women of a certain age are like sunflowers; they know how to turn their faces to the sun.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Adoption or Adaption?

There is some interesting terminology over at the Ravelry website. On the page where you can contribute a design of your own, or a yarn you have made, spun, dyed, etc., you have the option of "adopting" a pattern or fiber. Apparently, we all have something to contribute, whether we originate a product or idea or simply pass it on.

Passing it on has become much easier in the age of cut and paste. Want to send a chain letter or a joke? Just hit "forward." Want to communicate an image? Hit "search" and find something that aligns with your vision. Just make sure you attribute.

Want to make a friend? Hit "add to my friends." The "Pay It Forward" swap (which apparently no one wants to join. How can I pay it forward if I have no one to pay it to? Can I pay it backwards, Lucia?)

Where was I?

Oh yes, the PIF swap. I have discovered that swaps, in general, are not my ball of wax (or yarn as the case may be.) As I disclosed last week, I am not an organized person. But, setting that consideration aside, there is still something a little unusual about making a friend by lottery, then shopping and creating for that friend in absentia, sans any real knowledge of the individual's desires and dreams.

There are people on Ravelry whose friends number in the hundreds. And that's nothing, compared to MySpace and Facebook, where our children hang out with thousands of "friends."

Doesn't real friendship require something more? Doesn't it require time, and patience, and the willingness to accept another person, warts and all?

Do we really have hundreds of "friends" or are they acquaintances?

I don't mean to kick the hornet's nest. I know that we can have both friends AND acquaintances on-line and off. I have made real friends on the Internet. But I didn't make them by pushing a button. I made them by investing myself in their world and allowing them into mine. That friendship grew over time.

When we knit, we have a choice. We can "adopt" the pattern as our own or we can choose to adapt it. When we adopt it, we are respecting the integrity of the original, embracing the vision of the designer. We are, in effect, saying, "I agree with you. This is the best way I can knit this item. I wouldn't change a thing."

We no longer live in a "one size fits all" world. Our digital age lets us customize. From blue jeans to web pages, we can "have it our way." I can print my book on demand. I can revise my patterns instantly due to customer feedback (and already have.)

If modifications make a square peg fit in a round hole, or a skinny-minny pattern into something that flatters a middle aged, chubby housewife (not that I know anyone who fits that description) well then, so much the better. Right?

My question is: What happens when we don't adopt a pattern, as is? Does adaption somehow subvert the original intent of the designer? Or does the adaption enhance the appeal of the original?

And what if we substitute people for patterns and pose the same questions? Does adaption of the individual somehow subvert the original intent of God? Or does the adaption enhance the appeal of the original?

Yesterday a 20 year old kid opened fire on a bunch of strangers in a Von Maur store in Omaha. Like the shooters at Virgina Tech and Columbine High, he felt disenfranchised. His family had kicked him out of the house. He no longer felt valued by his family or his society. When he said he was sorry for causing his family pain, he wasn't apologizing for the shooting. No, he thought that fine action would make him famous.

He was apologizing for his very existence. Did he feel unacceptable as he was? Did he think he needed adaption, in the absence of adoption?

The increase in gated communities points to an increasing isolation in our society. There are many days when I would rather brew myself a cup of coffee just the way I like it, cuddle up with my two laptops (the digital and the feline one) and hibernate. Go out? Then I'd have to pay for gas, go out in the cold, figure out where I was going, and wait in line once I got there. Much easier to stay home.

So what happens when we close ourselves up at night, retreat behind closed doors, and find our "friends" on the Internet instead of around the block? Do we adopt? Or do we adapt?

Someone I read yesterday asked if the Internet was replacing LYS's and Knitting Groups as a way to connect with other knitters. Lord, I hope not.

I love Ravelry and all my Internet buddies as much as the next blogger, but I hope I never skip a chance to meet in person, or pick up the phone and hear another human voice.

Above all else, we are a community. We need to commune. In person.

I can use the Internet to find people who think like I do, want the same things, enjoy the same pursuits, worship the same God, live in the same city, country, state. I can join a "knitter's who knit monochromatic, silk scarves, American style,with their left hands, on circular Addi turbo needles" group. If there is no such specialized group, I can start one.

Or I can use the Internet to expand my horizons and widen my perceptions.

I can ensconce myself within a collection of like minded souls. I can adapt my environment to fit my preferences. Or adapt my views, my words, myself to fit in. I can alter my pattern.

Or I can choose not to.

So Saturday, I promise I will haul my lazy carcass out of bed and spend my morning with the Broad Ripple knitters, and my afternoon with the INknitters at my local LYS.

Because sometimes, communion requires more than adaption.

Sometimes, it requires adoption and all the challenges that entails.


Lucia said...

I had a helluva time getting 3 PIF people (which explains why I badgered you into it). I should probably have warned you. I think you are merely at the fat end of the pyramid, and can PIF to whomever you choose, however you choose.

