Alone in a Crowd

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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.

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These times.

My heart is heavy for all the mayhem in the world. Though it’s nothing new, and every day brings a conflict, personal, national or global, something about today’s news of the shooting in San Bernardino sits heavy on me. I’m currently at a loss for how to articulate all the different ways we can be hurt and abused, and I feel art is the only salve because of the supernatural way it carries all our questions and uncertainty. So, here are some lyrics from a song by the band Jars of Clay (song below), which I keep typed out on my refrigerator, because it so simply illustrates a lack of answers. It acknowledges grief and failure, and somehow there’s comfort in knowing we’re all working uphill.

liars and fools; sons and failures
thieves will always say
lost and found; ailing wanderers
healers always say
whores and angels; men with problems
leavers always say
brokenhearted; separated
orphans always say
war creators; racial haters
preachers always say
distant fathers; fallen warriors
givers always say
pilgrim saints; lonely widows
users always say
fearful mothers; watchful doubters
saviors always say

sometimes I cannot forgive
these days, mercy cuts so deep
if the world was how it should be, maybe I could get some sleep
while I lay, I dream we’re better,
scales were gone and faces light
when we wake, we hate our brother
we still move to hurt each other
sometimes I can close my eyes,
and all the fear that keeps me silent falls below my heavy breathing,
what makes me so badly bent?
we all have a chance to murder
we all feel the need for wonder
we still want to be reminded that the pain is worth the thunder

sometimes when I lose my grip, I wonder what to make of heaven
all the times I thought to reach up
all the times I had to give
babies underneath their beds
hospitals that cannot treat all the wounds that money causes,
all the comforts of cathedrals
all the cries of thirsty children – this is our inheritance
all the rage of watching mothers – this is our greatest offense

oh my God
oh my God
oh my God