My mom has been commenting to me about the proliferation of political fundraising in her email in box. She notes the personal-sounding pleas from Nancy and Harry, Obama, Joe, Hilary, addressing her by name, telling her "this is urgent." Poor retired college professor and they are after her. I open my eyes and peek at my iPhone first thing, obligingly checking email, to nothing but sales pitches. Next, Google News, if not the weather icons, but full of similarly useless information, a selling of importance. And note, sign of the times, or perhaps my own utter unimportance and lack of social utility, the lack of personal correspondence, the lack of the 'hey, how are you,' or anything remotely resembling a letter of old, or a postcard. I'm guilty of falling into this culture as much as anyone. It's as if all things were weighed for importance and relevance, maybe in the supposedly 'new' 'world' economy, and the personal came out the loser to the practical. There's not much money to be made, there's not anything to sell or convince another of a need for a thing. A quaint habit, squelched. Just as people used to have real conversations when they picked up the old Ma Bell phone.
Perhaps it's not necessarily the case that, like any inhabitant of the electronic city, guarded against strangers, focussed on our own business, the motives of any personal missive is a primary consideration. What does this person want from me, we ask. Wired into, as emails now are, unless you have a really disciplined junk filter, are economic terms: what is the worth? a sale? if too friendly, well, either the fool is dangerous, a crazy, for giving things away, or there is an ulterior motive.
When will we reach the point of making like a diminished tribe a last stand of the personal, for the offer of friendship and camaraderie in the cyber world? Is such an erosion visible to those who offer personal interaction, as one might being a bartender to a place that allows time for a break, a place to come with regularity and familiarity? I notice different walks of life accept it. A noble talk that delves into literature, a bow to culture and travels discussed, a meeting place, a clearinghouse….
I find myself watching religious programming, the Catholic channel, EWTN, to get a break from the commercialization, the materialism, the emphasis on things, the broadcast culture of 'practicality,' economy, the death of attributing worth to human life. Where does my own professional life of professional personal interaction lead? When does it turn simply into a lack of funds, a lack of position, a lack of a decent regular life, a lack of tenure, a position untenable? All for the lack of selling, as we all must, a product…
Must even academics be selling something, a product offered, to allow them the haven of their positions? Sometimes the selling of anger through poetry or theater… Anger sells.
The words of an old Amherst English professor have a truth, that a teacher must battle against the world.
But as a writer, which is to say, still a human creature with some native wild about himself, I might take notice that the world, through its devices, tries to venture in, to intrude, to attempt to plant seeds of need or outside thought, as one tries to assemble the words that swim and bob in the rivers of his thoughts, really as if many different voices were trying to knock his tray over, to disrupt the thought and tasks at hand, the hands of a needy world of selfish individuals waving him over with their claims. All of which I say in regard to media and commerce, to the world of advertising, the multifarious nature of just about everything you might look at, the ad next to the news story.
Say what you will about Hemingway or any other writer, but that wisely and humanely, they knew the validity of retreating quietly into silent work.
In the waning light of sunset of a warm January day out on the back porch, I see the rippled quality to the air the light is passing through above the shadow of my body, heat waves rising like billowing gasses pouring out, not unlike the sun does. A plain observation I might not have otherwise noticed if I'd fallen into the rabbit hole offered by a laptop's web browser.
And I think of Emily Dickinson's work. Her little blurbs of observations, often containing almost impossibly great power, unselfish, not selling anything, the confession of finding something to share captured in a metaphor or in the sound of the human voice itself… The original messages that come out of one's own tended gardened brain connecting the day to day so that the next day coming toward us will not be diminished. Seemingly unimportant little scraps, sketched out originally on odd bits of paper and envelopes before being gathered in to fascicle…
She spanned the Universe eventually without even leaving the confines of her yard and house. She knew the bird-like creativity we might have with words from little ditties to sing to great epiphanies and gospels.
The first Sunday off I can remember in ages, working Saturday night in exchange. I'd forgotten what feeling of normalcy a Sunday off brings. One stops to appreciate the peace of the world, goes out to buy something to cook at home. It makes me wonder, all the gullible fool kid making his first professional choices put up with to be part of a team. You can only have one boss, it is wisely said.
How radically different it is to be off on a Sunday, everyone's day of rest. Not that 'axe murderer feeling' of walking up through the park but different from all the rest, no time to smell the roses. Not that large gap that must be bridged when talking to others, feeling the low-down shitttyness of Monday mornings.