A single node in an amoral universe

Ah, it’s a new year, a new “administration,” a new set of variables (alternative facts?) at work on our reality. I’m still listening to my podcasts (in between audiobooks checked out from the library), and the theme(s) keep clustering around our current obsessions (fears?) — racial equality (white supremacy), immigration (American “exceptionalism”), authoritarian regimes (do I need to put anything more into this parenthesis?) … Just typing this list is making me not only tired but emotionally bankrupt.

I’m currently listening to an episode of Krista Tippet’s On Being devoted to “Tech’s Moral Reckoning,” with Anil Dash, and though I should listen to the end, I find myself getting distracted with all of the information and ideas filtering through my head (it should be noted that I am also pursuing, in other areas/moments of my life, mindfulness practices, and that technology — the simple overload of information, mostly digital, bombarding me 24/7 — is not helping me to stay anywhere NEAR the present moment), (and it should also be noted that the rampant proliferation of parentheses in this post is more than ample demonstration of that fact), and think that the only way to find some momentary focus is to start typing into this open space. When I started this monumental sentence, I think I was planning to say something about the role of technology in what I imagine (that is, make into an image in my head) as a literal rip in the fabric of being that plagues us all in the United States. But this three sentence paragraph does all the work for me.

Think of it as a poem, a metaphor, for my state of “mind.”

I’m torn into digital bits. My attention wanders between digital texts of my own and others’ creations. I can’t seem to find the thread to sew this all into a recognizable animal. I mean, seriously. What the fuck am I thinking?

I’ve got a blog where I noodle on about my reading with my creative writing students.  I’ve got a Twitter account (see embedded insert) where I tend to retweet all the quips that #attack and #dismantle the #headcheetofromhell and his #minionsofmalice. (Needless to say, checking on Twitter raises my blood pressure.) I’ve got a Facebook account where I try to be positive and upbeat; but again I find myself drowning in information, glimpses into lives near and far, cascades of faces and statuses and pictures and … I didn’t check the account for two days and got 96 notifications. I’ve got a new Instagram account, and a Snapchat, and Google+, and GroupMe, and LInkedIn, and Slack.

And of course this domain of my own. Which is the last place I ever go. Here I sit on the internet, tooting my own horn, a place to organize everything (“one ring to …” — fuck it. I never did like that series), a lone and probably dying star (node) in the middle of a vast and indifferent and (now it would appear) probably unethical universe.

Concurrently, I’m using an MLS (Moodle) to connect with my students, Google Drive to read and respond to their work, and Twitter to share it with others outside of our group. I’m getting over 100 emails a day. I’m texting my daughter and others from the time I wake up until shortly before I go to sleep. I’m reading my books on Kindle. I’m taking two MOOCs (one on St. Norbert and another, ha, on Mindfulness). I’m using the Headspace app to practice at least 10 minutes of meditation a day. I’m listening to Spotify. I’m getting my news through The Daily Skimm.

And what’s the point of all this?  I don’t know. Perhaps it has something to do with the “fact” that I too am ripped into bits, that I can’t even communicate with myself, that I’m alienated from the present moment and thus from myself and others and I’m using as my alibi the very technology which is prompting me to explore the ability to connect and communicate and be present. Which makes me as crude and hypocritical (not to mention hypercritical) as those who offend me.

All this to say: I don’t know what the point of “all this” can be. Can there be a single point?

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Laurie MacDiarmid serves as Director of Faculty Development and Professor of English at St. Norbert College, a small Catholic liberal arts college on the banks of the Fox River in De Pere, Wisconsin.

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