Friday, May 1, 2020

Zoom went the strings of my heart.

Since my wife wrassled me out of the City six weeks ago for the pink-and-sea-green clad coast of central Connecticut, I’ve become painfully aware of something I barely noticed before.

I sit in the living room with my mac on my lap and my puppy at my side--it should be quiet, but it’s not.

There is no street traffic to speak of. The nearest neighbors are hundreds of feet away. Sure the waves of the Long Island Sound are consequential—but they fall more into the white noise category than 18-wheeler on the Cross Bronx Expressway type. To coin a phrase, barely a creature is stirring—yet it’s noisy.

Everything today—especially inanimate objects are clamoring for our attention. The dishwasher sends out nine or seven piercing beeps to let me know it’s done its ceramic ablutions. The microwave. The washer. The dryer.

I feel trapped inside a vibraphone.

Even my watch wants my attention. “You did it!” It vibrates. “You stood last hour.” As if I were Clara in the old Shirley Temple movie “Heidi,” and I was finally able to escape the withering glare of Fraulein Rottenmeier and step out of my rickety wheelchair and walk again.

The worst offenders, of course, are the mother-boarded and mother-fucking machines that are our modern equivalents of the medieval ball-and-chain.

Their beeps, chimes, pings and oscillating modulations echo through our small home. Is it right and reasonable that sounds so ostensibly small and insignificant can drown out conversation, interrupt thought and even overwhelm the fury of the nearby ocean?

But they do.

The internet of things isn’t making smarter things, it’s making things more annoying.

Everything we own and live with is screaming like Willy Loman: "attention must be paid."

But there’s something worse about what’s going on. It’s heretical to say this because there’s a modern American ethic we’re supposed to abide by. We’re supposed to wear our workaholicism as a shibboleth.

Being always on call, always like a fire-fighter and ready to dash down the brass pole and into peril is our membership fee for entry into the American Dream. 

Fuck Descartes.

It’s no longer “I think, therefore I am.” It’s “I’m always on, therefore I am.” And like the aforementioned firefighters, we can’t not respond to the email ping, the Zoom klaxon or any one of a dozen other micro-softenings of our brains.

We carry with us always the tools of our own spiritual destruction.

We are meant to give ourselves to our companies—all of ourselves. Until they’re done with us and take away our machines of bondage and send us into the unknown.

As of this writing, there are over 30 million unemployed in the US, double in sheer numbers than during the Great Depression—and fewer of those 30 million are getting unemployment benefits.

We fell for it.

Fell for the idea that if we gave and gave and gave, we would get in return. But there is no return. We're the bone and gristle equivalents of rusty no-deposit soda pop cans.

I heard Maggie Haberman say a few weeks ago when the first unemployment surge happened and ten-times more people filed for unemployment than ever before, “Who knows what will happen. Maybe social unrest.”

She wasn’t kidding.

I suppose we could have a Zoom meeting about it.

Call me.

I won’t pick up.

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