“If there is an ethics of the novel, it lies in the zone where the other moves between the definite and indefinite. Credit Illustration by Dadu Shin.”
“Monday, ugh. It’s 7.48am and you’re already late. You desperately need a piccolo latte and a hug. Quick, where’s your failsafe linen shirt? Nowhere to be found. You pull out the…”
“AP/The Atlantic What ISIS Really Wants The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the…”
“When I was asked to do a piece for Gizmodo and io9, I confess I went a bit silly. I had the idea of describing a Lord of the Rings parallel universe, using the climactic scene in which the Dark Tower…”
“Frosty the Snowman. Chestnuts roasting on an open fire. (Or, well, ghosts of chestnuts past.) A bundled-up Santa in his sleigh. The imagery of Christmas inevitably incorporates the coziness of winter. But Christmas isn’t cold for everyone. Head south of the equator, where Santa makes his rounds a few scant days after the summer solstice, and the imagery of the festive season starts to gets a little confused. This is particularly evident in Australia, where British and American cultural influences collide with the inescapable realities of the weather, resulting in a lot of sweaty people in Santa hats lolling about on Bondi Beach. So how does this work?”
“Fifty-three light years away from our planet, an L-dwarf star has a storm raging near its north pole. And it’s pretty incredible, from an Earthling’s point of view.”
You start off single. You meet someone, and you lose touch with your single friends and become closer with your coupled friends. You marry, and in that you cross another threshold: you lose touch with your coupled friends and you become closer with your married friends. Having kids has the same effect: is it easier to be friends with those people who have kids.
When you divorce, all your friends are there for you and you lean on them. Time heals things; soon you are able to stand on your own. You try to relate to those folks again, but you realize you are a third wheel and you cannot expect them to remember that you are alone. You stop calling and find a place to start a new path.
You make new friends, you date, you move on. You stop trying to fill your own scarred foundations with the mortar of other peoples lives: you build your own.
Eventually, those old friends note they haven’t seen you in quite a while. You say, “Yep. I’ve been busy.”
It’s no lie. You have been busy with your own life, which is more intricate and rich than you ever expected. Your life exists in a space not tethered to anything but the most minimal of things…yourself. You are no moon, scarred and barren, orbiting someone else’s verdant world. You have become a comet, coming around once in a great while, traveling your own path and moving at your own speed.
That’s when you realize that you like your life. That’s when you smile and mean it.
It started as individual voices in the wilderness. We bonded around our interests. We used the technology to communicate across the real distance between us, to generate ideas, to push our needs forward. We blogged and we podcasted and we encouraged one another. We were misfits that found our community, our tribe, our people.
Eventually the businesses noticed. They began using us to market to ourselves. The goal of marketing is to create a need, and in this, the marketers barely had to do anything at all. We were all so very needy. We needed to be Liked. We needed comments. We needed validation.
We’re all trying to find some sort of contentment with who we are and how we live our lives. These days, the voices telling us how to be happy are everywhere, thanks to our connectivity. Articles have been written about how Social Media has failed on a business and media level, but we should also consider how it has failed on a personal level.
Our social feeds are filled with tips and tricks, 8 Simple Ways to Do This Thing, 12 Easy Ways to do The Other. Articles about “doing meaningful work” or “fostering your creativity” abound. All the humble brags, all the ways we either display our pride or reveal our need for love; they don’t help us grow as people. They augment the void within. In the end, it is all talk, words on the winds of cyberspace, here for a moment then driven away when the page is refreshed.
Social media has become little more than a machine for generating envy and discontent. Businesses that run social networks make money on our insecurity ; they have made peer pressure into a measurable science. The things that we have created are kneecapping us by exploiting our weaknesses instead of bolstering our strengths.
All is transience, all is vanity, and we are willing, complicit participants.
There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. -Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance
I remember my parents saying to me, “If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?”
I can see the cold water rushing up to greet us, holding hands while we fall. It’s not where we thought we’d be.
Contentment, accomplishment, and happiness are not digital services. They cannot be subscribed to.
Let’s rethink how we interact with this thing we call The Internet. It’s a tool, not a destination. It is an abstraction of real life, not reality itself. It will never love you. It has an off switch, and we need to remind ourselves of that.
The ice cream shop is gone. This is the second thing I notice about how the city has changed since leaving it. Scooters, the homemade ice cream store run by the older couple with all the Euclid Beach Park memorabilia has gone the way of Euclid Beach itself; the space replaced with something newer.
The new paves over the old.
Some places are still there. I make a note to stop at the Arabica coffeehouse and grab a mocha before leaving the area; I have fond memories of sitting in that place and working on backend code for my previous job, back in what could be called “the day.”
Five years is not so long ago, but thinking back on it is like trying grasp hands with someone on the other side of the Grand Canyon.
Much in my life has changed since in those five years. I’ve held three jobs, moved four times. I’ve gotten divorced, become a single parent. One of my daughters has started high school, the other is in middle school. My son has moved from potty training to beating me at board games. I live miles away, literally and figuratively, from this city where my ex-wife any I bought our first home/
Some things collapse. New things are born.
Valet parking abounds here now. The whole place has gone upscale: Erie Street wears the new restaurants and stores well. It feels alive, vibrant. Some high school kids are playing chess while smoking outside The Wild Goose, one of the new bars on the strip. Sandwich boards line the sidewalk advertising wine, beer, smoked oysters, walk-ins welcome. There is barely any parking, which speaks to how well the downtown is doing these days.
It would be easy to use the revitalization of the street as a metaphor for my own inner life, but I resist this: it’s crap. It’s the mind seeking a story, a pattern within change. To bind oneself to a physical place is to try to make time stand still: the delta between reality and memory is read like cards spread on an altar. The trumps are recognizable, but the pattern is invented, and in the end, turns out to be something you already know.
Sometimes, all you can do is find a bar you’ve never seen, step in, and have a beer.
Tonight, I opt for that plan.