12 January 2009

Vol. 0, Issue 18 | Asked and Answered

[originally written 04 January 2006, 1:17pm]

Via email, a good friend of mine & I caught up with each other, as one tends to do around this time of year. Among the topics of discussion were our lack of journaling over the past year. I mostly dodged the topic, as I never seem to have the time to answer the question as honestly as I'd like. However, her next question got me going, and I was in old form again before I knew it. And all she did was ask:

"How are you?"

I’m... I don’t know. I’m relatively fit. I’m gainfully employed. I’ve an enviable living space. I meet new & (potentially) exciting people every month. I don’t feel like running out into traffic or taking a swan dive off the Fremont Bridge or any such nonsense. I’m not depressed. I’m not manic. It’s just...

I’m not happy. I don’t even feel complacent or content either. I’ve been both of those. Happy and I don’t visit very often, and only in brief encounters, but I still recognize Happy when it comes around. Content I do very well. But this... Whatever this is... This isn’t contentment. This is some sort of cog-in-the-wheel feeling that I recognize (project?) in others that I observe. Which, you’d think, would foster a kinship between me and mine. Sadly, no. The nature of this particular malaise is such that the Self becomes more insulated from the rest of the world. Buzzwords of ‘self-centered’, ‘self-absorbed’, ‘selfish’, etc, etc, are bandied about, as a casual observance of those afflicted. Which, while somewhat true, is not entirely accurate. What’s the cause? I end up wondering. Because I can clearly tell that this is the effects, the symptoms, and not the disease.

It has something to do with the Information Society that we’ve become. Rather, a reaction to the information overload that inundates us hourly. We, as a whole, hit a saturation point some time ago, but are addicted to the feed nonetheless. We can’t handle anymore, yet we can’t see to go without our fix either. There are information programs that discuss how much information we as a society are assaulted with, for Pete’s sake! What about that isn’t a telling sign? Hell, I’m writing this, and I find my own attention waning, wanting the next thing, the fresher piece of intel. Judas. Fucking. Priest.

And is it really surprising then, that many of us have turned inward, trying instinctively to protect the Self? We focus all of our attention into our immediate surroundings, the handful of things which we can influence & control directly. Because that becomes all that matters, all that we can care about. But we are never without the World-at-Large, with our radios and televisions and Internet-connections beaming information into our homes, our supposed sanctuaries. Like the story about the miners in West Virginia. Sure the miners’ deaths are tragic. But tragedies happen all the time. The difference is that now we know about them, and that crushes us. And our inability to do anything about them makes us feel more and more ineffectual as people, so we do little tiny things instead... Things that we can do something about. And in the process, we become obsessed with what we can do, so that it is the only thing we can discuss. Another defense against additional information reaching us.

Think about it. How many conversations have you had recently where none of the people involved were really listening to the others? I’m not talking about people who have always been inherently self-absorbed. (They, I think, are ahead of the game this round.) I mean the people you’ve known for awhile, whose behavior has become similar to what I’m describing over a period of time. I’ve seen it in myself. I’ve seen it in my friends. Friends that I’d never (and don’t now) categorize as ‘selfish’ or ‘self-absorbed’. It’s just become the necessary adaptation to dealing with too much information.

It’s not as though it’s all useful information either. It’s just a steady stream into our heads, leaving us no time nor space in our heads to process or utilize most of it effectually. Instead, it distracts us, shortens our attention spans, fosters that feeling of forgetfulness (of which I’m particularly afflicted), and makes it all the easier for those in power to remain in power as we wander around perpetually distracted in the New Ignorance. And that thought, whenever I manage to hold onto it, is the one that reminds me to be angry. To be vigilant. To adapt in a different way than curling up into myself. But, unfortunately, I can never hold on to it for long. And I return to my cog-like, status quo existence.

Or maybe everyone else is right: maybe I just need a girlfriend. Meh...

There’s my answer. Or rant. Same thing these days anyway.

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