Alone in a Crowd – Part 2

Read part one of Alone in a Crowd here.

“Happy birthday! Love, your favorite and only sister.” The closest most of us probably come to any handwritten confidence these days is signing a birthday card. Despite all the blank space inside enveloping a pithy sentiment, I don’t know many people who actually fill it up. Outside of Hallmark, parents don’t describe line by line how baby Tony tried to walk for the first time and biffed it on the coffee table. The photos are on Facebook. Friends don’t rehash last week’s party through long wine-stained scrawls. The rose got drank, and it was live tweeted.

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Alone in a Crowd first looked at the piling on of social media and how that rapid but detached pace can contribute to loneliness. The responsibility falls heavier on us to reach below the harping statuses and Tweets to sustain meaningful connections with people. Malcolm Jones, a writer at Newsweek, observed, “The problem is not that there is not enough information about what we think or how we live. The problem is sifting through that sea of data. The most common complaint of our time is that we are overwhelmed by information, unmediated and unstoppable.”

For better or for worse, digitization will only become further integrated into our day-to-day life, so how can we embrace both the convenience and keep a grasp on mindfulness? How do we slow down? One reader, Naomi, tried something most of us probably haven’t done since grade school: pen pals. Jones also writes in Newsweek that “…if you do [write letters] enough, you begin to put your essential self on paper whether you mean to or not. No other form of communication yet invented seems to encourage or support that revelatory intimacy.” Below, Naomi describes why she decided to try pen palling and what she’s experienced as a 20-something exchanging letters around the globe.

Continue reading “Alone in a Crowd – Part 2”

Alone in a Crowd

Written by Amara Hartman.
Part 1 of 2. Read part 2 here.

There are more ways than ever to connect with each other. It’s hard to imagine an era when people awaited the arrival of their correspondence strapped in saddle bags. Longhand letter writing is a charm of a bygone time, and any small sect of people who still try to keep it alive appreciate it for its purity. There aren’t any of the trappings of modern communication. No visible friend counts, gifs, or emojis. Nothing flashy driving the want to stay in touch except suspense and imagination. Even email’s been leveled to one-liners or co-opted by instant messengers like G-chat and Skype. Blogs are popularized by purveyors of trends who want to teach you a lifestyle: how to wrap an infinity scarf or create a refreshing grapefruit spritzer.

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And in the middle of it all stands the behemoth social media. Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat have all morphed from handy tools to actual propellants of our culture. Tweets are regularly featured in the news. Emojis stand in for text within text. We get what the peach and eggplant mean–a far cry from actually having to woo someone into liking you in the first place, much less into your pants.

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With this insane glut, like Augustus Gloop stuffing chocolate in his face, one of the last things anyone would describe an average American as is lonely. It’s a natural conclusion that the more interactions you have, the less you’re alone. In a society of likes, followers, and subscribers, it’s hard to imagine anyone feeling stranded in a hollow abyss of loneliness.

Continue reading “Alone in a Crowd”

Unfuck the World

I saw this shirt posted by Pitchfork from  Angel Olsen (a musician I’ve never listened to, but I know comes highly recommended). This paired with the recent news from London–the bombing, the vehicular homicide (among SO MANY other things, obviously)–brought a totaling body count to mind. Flesh heaped on flesh, red digits racking up, no time for a breath, blink and gone.

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Image via elevation.supply

Why is the world so fucked up? I mean, it’s not new. People have suffered at the hands of each other for centuries. Our whole history is made up of who won a war against who, who is memorialized for dying in it, and the nameless millions and billions and more who no one will ever know. Pride and greed top the obvious list for why our world is fucked up. Wherever there’s selfishness, there will be souls in its wake. It’s easy to point this out at a distance: Wall Street fiends, celebrity hacks, politicians and preachers–all often one in the same. We seethe at home, thinking that if they’d just WAKE UP or GET LOST, we’d all be better off. But it’s always boggled me how we wish for peace at large, yet within our own communities, we still foster discontent. In my mental wingback chair, I sigh and suppose… it’s because our primary needs of sorrow and neglect are erased by protective shields and barriers like anger and vindictiveness, which cause divide.

