TIME chose you, and you alone, as its person of 2006. How perfectly American. We are Connoisseurs of Media. Blogmasters. iPodists. And, thanks to our PDAs, lords of creation: masters of the opposable thumb.
Solitary activities, all --- even when we're "interacting," we're in our little silos.
And yet we hunger for the human touch, community, authentic sharing. It seems like eons ago, but I would suggest the last time we had that was on February 15, 2003, when between 8 and 30 million people joined in the planet's largest anti-war march.
How did that happen?
"No global conspiracy could organize a worldwide march like that in a matter of days," says Howard Rheingold, author of Smart Mobs. "It took millions of people who know how to use the Internet to get ten to fifteen million people on the streets of cities around the world. And it takes decentralized organizations using weblogs and e-mail and text-enabled cell phones to connect them."
You can look at an event like that march as 21st century politics in action - the same sort of energy and intelligence that shaped Howard Dean's 2004 presidential campaign and the videoblogging of '08 candidate John Edwards. And for many, it is. But I see it more as a spiritual gathering, the longing of millions of aware beings to find some sort of sangha (or community).
Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist, writes that our century is likely to spawn just this kind of movement: "In the 21st century, we will have to practice meditation collectively - as a family, a city, a nation and a community of nations. The Buddha of the 21st century - Maitreya, the Buddha of Love - may well be a community rather than an individual."
On the surface, 2007 looks like it will be 2006 on steroids: more madness in Iraq buttressed by war against Iran, an Iranian attack on Israel, Israel's military response and a dozen more bummers as yet unimagined.
Expect traditional media to be "reasonable". Expect digital media to dig deeper. But don't, as most traditional and digital media surely will, see fact-gathering and punditry only through the lens of politics.
Anti-war protest and media are politics, plus. Ditto the environment. Ditto education and health care and feeding the poor. The caring, communal response to those issues has a spiritual dimension. Huffington Post, Daily Kos and Talking Points Memo, and even, in its very small way, my own HeadButler.com, may not use the language of spirit. But, more and more, they are fulfilling a need even bigger than making sure there are no more George Bushes ahead. More and more, they are about you, plural - that is, about us.
And the more they connect us on the heart level, the more they look like sanghas. Happy New Year to that idea....