information. Garland was right. Everything is everything. And for you cryptic crossword fans it just occurred to me that if you remove an e from everything you get very thing. If 'e' is for electronic, then we can say, "everything 'e' is (the) very thing." I would also like to point out that we survived the leap from grunting utterances to language, from oral traditions to writing, we made it from scribes to the printing press and paste-up to desktop publishing. What failed to thrive or did not survive were the things that couldn't, wouldn't or refused to change.

I propose the Garland Rule: "Everything is everything"— the most fundamental thing we need to know and not forget. It perhaps should be our Rosetta Stone—the key to deciphering and understanding where we've been, where we are, and where we're going—crucial knowledge for solving the puzzles, problems, and predicaments we find ourselves facing. The Garland Rule reveals that nothing is separate from anything else, that all life and what supports it are in holistic relationship, and that what happens here affects what happens elsewhere. Think about the Rosetta mission landing on a comet sending back a true picture, and then read about the Rosetta Stone here on earth by clicking on the image.

I like to think about the Butterfly Effect, where a small and seemingly insignificant variation in a system ultimately has a large impact. I also like the fact that a butterfly itself is a symbol for transformation. Transformative changes are happening in the media and information industry, as well as in everything, everywhere. I'm going to try to remember that everything is related to everything else, and that the Garland Rule is right. At least until proven otherwise, everything is everything.

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© Beverly Spicer

Beverly Spicer is a writer, photojournalist, and cartoonist, who faithfully chronicled The International Photo Congresses in Rockport, Maine, from 1987 to 1991. Her book, THE KA'BAH: RHYTHMS OF CULTURE, FAITH AND PHYSIOLOGY, was published in 2003 by University Press of America. She lives in Austin.

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