Existing in this manner is precarious to say the least. I am a tenuous corpus of kilobytes bobbing up and down on the ever-shifting crest of cyberspace. Nothing remains buoyant for long. The page is always refreshing. The space is always replenishing. Nothing sticks, stays, endures. One outrage supersedes the next. Absurdity goes to its commodious wardrobe, chooses its latest outfit, makes a splash, then quickly gets buried alive as news breaks upon it. Turning: the world used to get turned. Now it gets scrolled, unravelled. I’m not sure which is more conducive to meaningfulness; turning or scrolling. All I know is that we forever live on the cusp of a fickle and forgetful nowness. Cyberspace veers towards a notional bottom. We naturally imbue the space with value; the screen, it seems, is an extension of our natural inclination towards spatial metaphors. When I go, from time to time, to the Daily Mail Online, to replenish my disgust with the world, it feels like I am plunging off a cliff, through scantily clad actresses and parasitic immigrants, until I finally hit rock bottom. But cyberspace is a papyrus of unprecedented proportions. Just as paper-form news was once likened to spaghetti by Kierkegaard, cyberspace is an ever-growing wall (or insatiable feed). I am a brief blotch of graffiti on a wall before being plastered over. I am a referral, a hyperlink, a click. What can come of it? Nothing good. Personally, I believe the internet is overrated. It has, on balance, probably made things worse. It has institutionalized solipsism, provided an ever extending lifeline to bigotry and ignorance, entrenched the status quo it was supposed to liberate us from, diminished our already piscine attention spans and imbued life with a generalized sense of chaos and ephemerality. Switch it off, I say. I would need about two or three months to wean myself off it, to return to the dull horror and raw boredom of the unmediated physical world; to go back to being a dusty manuscript in a drawer.
“What can I expect, shit-wise?”
Last night J and I went to visit a couple to have fondue with them. We were there for five whole hours and I came away feeling somewhat tipsy from schnapps (he is Swiss and proudly proclaims himself to be Alemannic). Although I know his lovely wife well, it was only my third meeting with him. He is, I concluded, a decent but exceptionally talkative person. The entire evening consisted of him and his fascinatingly outgoing personality: it was one long, desultory monologue, with occasional pauses as he went to get more schnapps, or to check the fondue, or to talk in code to his wife. At one point he told us that he has become scared to check the news and the conversation veered wildly from Trump to his racist Swiss grandmother to homosexuality. As seasoned diplomats, J and I guided his soliloquy so that it swerved from subject to disjointed subject as smoothly and thrillingly as a skilled slalom descent. As I ate fondue for the first time, I learned all about fondue (it really is conducive to loquacity). As I drank expensive schnapps, I learned all about schnapps. In general, I feel that my knowledge of Switzerland and Swiss culture is vastly improved today (including the mysteries of its opaque banking system). Shortly before leaving, I said: “The fondue was delicious. But what can I expect shit-wise?” He exploded with laughter like it was the funniest thing he’d ever heard. He was hysterical. He kept repeating the question to himself in between gasping for breath. I understood that I had gifted him with a precious anecdote for future fondue evenings. He gifted me in return with an expensive bottle of whiskey which J dropped on the way home. As I watched the whiskey spill out onto the icy pavement, I felt like I had just been stabbed in the gut by a psychotic stranger (possibly a terrorist). I was the proverbial child with the dropped ice cream as I stood there staring in horror at the precious liquid trickling into the gutter. But I quickly pretended to move on so J wouldn’t feel bad. The walk home was long, cold and enjoyable. I veered left and right. It had been what is generally known as a nice evening. I should get out more.