I looked back on the collection of memories. Clearly, only one of two conclusions could be drawn: I had never learned to properly categorize and organize my memories in my head for neat, chronological and subject matter retrieval; or, memories were never intended to be relived with any amount of depth. People like Proust were anomalies.
Really, the attempt had always been one of describing certain six-ten year collections as happy times or struggles. But, there were inevitably some of the happiest moments during the so-called struggles, and tragedies during the happy years. What’s more, the happy times often seemed to appear and get stronger for certain hexades or decades after time had gently passed to remove much of the bitterness and sting from the less savory memories.
Occasionally, more memories would be jogged by an old photograph. In the photograph, I am tan, young, healthy and not that bad-looking. Except, I remember the time period as being one where I struggled endlessly to connect with the opposite sex, and obsessed over physical features that seemed to me to be crippling flaws. The inability to have clear perspective in the present came about because I so adamantly refused to engage myself with various social groups to grow as a person. Inevitably, I would end up facing my social fears in spite of my attempts to avoid confrontations, and I would mature at a glacial pace.
Now, I am desperately seeking profound change in my life, but not change that will cause me to grow old more quickly than I already have, and not change that in any way would cause unhappiness for me or others.
Most of my writing from the past year or so has been extremely banal and useless to anyone other than myself. I feel like I have a million things to say, but can’t seem to latch on to a particular theme well enough to explore it in any depth.
What does it mean to anyone to do or say something profound and novel? In my present day culture, you must have an extraordinary experience involving war or drugs, or have a sexy, semi-successful start-up. You can also get the ears of others if you are pretty or rich. You might argue that you also have to do plenty of hard work, and network with the right people–this is true, but it is a lot more likely that people will listen to you if you are an attractive or rich this or that…at least attractive to an acceptable degree.
In short, surface wins vs. substance. Do we have Sartre and other atheist existentialists to blame for this, or were they simply caught up in the milieu of the same society at its infancy?
You look at how our culture changed radically during the last half of the 20th Century–was it simply a coincidence that the changes always corresponded with changes in technology? An action painter isn’t recognized as such until there is a medium to record the action painter in action. A hard rock band doesn’t arrive until the amplifier can work its magic with the electric guitar to make it a force of its own to be reckoned with. Counterculture movements don’t take off until their prospective members can watch them on television and project themselves onto the movements’ pioneers.
In short, was the Baby Boomer generation simply at the mercy of the technology it was handed, or would it have brought forth some of its same radical ideals (feminism, equal rights for all races, anti-war, etc.) regardless of the existence of the radio, television, cinema, etc.? Look at the majority of Generation X. We were recipients of some of the tail end of the use and abuse of these technologies, as well as the nascent stages of computing, web, and mobile technologies. It could be argued that GenX was incapable of producing nearly as many innovative ideas and artifacts as the Boomers and Millennials. This could be due to the significantly smaller size of the GenX population, but the available technology seems to inescapably have something to do with it. If cheap, abundant computing power and almost endless-seeming free computing applications are not available, then the medium of choice for expression will probably be something else, namely video and film, and the 4-8 track recording machines.
Perhaps this is what McLuhan meant when he said that the message was the medium–I’ve not bothered to read anything of his.
What I do know is that I feel most comfortable using computing technology as I learned to use it before I was thirty–and everything that has come after, namely mobile computing with smart phones–has failed to excite and engage me the same way computers did from the TRS-80 and PC Jr I had as a kid down to the laptop.
But as I get older, I even start to find myself struggling to care about opening the computer to write. Sure, it’s easier and faster once I get going with the typing out of my thoughts, but I no longer have quite the same sense of urgency around getting my words out to the world at large. I’ve read enough of other people’s writing to know that I probably haven’t had one single revolutionary idea in the thousands of pages of writing that represent my stab at greatness.