“What’s wrong with your brother?” she asked, handing him half a sandwich.
“How do you mean?”
“Well, there’s something. He drinks all the time, Is he unhappy?”
“I don’t know,” Turner said. “I mean, he must be, but I don’t know exactly why. People get stuck, sometimes.”
“I kind of liked Rudy. You know? But he just seemed so…”
“Screwed up,” he finished for her, still holding his sandwich. “Stuck. What it is, I think there’s a jump some people have to make, sometimes, and if they don’t do it, then they’re stuck good. And Rudy never did it.”
-From Count Zero by William Gibson (An incredible book that you should read!)
Sometimes I find myself staring into an open refrigerator, not even hungry, not even focusing on anything; almost staring past the things in front of me and not quite sure what it is I’m looking for.
Other times, I’m scrolling through facebook or reddit or instagram or grindr, and I notice I’m barely paying attention to what I’m seeing; just letting it all pile on my mind until it overwhelms me and I’m not thinking about anything.
I recently had a conversation where the other person, eyes glossed over and staring off into space, started off by saying that he felt like he had repressed a lot from his childhood. I asked what he meant by that, and he looked me in the eye for just a moment before his eyes darted around the room and he started spewing nonsense about his armchair theories on the meaning of truth, and how nothing we can know can be expressed in words or ideas. He said those things only describe things that are true, but truth itself can only be felt, not described. He said the only way to make peace with the past was to surrender to its influence without trying to understand it.
These behaviors strike me as related. I think that often times, we as people try to sedate ourselves out of exploring and resolving our conflicts by consuming sedative experiences like living vicariously through social media content. It’s become an easy defense mechanism because growth is uncomfortable. It feels better to just sit and stare mindlessly at a picture of a sandwich or some other emotional pornography when I’m not even hungry, because it feels good and I don’t have to think, just sit and feel.
Intellectual masturbation is not an end in itself, and it prevents us from finding the real experiences that could otherwise let us grow.
I often feel torn between the decision to delete all my social networks and lose touch completely with innumerable people from my past; or instead having the apps run constantly on my phone, notifying me of every trivial detail of the lives of everyone I have ever met.
I usually land on keeping bookmarks of my social networks on my phone’s browser. I look at them periodically to catch up, and the apps have no access to me in between these moments of catching up. But lately I find that I am often left with the feeling of losing something instead of gaining when I get “caught up.”
More and more, these kinds of experiences feel like taking naps, like drinking too much beer instead of the coffee that social media content presents itself as; like I’ve reached some backwards apotheosis where I’m staring mindlessly at a cartoon of a sandwich because I cant remember what a sandwich looks like, and it feels better than acknowledging this fact.