The number of mixed messages is maddening.
Whether we’re in a bona fide emergency or not. A constitutional crisis or governmental concerns in the context of a frantic news cycle. Steps toward a new type of government or a mechanism that largely preserves the status quo.
After all, not a hell of a lot seems to have changed since 1974.
It might feel less serious if there was any notion of control. Any idea that someone, somewhere had a hand in precisely engineering the events we’re living through. Instead of waking up to 5AM tweets precipitating the entire top echelon of the country to be more concerned with damage control than actually governing.
Something in this whole scenario activated our survival mechanisms, maybe; triggered/regularly triggering a fight-or-flight response at our desks, on the bus, in bed checking the news.
Internet searches for quokkas have increased a hundredfold since March as we look for momentary escapes from stress activation and existential angst. A hundredfold. That’s a fact.
(That may not be a fact.)
There are fundamental disconnects everywhere now. We’re all stumbling around a bit more conspicuously. Google manages to neither prevent nor detect a phishing attack with an authentication module literally calling itself Google Docs in their system. Hackers targeting Windows XP are depending on the technological sophistication of their victims to get paid. Spicer’s hiding in bushes. I saw a road crew installing a stop sign upside down the other day.
We’re still using steam to create electricity and launch aircraft off carriers, for god’s sake.
We’ve got so many people on opioids in this country that there is a specific market for medication designed to treat Opioid Induced Constipation. And this is, what, two years after the LA Times series showing Purdue Pharma knew from the beginning that its faulty dosing scheme would increase addiction?
Not much more than a few years ago we might have taken the edge off everything by nervously smoking a cigarette down to the filter, a multivariate meditation on breathing and death and just sparing a moment. But we see how smoking worked out and it’s largely left to the lepers and the Damaged and instead we check facebook and fidget with spinners.
Do you want to know why smoking works so well while the world’s crashing down around you? They figured it out a while ago. Studying schizophrenics, because a disproportionate amount of schizophrenics smoke. Turns out the introduction of nicotine activated a mechanism called Pre-Pulse Inhibition. The stimulant acts as a shot across the bow of the nervous system, warning of incoming possibly stressful stimuli and temporarily making you less sensitive to the neurochemical reaction.
I read that paper maybe ten years ago and I’ve never seen anything about PPI since, but it stuck with me. That momentary mental armor buff that probably ended up killing you. Now all we have is crossfit and millennial blamepieces. Resignation, or chaining ourselves across highways.
There’s no point to nihilism here, even ironically. “Nothing matters” is just as harmful as adopting “snowflake” language, but living like much matters right now leads you to a steep bar tab and not a moment’s peace. Wondering where the hell you are on wakeup and oh god there’s another news alert he tweeted again where’s the bottle?
Take twitter away from him and we lose what’s been valuable legal ammunition. Take twitter away from yourself and suddenly you’re in the dark, wondering if everything’s fine or if that diesel engine on the next block is a riot control tank.
They didn’t gather in Tahrir until the government put them in irredeemably vanta-black digital darkness. Because no one knew what the hell was going on and we might as well kick it off.
What little bit of meaningful relief we can find now we get from each other. That’s my lesson lately. It’s in the sitting and the listening, the steady gift of presence. And it’s not much but it’s all we have right now. Be kind where you can, be a bastard when needed, but for your friends and family just be. And when you can’t, be honest, take time, and then be there again.