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  • Andre Lamartin

Galaxies to Explore

If the world is a planet, each human being is a galaxy. One of such depth, breadth and complexity only the divine can fully explore. The task before us to realize that only through self-expression can others truly ascertain who we are, determine what we stand for and have meaningful social interaction. Hence the importance of free speech and peaceful human discourse.

I value Facebook because I perceive it to be a powerful tool for self-expression. If mutual trust is the foundation of every meaningful human relationship, than sincerity is the primary prerequisite for true friendship. We are always naked before God, but fully clothed before the world, even when we are naked. Openly taking a stand for what we believe may expose ourselves to the caustic derision of others, but vulnerability is the price of sincerity, and only sincerity brings personal growth and understanding. It allows us to benefit from the perspective of others and teaches us to correct our mistakes. Only those who humble themselves before the world truly deserve to be exalted, these are words long written down.

Facebook is an appropriate platform for self-expression because it is a truly democratic forum. It has almost 2 billion users spread across all regions of the world and it comes free of charge. More importantly, the user retains ownership of all original content uploaded, merely awarding Facebook a license for use. It allows for globalized social interaction and intellectual discourse that was logistically impossible merely years ago. Reducing a social network of this scale solely to the muted exchange of pictures taken at social gatherings, events and trips undermines the true significance of self-expression.

Posting pictures on social media without any proper context or commentary tells me absolutely nothing about an individual as a human being. A deceptively serene smile can always conceal a smoldering lake of despair. An image deceives the eye because it values form over essence. Whoever said that a picture is worth a thousand words must surely have been illiterate or extremely lacking in sensibility. A word is a written thought, a written feeling, a written story.

An image is a momentary glimpse of a transient physical reality that can always be deceptive in its external appearance. The art of photography will object to this statement, but an occasional exception does not invalidate the rule. Combining the best of both worlds might be the most agreeable solution. Different art forms should always be on speaking terms. Siblings of the same family should not be engulfed in fratricidal wars.

Conversely, one might object that words can be even more deceptive and treacherous than images. This is an unfortunate fact. Goebbels himself once said that “a lie repeated often enough finally becomes the truth.” One need only suffer through George Orwell’s “1984” to understand the dehumanizing power of political propaganda. Words cannot be morally neutral if imbued with the meaning used to define our lives, to communicate feelings, to transmit ideas, to persuade others, to change the world.

Nevertheless, an army of words summoned to defend the truth can always defeat an army of words conscripted to spread a falsehood. Such is the power of human discourse. This is why the right of free speech, enshrined in article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is of such fundamental importance to the very concept of what it means to be human. A world devoid of self-expression, devoid of words is one ruled by despots and populated by silent strangers.

The use of words, however, does not justify prolixity and of this charge, I now stand guilty. Thomas Wolfe and Marcel Proust were equally guilty of said crime, but talent and professional acclaim are always exculpatory arguments for the charge at hand. So forgive me for extending myself well beyond the acceptable measure of one’s patience. The Milky Way Galaxy contains over 100 billion planets, a single human being many more.

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