Haven’t read anything by him in forever, but on the subject of bathrooms, a copy of Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim recently appeared on the windowsill, so I look forward to occasionally chipping away at it while taking shits.
I’m not sure what I would consider a normal format of communication at this point. I’ve never really been someone who reads dead peoples’ letters, but I did get halfway through a book of letters from Hunter S. Thompson once, and I remember being struck by the idea that all this personal correspondence between himself and others was written with the understanding (and hope, I think) that some of it would end up in a book someday. Ignoring who those dozen people might be and what they think is less of a luxury for you I imagine, but based on how often I overhear people saying things like, “I was totally creeping your instragram last week”, I’d say we have met the voyeurs and they are us.
Even if actually going through with creating that coffee table book opens the airlock on those quotes around your life goal and exposes it to the cold, infinite, suffocating indifference of existence, I bet the mere act of curating those snapshots of your past selves would be worth it. Also I want one.
Speaking of books, flabby prose and imperfect execution sound like a small price to pay for entrance into that poet’s gold mine. I mean, fuck, a civilization being consumed by its addiction to fake light? Benign necromancers consulting astronomers and warning against forsaking nature’s gift of darkness? Capitalism forcing minorities to toil in perpetually glowing cities while their oppressors sleep — some soundly, most restlessly? Children with nightmares of immortality yearning for shadow’s balm and the promise of death that gives life its meaning? I wonder if he went to Alaska.
I’m not sure exactly how I would describe my attitude toward technology. Technology is like breathing, or emotion. It permeates our lives so wholly that even if I could borrow God’s omniscience and omnipotence, I doubt I would have the omnimagination to conceive of an alternate human existence where technology either didn’t exist or where its introduction lead to anything other than a Gordian Knot of unintended consequences. I suppose I’d say that rather than hatred, my feelings are more of a mix of fear, awe, begrudging respect, and disdain, in decreasing order of intensity.
For instance, I often think about the digital existence of an individual on a social media platform like facebook, and the journeys that person’s lifetime of posts and messages make through Byzantine filters and privacy settings to the people they communicate with (or alternatively, a filtering system of multiple accounts across varying social media platforms, each with different and occasionally overlapping audiences). Then I think about privacy and anonymity, ego, and why someone would or wouldn’t post a naked selfie in a public forum, or a picture of a sweet note from their husband on twitter, or anything anywhere ever.
It’s like a set of birthday cards. One card is written with the understanding that only one other person will see it. Another written assuming the card will be opened in the company of others and probably read aloud or passed around. Maybe one is written for a dead gay son, so nobody else will ever see it. Now imagine that the table these cards are on is in the White House, or Russia, or in your apartment. Maybe the government has people at the post office who open all letters, make photocopies of the content without reading it, and keep all the copies in a massive warehouse in Utah. What would your cards say?
You saying these “personal letters” are on display technically forever reminds me of a book called The World Without Us. If we all got raptured away tomorrow, or some cynical kid extinguished the human race along with his birthday candles, how long would hypothetical alien archaeologists have to explore our digital catacombs before they collapsed? How long until the cloud with a thousand years worth of cat videos dries up like a Big Data Repository of Alexandria and all our phones and computers become just plastic and glass and wires instead of the magical mirrors we stared into while our world was burning?