There’s the still stalled Russian invasion of Ukraine, a sigh of relief on the recent French election results, the surges of COVID cases in other parts of the world, and the erratic movement of the stock market. This week too we just finished our own elections, with the results already out.
Is it time to briefly change the topic and be… irrelevant?
Relevance refers to being pertinent to the matter at hand. In discussions over beer, a person can be dismissed as irrelevant if he digresses from hot topics in social media and Viber groups. (Have you seen the latest Tik-Tok?) Everyone seems glued to the small screen of the smart phone for news and opinions. (Were there influencers during your time, Dad?)
It seems there is no refuge for the disinterested and out of touch — let me check if the pasta is al dente.
The option to unplug from all media platforms, including “word of mouth” entails going off into a virtual retreat. Where can you find someone willing to venture into other topics totally unconnected to current events — I’m reading a biography of Joan of Arc. Yes, she was declared a saint only after 500 years of her execution at 19 years old. (Women leaders persevere until the job is done.)
Irrelevance allows us to appreciate the unspectacular aspects of our lives and can make us boring company. Relevance comes from the Latin word for lightening up, relieving, and lifting. “Levare” (to raise) is the same root word for elevator (which can bring us up and down), levity, and levitation. So, being relevant raises interest, as well as tempers, in discussions with those having opposite views.
Getting too close to an issue leads to passionate debate where sides are taken, often leading to name-calling and exiting from a Viber group in a huff — I can’t stand the postings of that moron who is simply undeterred from this irritating practice.
In basketball (our favorite metaphor for life) it is where the ball is not that allows the live spectator a viewing advantage absent from the TV audience which sees only the play where the ball happens to be. Thus, a player moving without the ball may be in the best position to catch the ball for that critical unguarded shot. Being temporarily out of play can be the best way to see the play and score.
Irrelevance can keep us busy. It is the stuff of our columns. (What’s he talking about?) We hope to catch up on the next Dickens book in our reading list, Bleak House. We are trying to make a significant dent on our inventory of unread books (both paper and virtual) by maintaining our pace of reading (two books a week, at least) and avoiding purchases or downloading of new books — both lost causes. It may be already a pathological disorder to pre-order books available in August 2022 (Robert Galbraith’s The Ink Black Heart) when we still have the biography of Tolstoy in our virtual library unread.
Anyway, piling up books for future reading is a sign of optimism that we will somehow eventually get to them before a heart seizure and the onset of dementia make that goal unattainable. Still, there is more to life than speculating on the sad fate of candidates and the rise of fake news. The Walrus of Alice in Wonderland gives us an alternative list of topics to consider: “talk of many things: of shoes and ships, and sealing wax, and cabbages and kings.” Note that politics is last. And the internet is not even hinted at.
Being irrelevant should not be equated to cluelessness. It’s a matter of choice when deciding what topics to spend time on, or which ones to avoid. Opinions and those who write them just differ on their subject matter. Topics like power and losing it are surely relevant to those concerned. For some, interest lies more in mundane pleasures like landscape architecture, ice cream, and the pleasure of other people’s company.
Relevance has to do with a point of view. The private life can be irrelevant in public discourse. So, irrelevance is merely temporary… until the national interest pulls us back into the discussion.
Tony Samson is chairman and CEO of TOUCH xda