Seeing A New Thing

Categories Words on a Screen

“Whenever you check for a new post on Instagram or whenever you go on The New York Times to see if there’s a new thing, it’s not even about the content. It’s just about seeing a new thing. You get addicted to that feeling. You’re not going to be able to control yourself. So the only way to fight that is to take yourself out of the equation and remove all these things. What happens is, eventually you forget about it. You don’t care anymore. When I first took the browser off my phone, I’m like, [gasp] How am I gonna look stuff up? But most of the shit you look up, it’s not stuff you need to know. All those websites you read while you’re in a cab, you don’t need to look at any of that stuff. It’s better to just sit and be in your own head for a minute. I wanted to stop that thing where I get home and look at websites for an hour and a half, checking to see if there’s a new thing. And read a book instead. I’ve been doing it for a couple months, and it’s worked. I’m reading, like, three books right now. I’m putting something in my mind. It feels so much better than just reading the Internet and not remembering anything…

I don’t think me reading the news is helping anything. I think it’s hurting me. It’s putting me in a bad state of mind. And I could see how someone could hear that about me and be like, Oh, you’re ignoring what’s happening in the world ’cause you don’t want negativity in your head. That seems very selfish. Maybe it is. I don’t know. It’s not like I was reading it and then, like, immediately taking action in a way that was helping to fix problems.” —Aziz Ansari

Everything’s A Classic

Categories Words on a Screen

“There’s also this idea that every record is supposed to be a classic that you’re supposed to be able to play a hundred times and blah blah blah, but that’s not really the way most records were made. When I buy old records from the ’60s, they were almost like magazines. It’s like here’s an idea, and it’s okay if you’d only listen to the record once. Most TV shows or movies you would only ever watch once. You rarely watch a movie twice. I think there’s this idea now that every record has got to be this thing, like it’s the end of the world, and it needs to be the greatest thing ever. I think it’s really unfair to the records—and to the people making them—for that to be an expectation. It’s really like, no, the records should be fun to listen to. That’s enough. I buy lots of records and I listen to once and I feel like that’s fine. It’s fine. It’s $12 and I listen to it once. That’s cool. If you are trying to make things and you are operating under the idea that everything needs to be a classic… well, good luck.” —Ian Svenonius, via The Creative Independent

We Shall Overcome

Categories Words on a Screen

“I used to consider myself a patriot, and now I think that position is a hollow idea, used to protect oneself from criticism. I used to think that in the USA ‘we shall overcome,’ but I see that ‘we’ will not. ‘We’ had myriad chances since 1865, and all that happened was Jim Crow laws, the KKK, the failure of the civil rights movement and now a president that is the result of decades of targeted bad education and misinformation.” —Henry Rollins, “9 questions with Henry Rollins

Ten Years of Becoming

Categories Words on a Screen

Everyone has a story, and most of it isn’t interesting.

Very little of what was spoken between them remains in his memory except a prediction: That ten years later she was bound to be impressed by the person he’d become. It’s been nine years since they’ve spoken, but for all the words he could have held on to, those are the words he decided to carry with him.

So much had been given to him at such an early age that it never occurred to him to ever be grateful for what he had. But now, today, it’s back. Most of what he lost had returned. And with it, plenty of reflection. A look back on all that’s happened. How desperate he had become. How little he had. How much time has passed. How much he’s gained through the process of becoming. “I wonder what she’d think of me now? I wonder what she’d think of my story?”

But as with any story, how much of it do you share? And whose sake are you sharing it for?

Holy Ghost

Categories Words on a Screen

“People need to believe, because without that belief, whether it be in their heroes, their country, their church, their world view, their ideology, their political party, or their own goodness, they will crumble. They MUST believe in order to be able to face the day. If their belief system is shown to be a fraud, they wouldn’t have anything to stand upon, and everything about them would be a lie, and that would mean they would be mentally and emotionally obliterated. Their identity would be shattered. They would cease to exist. Without their belief system/identity, they are nothing, they are cast into the dark abyss, the void of ‘not knowing’. That is a frightening prospect for most people.

