Somewhere in Tennessee, 2011
January 30, 2020

Static

It’s a strange sensation, living a life divided between these days of pixels and a childhood defined by magnetic tape. My first impressions of the world were delivered by audio cassettes and VHS, each unit of entertainment bound in plastic that occupied space and respected the logic of time: oxidized information gradually deteriorating whenever the tape was played, eventually dissolving into garbled images and hiss. Now it’s all so much static. No orientation, no sense of time. Perhaps my generation is uniquely positioned to be disappointed by the humiliations of today’s clicking and scrolling. After all, I still remember the optimism inherent in phrases like world wide web and information superhighway.

These are destabilizing days when there always seems to be a screen playing in the room. Endlessly breaking news bleeds through the walls. A new virus has been declared a public health emergency. The State Department is telling Americans not to travel to China. Hundreds of people are trapped on a cruise ship off the Italian coast, prevented from leaving because the might be onboard. Grounded flights and economic jitters. Meanwhile the Senate is determined to keep its eyes shut and ears plugged rather than reckon with our unstable president. The adults have left the room. The calvary is not coming.

There’s an uneasy shiver in my nerves each time I turn on a screen, bracing for live images of another massacre or disaster, the latest inhuman act. Somebody could tell me the entire Eastern Seaboard has been quarantined and I would believe it. This is the age of the permanent suspension of disbelief. And each bizarre episode is quickly forgotten as we lurch from one shattered norm to the next, left with no option except to adapt to increasing weirdness while we fight to hold onto our attention and maintain a grip on reality. It’s not an easy fight, and to everyone who manages to get dressed, go outside, and not yell at the sky: I salute you.

Each night in 2020 I'm writing a short post for a series called Notes From the End of a World because I want to etch these days into my memory before I forget them. Before the world changes completely.
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