Or Twittering In Silence
A certain pathos has become the crippling disease of the soul of western civilization. Particularly in America, a deep sadness haunts our obsessive pursuit of individual excellence – the lone ranger embarked on the solitary and strenuous path of achievement – leading to the slow but certain destruction of real autonomy and vital consanguinity, as the final bell tolls for the imminent demise of family, kin, and community. And what are the symptoms of this disease?
Having fought so hard to realize our ill-defined and poorly-considered quest for individuality at all costs, we have inadvertently (or perhaps intentionally) created virtual ‘communities,’ disembodied worlds that enable us to remain unfettered and unscathed by the fleshiness of personal contact and the intimacy of real relationships. The physical world gone, we now sit self-directed and self-enclosed, safeguarding our lunacy, our anonymity, our unspoken weaknesses and our unsightly blemishes. Safely they remain tucked away in our tweets and our twitters. Our longing has created its perfect match; a pathetic, substitute world in which we call unseen strangers friends and collect electronic followers to “tweet” while we engage in highly cultivated and dissembling displays of honesty and self-disclosure.
I will say again, what I voiced last week:
[These new] global villages… are erector set villages, artfully crafted from our own infantile dreams… They claim to “connect us.” But, it is a hollow promise aimed at disarming a potential epidemic of cultural alienation that might otherwise expose the tinkerers on the scaffolding propping up the gloss of our blueprinted lives.
And all of this activity is generated with the sole purpose (often unbeknownst to us) of giving our lives a sense of importance, of sharing, of community, of the relationality that is genuinely missing from our real everyday experience. We have achieved the ultimate in self-possessed independence, so much so that we now yearn unconsciously for the ‘connectedness’ that we worked so diligently to free ourselves of in the first instance.
We share the trivialities of our daily goings-on, our clumsy missteps, and our secret privacies with those who would be watching us – our friends or followers. We are all voyeurs and exhibitionists seeking the thrill of connectivity without the weighty consequences of real live community or sensuous commitment.
We are pathetic in our desperate outreach, our selfish grasping for attention, for recognition, for acceptance (“I have more friends/followers than you!”). And yet, at the same time these “tweets” have their nerve, the gall to speak about the lack of human communication in the world they inhabit daily. Imagine, they cannot communicate with others in that real world, so they cobble together a world of interlocutors to complain about the lack of real communication in their hum-drum lives. And all of this tinkering is aimed at the dispensation of folk wisdom and other idiocies — miniature homilies condensed into 140 or 240 characters. We are bombarded with so many proverbs and anecdotes about correct behavior, achieving success, and being happy; about how to communicate online and how to get more followers; as well as loftier topics like love, the good, the right, the true, the beautiful and, of course, the Tao. And they all welcome one another with good morning wishes and good night kisses.
Then again, perhaps this betrays a deeper pathos, our discomfort with the natural silence that surrounds us. And so, rather than abide such silence, we prefer to fill it up with any noise just to hide our distress. And while it may provide us with an illusion of meaningful discourse, and the vague comfort of fitting-in, it really does nothing of the kind. In fact, such “communication” becomes a malicious sham to keep us from focusing on our own disaffection and loneliness so that we fail to appreciate the pleasure of silence in recovering ourselves from this culturally-imposed estrangement, and hearkening again to that authentic, faintly, wild voice within.
Finally, all of these friends and followers of ours have very clever names or descriptions of themselves: “philosopher on the loose,” “geniusartistic,” “biomodern magician,” “intuitioneer,” “discerner of archetypes,” “racialicious,” “americansatori,” “cardiotonic psychedelia.” Oh! You who believe you are free and freely-associating as you please. You are just following the protocols of those manufacturers of post-modern experience who pull the strings and make you dance. Truly we have become hollow men (and women). All I have to say is good night tweets – sleep tight.
I want to clarify to my readers, gracious as they are and continue to be, I am not critical of blogging or the dialogue that it enables. I do feel this mode of communication can bring like-minded people together. But, the social networking phenomenon cannot substitute for the real life fleshy reality that confronts you in another person physically present. Just as the artificial environments of malls and grocery stores cannot substitute for hunting or foraging. No matter what you are hunting for!