We as humans need to bend reality in all sorts of bizarre ways in order to be able to survive and keep our psyche in tact. We ignore some things, and focus on others, all in an attempt to make ‘reality’ fit what we want it to be. We suspend our disbelief so that we can be loyal to our country, or our president or whatever is important to us. We hold contrasting beliefs and attitudes simultaneously in order to make our belief system make some sort of sense to us internally, even when it makes no sense externally. This is the human condition. It is not a disease that only infects those of a certain political party or religion, it is a disease that infects mankind, and it is epidemic. In America emotion rules the day. Instant gratification means we have an impulse and we have to follow it. Facts, truth and reason have no place in our current culture, except as objects of ridicule and scorn. We know what we know and we know it is right because we FEEL it is right. We would rather shout someone down than go inward and question ourselves, our beliefs, our worldview, because God forbid we are wrong, then the whole house of cards will tumble and no one wants that.” —Michael McCaffrey, “Truth, Justice and the Curious Case of Chris Kyle

The Paper

Categories Words on a Screen

I got that corner early and didn’t earn much — only made about seven bucks by then — when he showed up with his girl. You could see he was an addict. It was all about the attitude. It was all about me-me-me, take-take-take, but I got it all on my camera. All of it. I used to be that way, but and he’s lucky I’m not like that anymore. They started causing shit, saying it was their spot, told me to fuck off, that I should go back to my country. I was like, fuck you, man, I’m from here. He said he was part of The Brotherhood, but I don’t even know if he really was. My people were from here way before his were. He’s just ignorant, man. Ignorant. He’s lucky I’m trying to turn my life around. I got it all on video and I’m going to tell the paper when I go back in tomorrow. It was my spot first and I don’t need shit like that. I’m going to report him — they’ll suspend him. If I see him again I’m going to call the cops and get a restraining order.

When I was walking away some guy called me over and was like, “what happened, bro?” I told him this junkie kicked me out of my spot so I had to go somewhere else to sell the paper. He said he was sorry that happened and gave me twenty bucks. At least I didn’t hit him. Fucking ignorant, man. He’s just ignorant.

My Town

Categories Words on a Screen

What’s to make of the city as its population continues to change, the transplants quickly outweighing the natives, yesterday’s vision being resurfaced by an incoming freshman class of civilian? In that pocket of confusion, the circumstances of this city’s facelift served as a fine excuse to guard myself from committing to whatever any of this really is.

There’s a division that was created in my head several years ago, with one of the most prominent voices arguing that Nashville is a city divided, and I was on the lesser side of whatever that divide might be. It’s all related to insecurities: You’re either one of worth or you’re not. Beauty, cool, and success all play in to it, but at its core it was only just a way to validate an internal feeling of victimhood. When you tell yourself you’re never going to be one of them, whoever they are, there are few limitations to the levels of slack you’re willing to cut yourself.

I felt I deserved to be welcomed from the moment I got here. Without realizing it at the time, I used that sense of entitlement to paint myself something of a social refugee. “Look at all the outsiders,” I thought. “I’m an outsider, too — they should be welcoming me.” But in that headspace, it felt like if you weren’t one of the original outsiders, you’d never be welcome. I blamed others because I’d convinced myself I was insignificant.

I’ve not been much for prayer, but several weeks ago I committed. With eyes closed, my hope was to set the right tone for whoever was listening, myself included. I’ve been here a while, but now I’m trying something new. What makes a town someone’s town isn’t just living there, but being present there. It’s terrifying.

Good Friday

Categories Words on a Screen

Getting to there from here has almost always felt like the point. This moment, just something to bear on the way to right now becoming something better. This experience a lesser version of what I’m really preparing for. And suddenly the future disappears. With countless conversations touting the value of mindfulness behind me, a feeling has finally caught up to the concept. My eyes look through the book I’d been reading and I focus on the ground. Then the distance returns, separating me from the present. I grab my phone and scramble to type, my digital shorthand capturing a moment, maybe to process it, maybe to drop an anchor tethering me to a place I hope to return to. For a moment there, an ideal had become practice.

Having returned to my baseline, my range becomes broad again. My attention is lost and focus strays to a group of teenagers off in the distance — singing, playing guitar, keeping a beat, a dozen of them in a chorus of praise. Some sway, some raise their hands casually to their shoulders making an exaggerated shrugging gesture as if trying to prove their exaltation by way of awkward physicality. My judgement flails, striking out at them for them being them, then back at me for mocking them, then again back at me out of jealousy: Never can I recall being so committed to a moment, sober, as they seem right now. For some, a better Friday than for others. I walk away thinking how an epiphany marred by regret is still an epiphany.