I’m not above any of this. I’m envious, I’m spiteful; I get sad, I get tired. And that’s part of being human. It’s impossible to eradicate all of it all of the time. There will always be something that gets under your skin, offends, pains, discourages. I don’t think the point is how to avoid reacting to any of that, I think what splits the difference is teasing forward that other part of yourself that says,”I want to try again,” or “let me understand,” not “fuck you” or “oh well.” Those are easy tropes. They can be funny while they are erase responsibility. But where is the emphasis on compassion?* Our collective culture doesn’t actively lift up language for healing. And I don’t mean that in altruistic ignorance. I mean the language that seeds what can happen when you choose to regenerate like a green plant instead of blistering under heated pride.

Pride isn’t the only cause for trouble in our world, but from where I can see in my little corner, and what I’ve had to deal with and encounter, a lot of the gratuitous fuck yous and self righteousness that feel good in the moment just perpetuate stand-offishness and aloofness could have been salved with the generosity of spirit. That thing that rings in the back of your mind and says, “We all bleed. This isn’t the hurt olympics. Help me.” Call me an idealist at heart (please do), but I do think that with each small step we take in our own lives to honestly account for our actions and feelings, the closer we will come to that embrace we all seek: hope.

*I read something somewhere once that was like, “The three hardest things to say in life are, ‘I love you. I’m sorry. Help me.’” I try not to waste my time wondering why it’s hard to say these things. I’m more interested in trying to open my mouth and say them.

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Musings

“If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches; for to the creator there is no poverty and no poor indifferent place.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

I like this quote because it can be applied to anything–not just writers, not just artists who struggle to find inspiration to create. It’s defeatist to observe your life and assume there’s no place for growth or change. There is more than often something to be evaluated (for better or for worse), improved on, or learned from. Even if we go slowly or repeat old habits… reflection isn’t a worthless skill. And because we’re all human and WILL definitely go slowly and repeat old habits, I don’t think change is usually meant to be grand and sweeping. It’s the small steps that ultimately amount to something. A slight change in opinion of someone or a belief. Cleaning one corner of a room at a time. So on.

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Art by Bhavna Mehta.

Nonprofit Work and Women

Most of us have been fattened for the 9-to-5 grind since high school, and herded to the proverbial slaughter through college and then the workforce. Many pursue practical degrees meant to secure a steady paycheck. Business, marketing, or the omnipresent communications degrees are popular. If you chose a more creative path (theater, art, writing), you’ve probably been met with a blank stare. “What kind of jobs are there for that?”

It’s ingrained in our society that success comes to the common working man only through being tethered to the same job for years, putting up with the daily grind, always keeping in mind what you stand to lose if you quit. Some people genuinely thrive in a traditional corporate environment. These jobs can be reliable. They offer structure and security; without them, many of the products we use every day wouldn’t exist.

Friends and I have lamented all the responsibilities we’ve loaded up on ourselves that would be hard or impossible to manage if we quit our jobs tomorrow.

A drawback, though, is that you’re locked into whatever vision the company promotes or where it wants to go. For-profit companies have owners and shareholders, and at the end of the day, any profit is meant to go back in their pockets. You know, the invisible “man” somewhere out there who everyone either hates or has sadly resigned themselves to. The entire thing is meant to be a closed loop. There isn’t a lot of creative wiggle room or many chances for employees to spread their wings besides “moving up the ladder.”

Continue reading “Nonprofit Work and Women”

Sayonara sucker.

Bill O’Reilly is OUT after two decades at the top of FOX News.

It’s about time some evil stopped triumphing around here for God’s sake. This won’t stop him from running his mouth elsewhere, but at least his most lucrative platform has been whisked away from him. I hope this causes him to take a long hard look at his pathetic excuse for a life and livelihood. I mean, it probably won’t, but hope got us this far.

Phonto
Boy, bye.

 

Aparna Nancherla

I’m re-listening to Aparna Nancherla this morning. She is hilarious, but because everyone has different humor, and I’m rarely moved when people beg me to listen to something new, I can’t really sell you on her. All I can say is that you should spice up your day and give her album “Just Putting It Out There” a try. She has that sardonic twist that throws just the right amount of dry, grim introspection on things. Not Louis C.K. grim. Endearingly grim, with chuckles and mirth. She probably does have weird self-esteem, but she knows what she’s saying, plus she’s a comic so what else is she going to toy with? Check her out on Spotify, Bandcamp, or YouTube. I’ve included an extremely entertaining clip below where people in her acting class compare her to Aziz Ansari and… science. 😹