This is why people leave and don't come back.
I don't know about you but I can't read the news anymore. And as I say that, if I look back at my internet browsing history I'll find that I was just on CNN four minutes ago.
It's awful. It's addictive. It's almost always depressing, and it is, by nature, endless. But it's the reason I opened this blog up and started writing again. So, perhaps, just for today it's a little bit productive. I'll know in about 1,500 words.
I really don't know what to make of it all--this whole process of deciding what should be shared with the world--between the dangerous position of the reporters on the ground or in the office building, the reactions to the stories, the comments posted by what often seem to be mostly uneducated, vitriolic, lunatics and the slow dissolve and retreat of the aforementioned headlines to semi or full obscurity, leaving behind at the most a match in a Google search and at the least a new pet's fetid cage liner. It just seems like something is driving the people of this world to the brink of insanity or worse.
I guess the small bit of solace I can glean from it all is that I, for now, am not personally involved in any of the stories currently climbing the charts. And a disturbing facet of online news is that there absolutely is a "chart" system. By showing on a sidebar which stories are being viewed the most we are essentially turning our newspaper into a popularity contest where we just have to see what everybody thinks is worth knowing more about. It used to be the headline that grabbed a reader (or viewer, as it were). We once judged a story by the first few words and a picture or two. Now, it's an online poll with absolutely no explanation for accuracy or results.
If this red ledger line is longer than that red ledger line then this event must mean more regardless of what it's about.
Could it be that we see insanity spreading far and wide and so we feel it's becoming more acceptable? Have we arrived at a point where what is essentially intended to evoke empathy has instead led to mass indoctrination? Or is it just that when we see something unthinkable that has happened to someone else it allows us to grab ahold of that little bit of sanity which we do still possess and show it once and for all that we love it unconditionally and would do anything to keep it safe?
I feel like I am the one obese person in a ice cream eating competition that sees something is horribly, horribly wrong.
But that's just me and my metaphors. God, I wish I could stop.
I don't know. I know there's good stuff going on all over the place. I know that bad news travels faster and it usually travels cheaper (or even free and with a police escort). But I also know that I often get a distinct feeling from even some of the good news stories that makes me wonder if there's some insipid angle that's not being brought to light--that there's an underlying evil which has yet to surface. And I unfortunately feel like there's some quota of public interest stories that must be fulfilled daily. And that, to me, is the worst part of it all.
There's a certain joy I take in reading the local paper. It's not just the fact that our newspaper has been around since the eighteenth century. It's not just the pleasing fonts they use or the colors that are chosen to accompany the headlines. But I really like knowing that there is only five sections and thirty or so pages to today's newspaper (with a few extra allowed for the weekend section). I can take in only a set number of words and sentences with my eyes and there are only so many pictures to accompany those finite number of stories.
I'm not going to find any videos in the newspaper. I'm not going to set out on an endless succession of links and open windows. And I'm not going to see that thirty of my "friends" have shown their approval of any of the noteworthy pieces.
It's comforting, even though the headlines more often than not report the terror, sadness, and loss that the citizens of this world seem to dish out to each other on a minute by minute basis. It has a duty to report those issues and incidents as it is a newspaper and its focus is contained in its title. But it has a sense of scope that I feel we have lost today. It is flawed by design, but this flaw is what makes it work so well. Our brains can only take in so many items in a day and this finite form facilitates our limitations. Of course the methods of printing and the cost of production are the main culprits in its incapacity for endless advancement. But I find there to be a supreme beauty in this failing.
I wonder why CNN.com doesn't include a page for comic strips? But I guess if you're using a computer then you have a world of entertainment at your disposal. Lucky us.
I'm a little concerned that someday there won't be any newspapers left for us to pick up and read. It pains me to think of a time when we will be forced to utilize such a malleable and inconsistent platform such as a web page for all of our information--something that, by design, encourages us to keep turning page after page after page after page until we are so far away from the initial story that all we can remember is that at some point we woke up, then we went to our terminal, and then we fell asleep again.
I'm worried that someday there won't be anything to ball up and stuff inside packages to send away; there won't be anything to line the cages for our animals that doesn't come from a pet store; there won't be anything to cut out for a scrapbook that hasn't come out of a home printer; and just like there are no more phone booths left in the country there will be no more newspaper boxes to squat and read the top half of the headlines. For some Americans it's our only exercise.
I suppose that there is a certain amount of irony that right now anyone who is reading this is most likely doing it on a computer. While I'm not anywhere close to a deal with Simon and Schuster I am in the process of having a certain amount of my posts put into book form with the hopes of someday having it published--at least in this language, and perhaps a few others. And when that happens I will be able to breathe a sigh of relief. Because any book has a first page and a last page. It may contain pictures and it may urge the reader to delve deeper into it's back catalog or look forward to an upcoming publication. But it has only so many chances on so many sheets of paper in which to tell its story.
And the story I have to tell--the story of my take on life and how I managed to stop trying to slowly end it--will hopefully resonate with its readers. It has a certain continuity, albeit fraught with contradictions. It has its moments of enlightenment and it has its periods of great sorrow. It has frilly, fluffy soliloquies and it has its intense bouts of self-consciousness. It has no real end as of yet but it will have a thoughtful pause as the first volume comes to a close.
All this is a dream still, but it's closer to happening than not.
My aunt, Lynda, lived to see the first nine months of entries. In fact, she helped edit many of them, the English teacher that she was.
One day when I was visiting her I saw a set of notebooks each with a picture of me and my mom on the cover--a picture from many years ago after a musical performance which moved her to tears. They were labeled "Fearless By Default Vols. 1, 2, and 3." I picked one up and flipped through it. Sure enough my aunt had printed out and compiled all of the entries I had written up to that point. I was floored. I asked her about them and she told me matter-of-factly that "One day years from now when all the computers stop working and the internet breaks down, all that will be left is what we have on paper . . . and I want your words to survive because they are important."
Of course this was something incredible to see and to hear. My aunt was always a bit of a cynic and had had many bouts of regret over some of my decisions be them musically or personally. But here was this woman who knew me better than anyone telling me she valued what I was doing with my life. She believed my cause was true. She had limitless hope for my future. And when all was said and done and the world was starting to crumble . . . when our information infrastructure has failed us and all we had was our senses and the printed page she wanted what I had to say to live on.
I will never forget that moment.
So I'll keep on plugging away with this "project" of mine. I realize these days I mostly write when an anniversary or special event has happened in my life. I've gone from twenty or more entries in a month back in 2008 to just a few now if that. But I think that has a lot to do with the fact that I've said so much already and I realize that not every story needs to be shared.
I only wish the news agencies would take a similar approach.
Today I basically had to snap out of my doldrums and put fingers to the keys and say something--anything.
It kept me off of CNN.com.
It kept me from turning on the radio.
It gave me a chance to clear out some of my frustrations and let off some steam.
And I hope in the 1,600 plus words you've just consumed there's a reason to come back for the next story. I'll try not to let it be three weeks from now but I'm not going to make any promises.
As soon as I press the "publish post" button at the bottom of my template right here my name will pop up in my Google Alert that someone has used my name for something--that someone, of course, being me.
Thanks for reading my news.
And now we return you to your regularly scheduled program already in progress . . .