Tuesday, December 3, 2013
So, the word of the year, according to Oxford International Dictionary is (Can you restrain your excitement?)...."Selfie." What is a selfie, you are asking yourself? I didn't know either (which says more about my age, 41, and my lack of connectedness to all things hip or cool). A selfie is, "a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken on a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website." For example, here is a selfie that I took of myself after 23 hours of flight time to India, about to land in Bagdore, India. It's hard to know what is actually worse, the picture, or my appearance after so many hours without sleep. According to Oxford International Dictionaries, a group who actually charts such things for a living, the use of the word selfie has increased by 17,000 percent over the past 12 months. The word now has a permanent place in the hallowed halls of verbiage and definitionalism in the Oxford International Dictionary. It's hard to know if Dr. Samuel Johnson, who wrote the first Oxford Dictionary in the early 1700's would have been dismayed at the new choice or simply mortified.
The reason I have chosen this new word for my blogpost this morning, however, is because the new addition to the Oxford Dictionary may, selfie, may in fact say more about modern day culture than it does about verbosity in general. Isn't it interesting that the newest word really is focussed on "Me." Not, me as in Graham Baird, but you, and you, and you and you. Selfie may actually be the most selfish word ever to enter the Oxford Dictionary. Not only is the word inclusive of the word self, but it is a word used to describe a picture of ones' self. The word of the year is not, notice this, "youie." Wouldn't that be wonderful? Wouldn't it be wonderful if the word of the year was focussed on another person..."you." But it's about - Me. Wouldn't it be wonderful if the word of the year was chosen because so many people took pictures of other people, that they had to come up with a word for it..."youie." But here's my main question. Is the word selfie really a good description of what the thing is, actually? I mean, it's just a picture of yourself, it's not really yourself. The word of the year should perhaps be, "picie," since, as Freud would surely agree, a selfie is not really your SELF in the picture, it's just an image of you., it's not your SELF.
What would Jesus think of our word of the year? Jesus said, "And here is my command, that you should love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends," (John 15:12). Jesus' thought for us is powerful. What he is saying is that loving another person (you) is actually a more powerful love than we can have for ourselves. If selfie indicates the focus of the love we have in our modern era, what Jesus may say is that, "loving yourself is actually less of a love than loving another person." Loving ourselves is incomplete. Loving ourselves actually leaves a hallow space in our hearts. We must allow God to love us, and if we want complete love, we should love one another. Loving ourselves is not as great as loving another person. So, Jesus may say that we live in a world which is ultimately incomplete in it's expression of love.
On the other hand, perhaps the reason that the word selfie is the word of the year is not because we love ourselves so much, but perhaps it is the opposite. Perhaps we don't love ourselves these days at all, and therefore, in our vanity, and insecurity, we send pictures of ourselves to others, hoping that they will love us, as much as we really want and need to be loved. Maybe the word of the year is akin to the word mirror. We see reflections of ourselves in the pictures that we take of ourselves, but we don't find love there either.
Or maybe, to quote Freud again; "sometimes a picture is just a picture. Sometimes a selfie is just a selfie."
All For Now,