Another Queen

Categories Words on a Screen

Royalty in passing, a red carpet is laid out for you in my mind. Who you really are never seems to cross my mind though, because in that moment you are grand, a leader of nations, powerful enough to sway the will of men with a wave of the hand yet wise enough to not allow the masses your attention. The projection of nobility always bears an expiration date however, which usually lasts just long enough for me to agree with myself that the upward boundaries of class mobility are there for a reason. Another queen off to find her king.

Artifacts

Categories Words on a Screen

“Imaginary flirtations with the second amazing waitress of the day float through my mind as we drive home for the night, a bleak country-sized horizon lit up by the high-beams. I feel lucky.” Memory of writing down those words has left me, but the vision of those high-beams has stuck, us driving away from the city, back through the nothingness, feeling a just-slightly-buzzed hum run through me. Several months later, in recapping my notes from the trip, I wrote “The goal now is to stop imagining and keep committing until the person in the mirror matches the person I want to see looking back at me.” However faded it might be in certain spots, there’s a line that’s been drawn through each of these plot points, that continues on through today. There are so many memories I want to hold on to, telling myself that maybe they can become useful in relating to someone else. Maybe those photos, those notes, or those ideas will reflect upon me in a way that building something new can’t. The risk of letting go is made to feel so much more imposing by the fear of having to try something new. What’s the real value of these artifacts if they don’t help move the needle.

Oklahoma

Categories Words on a Screen

Travel back here to find solace, she told me: This is a place to be cherished; visit when you feel the need to escape; make frequent visits in your mind… In the moment it seemed so real, so genuine, so inspirational. Moments like these manufacture believers.

The Internet

Categories Words on a Screen

“I’ve never stepped so lightly in all my life / And all the months of my childhood turned to eggshell when I wasn’t lookin'”

Where my mind forgets, The Internet remembers. That sticky residue of the past like sap, a historical cache of connections, moments, and memories sticking to a person with the frightening permanence of an industrial adhesive. Everything stored in the cloud, held in a weightless currency of bits and bytes while its heaviness is immeasurable.

The apps act as portals to an infinite feedback loop, each providing the opportunity to lose myself in a state of endless narcissistic reflection. The glow of the handheld window never reveals a vision of what’s happening, currently, however, but of what just happened — the present moment perpetually revealing itself with a slight lag caused by a period of electronic digestion. Being present in this sort of arena means being forever trapped in what just happened. And with both feet planted in a moment that no longer exists, my input in this space is recommended — encouraged even — with the energy behind each unique platform begging a similar form of shorthand feedback, insight, or opinion of me. The destination of this process is a forced nostalgia for something that’s barely finished happening, as if that moment had something remotely to do with me in the first place.

I’ve never forgotten that “if you’re not the customer, you’re the product,” but whose best interest the creators have in mind is of little consequence when the chemical surge of validation hits the brain. Here, in this space of limited peripheral vision, this instinct to participate is only fueled by the reciprocity of others — each instance of their noticing, liking, favoriting, or commenting all further solidify the habit of impulsive clicking to gauge personal value by way of virtual credibility.

What meaningful connection is there to be had if any interaction relies on a foundation of highly self-edited digital personas intelligently navigating through a vast jungle of confirmation biases to find common ground on an actual human level?

Into the fireplace go the yearbooks.

“Ain’t no sense in keepin’ around somethin’ that really ain’t worth keepin'”

Danielle

Categories Words on a Screen

The choir wails. She looks up from her hymnal long just enough to lose her place. No one’s listening anyways, she tells herself, before gently closing the book and returning it to its home. Her voice is beautiful. As she stands there, the chorus echoes throughout the sanctuary, alive with song toasting the trinity. The organ’s massive pipes tower over the congregation. She looks to her left — her parents — and to her right — familiar faces — and wonders how did I get here? How did this become the thing I do? How did this become what I’m supposed to be? The music returns to silence and the pews creak and moan. Attention returns to the altar. Reinforced consequences leave her tense with fear. Her guilt is heavy. She’s doing the best she can.