The inexhaustible new discoveries that technology makes available in music, literature, things to do, people, is initially exciting (at last, the collective aesthetic, cultural, and social experience of the world appears finally yours), but after experimenting for a time with what has been exhumed from this arch oblivion of which one would never have known and never have been the worse for not knowing it, the new accessibility becomes, as in any other domain where there is too much choice and too many sensory inputs, an elephantine burden of decision-making and mental pandemonium. Intimate knowledge of any one or few items of which formerly one might have taken a kind of possession, even if one technically "knew" less, is razed at its inception, attended literally by a sensation of opposing forces in the skull, centrifugal-centripetal, as though the unity of concentration were compressed at odd angles while simultaneously yanked apart. To paraphrase Hazlitt, the technological omniscience which enables the looting of the aestheic and intellectual universe, without a wholly new regime of mental discipline to preserve the continuity of waking life, becomes a wearisome succession of half-formed images and sounds which fill the void of the mind and continually efface one another.
The former distances imposed between us by time and space that have now been abolished by technology had a romantic quality, when we could not be together when we might have chosen to be because those factors intervened (time following space). Nowadays that experience has been lost. A whole generation has been raised not knowing what it was like, or the ways we overcame those cardinal limitations, such as by writing letters, that were themselves enchanting.
Writing a letter, then receiving it over the course of some terrain that might also have represented a divergence of paths by the composer and recipient, thereby enabled those routes to be momentarily joined by the deceptively weightless sheaflet’s palpable charm, which mysteriously appeared and delivered a happenstance. To not know this any longer is, in Kirkpatrick Sale’s phrase, “a destruction of the past”.
A frenzied thunderstorm preceded by the choked, dark-gray sheen which renders all the air above the city clearer than when brilliantly illuminated by unclouded sunbeams. A tourist, enthralled with the inconceivable swarming bustle around Times Square that the rain incited, was filming the scene secretly, edging away from the office tower awning and gradually accepting that she would be drenched instantly. She looked behind herself periodically and peered, as though at a companion who had been under the awning with her but had not joined her excursion to command a better view of the commotion’s density. But she was alone, and her smiles at no one in particular caught the attention of a lone worker about to retreat inside the building and he turned to me and said, “Yep, she’s Russian.” I didn’t ask him how he knew. She was gone, then reappeared between the filaments of crowd that had pressed themselves against the walls of the building like ristras.