This picture has nothing to do with my idea for a new post. Except that he is the cutest baby in the world. Am i right? One contorted connection could be that my first grandson is brand new to this world, which reminds me of, and gets me irritated all over again about, the pervasive notion that we human beings must cultivate not our humanity, but something known as our personal brand. I suppose this application of cultural trends on to the mysterious essence of life is not new: the Enlightenment created the Clockmaker god; the Industrial Revolution saw man as a machine; the Digital Age made our brains into computers. We talked about this in my class of seniors last year, a most precocious and fabulous group, after viewing the first hour of the enlightening documentary, "Century of the Self," about Sigmund Freud's nephew Edward Bernays who used his uncle's theories to tie our very identities to consumer goods. We all realized how the commercialized culture had duped us by associating our unique personalities with some corporate marketing ploy. Students admitted their silly tendency to label others based on the label inside or on the shirt they were wearing.
The following week the director of my program brought in a guest speaker to that class. I sat at my desk listening to this young woman, a former, very local, beauty queen, talk about the importance of developing "your personal brand" as college applications loomed. "You know, like if you, like, went on a mission trip or something, play that up. That's part of your brand, like your brand is service." I was a very bad teacher that day. I was behind the young woman and the director so they could not see me rolling my eyes as dramatically as Marty Feldman in Young Frankenstein. My class kept looking at me, then back at her, back at me, all the while trying to keep the smirks off their faces and protect me. As soon as they left, we had a huge inside joke laugh.
Yet here I am, blogging away to the ether, to get the word out about my little doodads, my contribution to the marketplace. I admit it. I'm a hypocrite. Maybe it's a family trait. During his senior year in high school, my middle son was voted Most School Spirited. A few weeks later he wrote a contrarian editorial about how lame it was for alumni to come back to high school parties and football games, and that once he's out, he ain't never coming back. So a few of his buddies took to calling him, Mr. School Spirit I Hate School. So perhaps my brand should be Miss Anti-Branding, Do You LIke Me? And if you do, push that little thumbs up thing so I can feel good about myself today.
We all feel the beauty of the blank slate when we hold a teeny baby. The purity and potential of a new life. We ask ourselves the big questions: "Will he be a J. Crew baby, because as their site admonishes us, "babies love cashmere, too?" Or will he be more or a Badmouth Baby, where he can express his inner redneck with an "I Heart Boobies" or "I Drink 'til I Pass Out, Just Like Daddy" T-shirt? I guess there's no escaping the commercial and technological onslaught of our postmodern culture. But I've been at this "making stuff" thing for a really long time, like rotary phone long time, and really just want others to like it enough so I can find my way across the country to see this little baby keep growing into a beautiful, unique person.