I'm completely with you on the need for human contact, literal, not virtual: human touch, sight, smell, attachment. And all the contests and swaps and -alongs, to say nothing of the meetups and the great joy of fiber festivals, are ways of strengthening the connections we've made online.

I have friends I've never met and others I see once or twice a year if I'm lucky, and I have acquaintances I see every week, the school bus driver, the cafeteria cashier, my coworker in the next cubicle. In some way larger or small, the loss of any one of them would make my world colder.

Susan Pandorf said...

Thanks for making me think, Lucia!

amy said...

You are fortunate to have real life opportunities for meeting with like-minded souls. I don't, really. It's hard for me to drive 45 minutes each way at the end of a long day with two small children to meet up with other knitters. I don't have anything nearby, and while I keep intending to make the drive, I haven't managed yet. I don't complain; I know when my kids are older more of my time will actually be mine. But without talking to like-minded people on the Internet--and by that I mean not only knitters but also other people who homeschool and other mothers with whom I feel a connection--I'd go nuts. No doubt about it. I would be completely isolated, and I'd rather have meaningful virtual contact than none at all. Yes, my kids and I get out and do things, but those are not necessarily MY things. I'll take those connections where I can. I suspect this is why my mother watched soap operas every single day. If the Internet existed back then, at least she might have been connecting with real people instead of TV characters. But she took what was available, and right now, so am I.

margene said...

"Imaginary" friends have become real over time, many face to face friends. Daily I wish we could all see each other face to face...on-line isn't enough (for me). At times, however, I find myself more involved with on-line friends than with 'real' friends. There is nothing that can compare to hanging out with friends you can touch...this is good only as second choice.
We had a mall shooting last year at this time (it was devastating but brought our community closer in the all of it) and the young man said much the same thing. It's too bad they don't have anyone to turn to and feel so lost and alone.

Sheepish Annie said...

Excellent post! It is so easy to just connect with people online and let the "real" relationships flounder. I love my internet pals, but have to be really careful about not becoming isolated by them. It's just too easy!

I also made the decision to only "friend" people on Ravelry who know me or who have added me to their lists. And I make an effort to visit their notebooks or sites whenever possible. It's a little more work, but it feels so much more "authentic." Have fun with the BRKs!!!

La Cabeza Grande said...

Like sheepish annie, I only "friend" people I know - most of them in real life or through correspondence.

Ravelry aside, the Internet has actually facilitated and enhanced my friendships. I marvel at the terrific people (like you) whom I might not have met had I not put myself "out there." I don't feel any isolation in the digital age because this is precisely how my friends (knitting and otherwise) stay connected to each other's lives.

Anonymous said...

The internet is actually what rekindled my love affair with knitting and as a result I have made some dear dear friends whom I never would have met otherwise. And we now have non-electronic contact as well lol!

I absolutely agree with what you are saying but that is where self-awareness and intent comes into play as well as choice in terms of how we choose to use the internet in our lives.

And I am glad to be "friended" by you on Ravelry as it will allow me to easily keep up with your fantastic work!

Kim said...

The internet like anything else is good...bad. I have widened my horizon of real friends through blogging. My virtual friends are now my honest to goodness real friends who I so enjoy when we all get the chance to be together.

So, while I really agree that it is important to reach out to your local community and be a real part of it, our virtual community is very real as well. Remember my Sisterhood of Bees post? That is what I think of when I think of my virtual fiber sisters......a real community of women supporting women in the best of all ways.

Opal said...

I love my online friends and many of them have carried on to my real life interactions, but the Internet will never replace my knitting group. There is no substitute for face to face interaction.

Pat K said...

If it were not for the Internet, I wouldn't have friends with whom I could talk about knitting and other things. I wouldn't have the knowledge and inspiration that I find there. Or the encouragement. And isn't it great to make new friends who have more than even knitting in common?

Cindra said...

So, does this mean you won't make it to Mass Ave Saturday afternoon and meet in person all the Ravelry people?
2nd Question - where do the Broad Ripple knitters meet and is it open?

Anonymous said...

From my perspective: I believe that internet acquaintences help us make the decision as to adopt or not. Like the first date, you get to accumulate enough data to help you decide whether to actually go out and physically spend time or realize it was more fun to just chat on the "phone".

Ravelry is like having the best Knitting Encyclopedia at my fingertips - yay!

Danielle said...

Well said! :)

Rebecca said...

Very thought provoking! As for me, I am thankful for the blog world of knitters and for Ravelry because I live somewhat isolated in the mountains. Because of the distance to the closest LYS, it is not easy for me to make it down for the 'knitting together' events. Having on-line 'friends', albeit superficial or not, can help me feel like I am not quite as isolated as in reality I really am.............

KSee said...

This is by far the most thought provoking post I've come across. I totally agree with you and I will remember this the next time I'm invited to knit and have coffee and get out of the house. I've only joined one swap this past summer and have decided that one was enough, and then I came across PIF and thought I can do that. It has taken me two tries and I now have two people! Thank you for your words