Fish footprints are useless.

But what if you could freeze the lake?
What if every wake was preserved in a flash?

Then we might be onto something…

Photo: Andrey – (CC BY 2.0)

(WARNING: I’ve had a LOT of caffeine this morning.)

And what if instead of a lake we were talking about the atmosphere around a conversation, an audience, or an art gallery?

And instead of fish we were talking about things that we can’t help but respond to?
Sentences, a bar of music, or a piece of art, perhaps?


Then that frozen wake is now a perfect model to describe a vector of emotion.
The larger the wake, the more profound the effect on the atmosphere. Art and prose that echo longest are modeled as tsunamis and hurricanes that shape the shores of our culture.

That should get you thinking.

Photo: Rene Kisselbach – (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Frame of Reference

Most of the words we share on the Internet, or lines sung quietly to oneself are lost because our ‘lake’ isn’t frozen. Emotional impact, footprints, are lost because the atmosphere in conversations, audiences, and art galleries are always in motion.

But now we have a useful frame of reference by which we can describe the things that generate emotional responses. For example, even though my description of the lake was purely visual, I can say something like emotionally loud and you immediately catch what I mean. We intuitively understand a wake as a sort of wave, and to borrow from actual science a bit, it has an amplitude and frequency just like sound or light.

Photo: Scott Meis – (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Of Impact

While we could get into the poetry that we could derive from this (reverberating fear, shallow sadness, or the roar of blinding joy) made by combining adjectives normally associated with sound and light with an emotion, I think it’s more impactful to think about the ‘emotional footprints’ we tend to leave in the day-to-day.

Our culture is so bent on being heard that we don’t take the time to consider the emotionally quiet voices we are drowning out. Articles sear through Facebook like viral lightning. Blindingly toxic tweets permeate the atmosphere…for what? To be heard? To have our opinions known?

Photo: Tony Armstrong – (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Taking Action

I think we’re better than this. We have the capacity to be far more considerate. Our recklessness yields little change at best, and collateral damage at most.

As an example, think back to the last time you were made upset by something  you saw on Facebook, or Twitter. Did you take any real action? Write a letter? Donate money? Or did you simply further disseminate the emotion? This is what I’m talking about.

Photo: Sippanont Samchai – (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Crafted Waves

Why not create sentences and art with more intentionality? Make the wake matter. Plunge the enormous boulder into the fragile fabric of emotional water on purpose. Know where the wave is going. Calculate how it hits the shore. Put some thought into it for crying out loud.

If we aren’t improving on silence or stillness then we are wasting both.

Photo: Anja – (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Thinking Twice

This is why art is so incredible. It is specifically created for the emotional footprint. It is a tsunami started in deep water fashioned to shape the shore forever. It is a searing flash, a ringing roar, or a poignant repose screaming something intentional into the lake of reality.

And I think that’s pretty stinkin cool.

So the challenge is to consider the emotional footprint of what you say, think (or else do internal damage to your own precious mind), do, and share.


RESPOND: What’s one way you could be more selective with your art? With what you share on social media? With what you say in the day to day? Let me know in the comments!

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