Thursday, September 20, 2007
One of the real blessings of our trip to the cottage last week was that we had almost no contact with the larger world and were therefore totally insulated against ''current events''. For nearly a week, I had no idea what was going on in the world. It was bliss.
I wonder if I'm the only one who feels the weight of too much contemporaneity; I'd imagine not. The other day, the man who sold me my parking pass had CNN dot com playing on his laptop in the booth. The secretary that I had to speak to had the Drudge Report opened. I remember my boss used to come in every day and breathlessly inform us of the latest terrorist threats on Fox News. Everyone in the train this morning had the newspaper opened. And have you noticed how many public places have added television sets, generally with the cable news going. The library I went to today, the shawarma restaurant, the buildings in Toronto, all of them have television news monitors. I wonder if this developed after 9/11. It all reminds me of the speech at the end of The Thing from Another World- ''Watch the skies, everywhere! Keep looking. Keep watching the skies!''
It's as if we cannot escape the duty to be informed. What Joyce's Stephen Dedalus said is out of date: we've escaped the nightmare of history, almost completely. And the future is unimaginable. Now it's the present that bears down upon us.
Of course, plenty of people have no idea what's going on in the world; I think they might be the lucky ones. Naturally, I laugh too when I see the man-on-the-street interview with some rural Kallikak who can't name the current Vice President; and yet, if there's any piece of reality that I might be happier being oblivious to it's Dick Cheney. The War on Terror, the PATRIOT Act, car bombs, al-Quaida, the Minutemen, Guantanamo Bay, suicide bombings, floods, famines, genocide: most likely, I'll never have direct contact with any of these things, but I feel obligated to have ''awareness'' of them. Might I be better using my brain if I ignored them?
And how much ''awareness'' should I have of suicide bombings, say, in contrast to my awareness of my wife's emotional life? 1/5th? 1/10th? How about in contrast to my awareness of the cat? Would that be a 1 to 1 ratio? Remember that CNN won't starve if I ignore it! Obviously, I have to be better informed about Early Modern French History, but how much better informed?
Perhaps I'd be better at living if I aimed at total information unawareness; have a personal news blackout and focus on my work and family. Certainly, that's what I did last week, and I can't say that there was anything bad about it. Apparently, something happened to O.J. Simpson, and I didn't hear some speech that the President made. Honestly, I can't say that I've really missed anything though.
Posted by Rufus at 8:43 PM