A Poem in Press Pause Press
Volume 7 of Press Pause Press is out. Among its excellent stories and drawings—and even a few pieces of music!—you will find one of my poems.
Since plunging our minds into the abyss of digital media, the production of information has fast outgrown our ability to make any proper sense of it. Where we might once have sat down to the morning newspaper, or set aside an hour in the evening to watch the news, we are now exposed to a blistering second-by-second chronicle of all the world’s disasters.
Enabled by new technologies—the internet, the smart phone, the app—a mind boggling amount of stuff is now shoved in front of our eyeballs. Christopher Lasch called it “the information revolution.” The information revolution may have liberated us from earlier limitations of geography, but it has also abstracted our experience of the world. How we come to know things is increasingly mediated by digital technologies—which are much better data processors than we are. This flood of information tends to overwhelm the senses; it diminishes the value and self-assurance of our choices; finally, argues Lasch, it erodes our basic competencies, including our capacity to create and live fulfilling lives.
Press Pause Press is turning down the noise. They are creating an online space that is quiet and restful. The magazine has no social media presence, advertising itself solely through word-of-mouth. I consider it slow media. The end result is wholesome and encouraging.
I often think about the velocity of the modern digital media. If we had the mental bandwidth to process more information, would we really be better people? If we read all the breaking news, would we really be better democratic participants? Or would we simply have conditioned ourselves into a perfectly reflexive outrage? Likewise, if we could be voyeurs to every act of cruelty and atrocity, would it make us more empathetic—or simply more desensitised and cynical?
The most characteristically human experience resists this view of man as a performance machine. I am thinking here about love. Despite attempts to reduce love to this thing or that—chemical reactions in the brain, a biological impulse, consensual relationships, the art of the pick-up game—there is no believeable general theory of love. It is, if you will allow me to be scientific here, something we come to know purely through vibe.
When you are dragged on a night out by the man or woman of your dreams, you are certainly not going to get with them by complaining about whatever you’ve read on the news. And if they tell you that “kosher” is a palindrome, you have to resist the urge to correct them by looking up the meaning of “palindrome” on your phone. Just go along with the moment. If that means getting on the dance-floor, then no matter how terrified or anxious that makes you feel, you better get on the dance-floor.
This is what Palindroming is about. On a big, messy night out, all these feelings of uncertainty and desire mingle together in a way that cannot be pulled apart and understood in isolation. There is the nervousness of making a dick of yourself, the reluctance to get out of your comfort zone, the sheer uncertainty of where everything is going to lead. You say a lot of unpolished, unrehearsed things, hoping to be the funniest or most charming person in the room. An anxious uncertainty turns into a creative uncertainty.
Above all, your thoughts are not wandering to far-away scandals or controversies, the details of which will fade from memory. You are fully occupied with the moment as it unfolds. That is what gives it its vitality. With the mind and body in easy conjunction, you are wholly engaged in the act of living.
For a further discussion of this see Revolt of the Elites, chapter 9, 'The Lost Art of Argument”, and The Culture of Narcissism.