I don’t know about anyone else, but my Facebook feed is full of Masterclass advertisements, more than ever. Perhaps because Facebook knows that I, along with the world, am sitting at home wishing I could avoid wasting the long stretch of time before me, but also hoping that I won’t pick up a book and learn something, but will keep scrolling and then maybe spend some money. Just because you’re stuck at home doesn’t mean someone somewhere can’t make a buck.
Anyway, it’s an interesting mashup—on one hand, a proliferation of Masterclass offerings (which I will get to in just a moment) and also several memes in other places about how one of the worst parts of about the covid-19 war is that no one wants to trust coronavirus experts. What do they know? Are they even on Instagram or anything?
Color me brilliant, because I feel like I just discovered that the internet could solve its own problem.
So anyway, in case you haven’t come across any of the Masterclass adverts, some of the ones I’ve seen include Joyce Carol Oates who teased some fantastical information that I know must be true: the reason that I and others have not become great writers as yet, is not that I lack talent or discipline, or even opportunity. No, the great thing stopping me from writing is the Interruptions of Others. You cannot believe how much I know this to be true. First, I know that it is other people who are constantly ruining everything and keeping me from my dream of writing the Great Anglican Novel. Also, my failures thus far have nothing whatever to do with my intensified covid-19 social media scroll, keeping my anxiety at a perfect pitch. I almost clicked on that class. I long to hear more about how if I could just get people to stop bothering me, everything would be better.
But then there is also Helen Mirren (acting), Anna Wintour (how to be super intimidating? I guess), Jane Goodall (inspiring female scientists), Gordon Ramsey (cooking), David Sedaris (comedy), some Mixologists (people teaching you to make cocktails at home), Bobbi Brown (makeup), the Got Milk guys (how to make a pitch), and Ru Paul (how to be your authentic self, and also drag). There are many many more, of course, and perhaps you, like I, have been tempted and even paid whatever amount of money to learn from the…experts? The Masters. The ones who have the secret knowledge that will help you toward the one thing that’s most worth having. That would be fame, in case you were searching around in the back of your mind for the answer.
It’s fascinating to me that these are being called ‘Master’ classes—learn from the Masters. The people who have ascended to the tippy tops of their professions, who have learned everything there is to know and will share it with you. For Ru Paul, some of those things are (in no particular order): “you’re born naked and the rest is drag;” “everything you put on is something that was built;” “I’m gonna teach you about self-love, confidence, joy, lips…wigs…everything that it takes to unleash the magic that is you;” “drag doesn’t change who you are, it actually reveals who you are;” “it is your life’s work to shine.”The problem, you can see, is that if it is “your life’s work to shine,” and the person to whom you’re looking for help and counsel is a very tall man dressed up as a rather over-sexed caricature of a woman, when you come across some coronavirus experts on some other feed, you might feel like saying, ‘What do you know?’ ‘Why should I listen to you? especially when you’re telling me just to stay home, which is Not Helping Me To Shine.’
This, of course, pertains to the lamentations about the “death of the expert,” the tragedy of people who don’t listen to people who know things and think they know better, even when the things they “know better” are demonstrably false. The world is overtaken by the Dunning-Kruger Effect. We are ‘all’ that medical doctor who thinks he knows about economics, that judge who tries to do psychology from the bench, that restaurateur who gets on twitter to lecture the world about theology, the Chinese government announcing that they successfully coped with coronavirus (I’m just making things up, I don’t have actual examples of these, but google “stay in your lane” and you’ll see what I’m talking about).
And this is because the heart’s cry, “I was made to shine!” is deafening and blinding. If you really think you were made to shine, that the most important thing is to express your authentic self, you cannot listen to anyone who might have some other information about this—like, no it’s not. I mean, I am susceptible to this. I want to be special. I want my voice to be important. I want to tell people what I know about things, even if it is weird and probably untrue information about the coronavirus. And not just me—isn’t that at least one of the reasons many of us are online? I mean—not me—I’m just here watching the covid-19 ticker go up and up.
Anyway, for all the people who are flabbergasted about the death of the expert, maybe they should do a Masterclass? Or, better yet, let’s each do one! I’ll go first. Let me see, I could teach you how to 1. Be distracted by Social Media 2. Get behind on your laundry even though you are home all the time. 3. Fall behind on school even though you are home all the time. 4. Channel Henri le Chat Noire. 5. Try praying and fail at that too!