Wednesday, August 31, 2016

On 2016: Thoughts on David Foster Wallace and EM Forster

“Because a thing is going strong now, it need not go strong for ever,” [Margaret] said. “This craze for motion has only set in during the last hundred years. It may be followed by a civilization that won’t be a movement, because it will rest upon the earth."
--E. M. Forster, Howards End

"He had to throw out all his beer and liquor, because if he drank alcohol and smoked dope at the same time he would get dizzy and ill, and if he had alcohol in the house he could not be relied on not to drink it once he started smoking dope."
--David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest

The year was 2016, the number of the living 7.2 billion.

The most popular thing to watch was naked people.

Bicycle production soared at a rate of increase twice that of cars.

The world's most popular activity was to touch a handheld device, a game with the objective of touching and virtually crushing pictures of candy--a free game that somehow netted a dollar for every person on Earth.

No one admitted the preeminence of this game and others like it except those who, through the purchase of stock options in companies producing such games, tacitly accepted the wretchedness of human nature--i.e., type A of the two branches of homo sapiens:
A. those who saw and profited from the exploitation of human wretchedness;
B. those who did not see and were exploited because they believed in goodness, in puppies and in the possibility of both fulfilling and healthy salads.

Instead of admitting to a devotion to crushing candy and nudity, type B believed themselves to be devotees of news media--a media that painted such a wretched portrait of humanity that in the end it turned out...I take back what I said about them. Just forget about it.

Here was the real situation: all humanity found all humanity wretched. The only difference was in which type of wretchedness was diagnosed, and in the profitability of that diagnosis.

The year was notable for its brushing off of the old argumentum ad lapidum: the application of force to things as a form of argument. Notable among those was the Distinguished Senator from Kansas' tossing of a snowball:
Not that it hit any lasting point or anyone, hidden as they were in dark rooms watching buttocks and thrusting pelvises and crushing virtual candy.

How could it get more interesting than a world on fire, as scientists claimed to be the case? Except it was not more interesting than pouring a 40 ounce malt liquor over notably rotund bare and twerking buttocks and finding three identical pieces of virtual candy and hearing the satisfying sound of their disintegration.

The warming of the Earth was judged uninteresting.

They passed by in cars and immersed in porn and freemium artifice without smelling the prairie in Spring, carrying lilac and a thousand wildflowers and the somehow sweet earth itself and without the sound of it through the tall soaked everlasting grass; the soaking of clothes from one's own sweat through hours of labor in Summer heat and falling in cool water afterwards; hot tomatoes off the vine; sawdust covering the skin and the quiet after the chainsaw stops; girls in a playground sitting with their backs against a wall in the shade and their laughs echoing off the brick; standing shirtless on the crest of a dune leaning into the cool, stiff salt-less breeze off Lake Michigan; riding up Angler's hill in near-darkness on the 7am goon ride with silent, heavy-breathing men on roughly $100,000 in bicycle components; even the memory of the delivery trucking throwing me from my bike and the shattering of its mirror on my helmet and the crack of my vertebra.

These sensations echo through me and sustain me, add small tweaks to moments of decision. I am not sure what those entirely devoted to porn and handheld games bring to mind in post-ejaculation doldrums and/or moments of walking to the phone shop to address battery failure of said handheld device. Possibly images of vaginas and penises, of disassembled candies provide equivalent bonds of affection and meaning to them as memories of loved ones and ol' Mother Earth provide to me--how can I know if theirs are lesser than mine?

I am not warning of a state of crumbling morality. I am not convinced we are worse now than we were when we were just slaveholders and wife beaters.

I do long for a community with less commitment to quantity and more concern for quality. There are better games out there than Candy Crush; there are better, far more beautiful, even, things to watch than what can be found on porn websites.

We are here for an instant and then we're gone. Maybe the best thing to do is fill that time with as many orgasms and crushed candy as we are able.

But maybe, a la Seinfeld, we step back for a moment and try to separate our notion of happiness from the notion of amount. Maybe it's not so much a bucket as it is a keyhole--and not a vagina-shaped keyhole even.

I'm just guessing here, by the way.

Of the few memories that still thrill me all involve people. And when it comes to riding and racing a bike, there are lonely rides and lonely wins, and the ones that stick with me are the ones I did with people I care about.

The motion of being on a bike is the apparent beauty of it. Acts of daring and skill and grit make racing. The orgiastic win. And yet the consistency of the sport grounds it: the parcours. The terrain. You can't crush bike races like candy; I won't say it isn't pornographic, but it isn't as empty of true passion as porn.

Bike racing's commercial failure as a sport, I find, adds to its appeal. Yes, you can try to sell me a few tires and stems. Compared to what's happening in the rest of the world of advertising and sport, what's happening in bike racing is quaint.

And yet it's disappointing that, locally and nationally, the sport is waning. Young people aren't interested apparently. Or if they are, they are shepherded carefully along through structured, nurturing squads tailored to development, like Rock Creek Velo. You don't get kids like Russ Langley or Bob Roll coming out of the woodwork with clunkers and nothing but a chip on their shoulder. You don't get kids trying to ride clear out of the 21st century, as I was, when they get on their bikes. Maybe this is good. Ours were just expressions of desperation or insanity, after all.

Or maybe you do still get desperate poor kids coming out on bikes like in the stories. I don't talk to many kids. I just watch angry TV commentators and read about Angry Birds and porn.

The year was 2016, the number of people was 7.2 billion. The most popular thing to do was watch naked people.

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