Sunday, January 4, 2015

Was it the Blue Pill, or The Red?

There are moments, usually when I have some cable news network on to keep me company, when I'm overtaken by an all-encompassing, surreal, dystopian queasiness. It's like the blue pill from The Matrix has kicked in (or the red one, I can never remember) and I'm just now realizing that something  terrible has happened, we have gone past a point of no return and we are hurtling toward an existential horror, and in those moments, I have this weird gratitude that I've already lived well more than half the years I've probably been allocated. I get a simulataneous twinge of guilt that I won't be around to help out when the shit really hits the fan and there is anarchy, and the water is gone, and zombies rule the earth. And then I will notice the man I love, outside my window and he's cutting cardboard into flat squares that will fit into the recycling bin and I will smell the stew that's bubbling on the stove and I will hear the hum of the furnace kicking on and I remember how lucky I am to have this life and for the moment, I feel safe.

I'm sorry that it's been so long, Eudaemonia. I knew on that late December day in 2009 when I posted my last words that I was no longer all about the books and I was not going to be one of those people who write them, but I didn't know where I was going or who I was becoming. I'm finally here and though I still don't know what the point of it all is, I do know that I am drawn back here to try and work it out. Perhaps it's no coincidence that for days I've been opening closets and drawers and boxes in order to touch each thing and to figure out what belongs and what no longer fits in this New England life of mine. Piles of discards and donations form and disappear, cabinets and shelves empty and refill, each chosen object polished or folded or washed and replaced with just a little more respect than it had before. The ones that don't make the cut, I silently thank for their service. This is going to take some time, but now that it's started, the process does feel urgent.

And so it is with all things in the world. Which of the the myriad of issues gets my head space and what gets discarded? Which tragedies must I turn away from lest they eat me alive and which of them must I bear the weight of because I live in this world and I have a heart? Where do I store those thoughts that deserve revisiting, that I can't just dismiss? The internet and its widespread adoption by everyone, not just the technically savvy has made engagement much trickier and more frustrating. This was a much smaller world when I started Eudaemonia. My online existence was tied to a few dozen like minded souls, fellow bloggers who made a practice of working through their ideas meticulously and with care. Over time most of my blogging friends and I wandered away from our blogs for the faster paced appeal of Twitter and Facebook. And I must say, I was happy there for a time. But now, my interactions have expanded to include so many more souls beyond that early group of thoughtful folk and the fast paced interactions have become superficial and unsatisfying. Neither the platform, nor the readers are friendly to the long, rambly thinking out loud that Eudaemonia was so good for.

What to do?

It's tempting to try and go back to the world of Eudaemonia, where not only were my readers thoughtful and intelligent, but my friends and I tended toward the same politics and worldview. It was comfortable and reassuring. But that Eudaemonia is five years gone. Twitter allowed me to continue living in my own private echo chamber for a while, but alas, Facebook does not. If it were only that my friends, relatives and acquaintences merely differed in opinion, but were thoughtful and informed and able to discuss their differences in a polite and reasoned fashion, it would be uncomfortable, but productive. But as we all know, the world is not made up of only intelligent, informed and articulate folk. In fact, the democratization that the internet provides has made me realize that the intelligent, informed and articulate folk are probably a tiny minority. It does no greater good to seek out subgroups of people who we are drawn to and who will violently agree with my ideas. No good at all. It also does no good to post controversial subject matter within forums like Facebook because -- I don't have to explain why not. Everybody knows. Is it possible to reach people who don't think the way I do? Is it worth it to even try?

So my inclination is to come back to Eudaemonia in 2015 to see if I might work through some of the complicated feelings I have about things happening in our world. Throughout this existential crisis I've been having, I've predicted, in the annoying way that people over fifty seem to have, that this summer was the start of a decade of unrest, uncertainty and revolution. I believe the internet is facilitating a toxic exchange between an increasing number of groups of people who no longer think about "us", but think about "us" and a growing number of "thems".  This devolution can't be inevitable.

I haven't given much thought to how I'll come back, but if you're still with me at this point in the post, I love you and I appreciate you and I wish you a Happy 2015.

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Literary Quote

It is worth mentioning, for future reference, that the creative power which bubbles so pleasantly in beginning a new book quiets down after a time, and one goes on more steadily. Doubts creep in. Then one becomes resigned. Determination not to give in, and the sense of an impending shape keep one at it more than anything.

Virginia Woolf