A Voice in the Wilderness

   There's an ancient passage that describes "a voice crying in the wilderness..." I've been wondering... why was the owner of the voice out in the wilderness if he was a trying to affect change? Why wasn't he in the city, where the people are? There may be several reasons, which can apply across a broad range of things that we do:

   A. There aren't many people saying things in the wilderness, so a voice is much more likely to be heard there than in the cacophony of the city.

   B. Someone walking in the wilderness has a left their normal support structures behind, so they're more vulnerable. When you're out there, something might fall on you or bite you, or it might even eat you. So you're far more attentive to the things that you see and hear.

   C. Someone walking in the wilderness has also left behind all their normal schedule of activities. No errands to run out there. So their attention isn't consumed with all the things of daily life.

   In the ancient passage, once the few sensitized listeners returned to the city, they told all their friends about the compelling message they had heard from the voice, and soon, multitudes of people were making the trek to the wilderness to hear the message. So it's likely that far more people heard the voice than would have ever heard in the city.

   What does all this have to do with us? The era of mass media is ending, splintering into countless shards, so not even the gazillionaires can buy enough ink or airtime to be heard by the masses now, because everyone is reading, watching, or listening to something different.

   But the social media that are replacing mass media are a roiling, never-ending cascade of voices... My twitter stream never sleeps; does yours? Speaking blindly into that maelstrom of sound could very well be useless. What to do? I'd suggest that following the pattern of the ancient voice in the wilderness is a really good idea:

   A. Speak in places where there aren't nearly so many voices. This means losing all pretense of a broadcast to the masses, and speaking directly to individuals.

   B. Speak to those who are vulnerable, meaning that they're in need of something. Don't try to feed someone who is stuffed. "But wait," you say, "we're all vulnerable and needy in some way or another." Exactly. So what do you have that's useful for someone? They don't care about what you have; they care about what they need. The ancient voice was offering something exceptionally powerful that everyone needed. Most of us have lesser things to offer... but it had better still be useful stuff for someone, otherwise you're nothing more than a huckster to that person.

   C. Speak to people outside their normal schedule of activities. Otherwise, you're nothing but an interruption, and therefore no better than a spammer. For years, this was exceptionally tough, because we had all grown so busy that our schedules consumed us. The Meltdown has changed that for many who are now unemployed or underemployed, and also less able to buy things to fill their time. I'm hopeful that the Meltdown may therefore lead to more listeners who are then able to find the things that are really useful to them.

© 2012 The Guild Foundation Press