I've taken the last several weeks off from writing anything on the Internet.
(You probably didn't notice)
However, during my hiatus I noticed a few things emerging for me:
1.) The old feeling of missing out on some significant trend, moment, topic du jour, or trending Internet watershed that used to accompany the absence of my incredibly timely, hilarious, and searing take on current cultural happenings just isn't there anymore. Or maybe at least not on a level I'm currently conscious of. I don't think It's just me, the 15 second news cycles under whose tyranny we all toil each day have this rather pernicious habit of burying all thoughtful engagement, insight, and creativity under a heap of inescapable, ear-splitting, cacophonously partisan and desperately anxious noise. It's oppressive, and deafening, and debilitating.
It feels like trying to read Keats on the second row of a Metallica concert.
"Gimme Fuel. Gimme Fire. Gimme that which I desire."
-John Keats (I think)
2.) The endorphin spike I occasionally feel whenever you reach across the expanse of the social-media-hellscape upon which I register my self-worth, is having an increasingly negative impact on the lived experience of my analog life. Stop me if you've heard this before, but It's almost as if my desperate efforts at commenting on, sharing, documenting, and critiquing cellular human life for the electric pleasure of a coterie of people who don't know my address or my son's middle name is turning my actual existence on Earth into a dress rehearsal for the fake one I live on the Internet.
It feels like the Matrix in reverse.
(and I'm incredibly sorry for making a Matrix reference that I regret even as I type it but somehow feel unable to delete #fatalism)
3.) In sacrificing real people on the altar of my fake Internet life, I realize that I'm tirelessly striving for authenticity in (maybe) the most inauthentic way imaginable. For example: my picture on this very website is in black and white so you can't make out the adult acne that will be my perpetual opening act for the rest of my days.
All of what we're doing together on the Internet is literally fake, in a VERY real way (like geo-political, thermonuclear levels of real fakeness), and in my self-imposed sabbatical from the art of criticizing real life in a real way on a fake medium for fake versions of real people to positively or negatively respond to, I found this level of unexpected equilibrium bubbling up within me that I haven't enjoyed in quite sometime.
The kind of equilibrium where I'm able to talk with people and not worry about them reading something I've written on the Internet that might make them anxiously interested in me for reasons that have very little to do with the splotchy-skinned-thirty-two-year-old-sleepy-toddler-dad-with-coffee-stains-on-his-sweater in front of them.
The kind of equilibrium where I'm able to express a panoply of emotions drawn from a well just a fair bit deeper than (say) the numerous smiling and/or frowning faces on my iPhone keyboard.
"May this tearful emoji sustain you in the passing of your beloved grandmother. Namaste"
The kind of equilibrium where I'm forced to ask the person in front of me what it is they're doing, why they're doing it, how they're doing it, and what meaning it gives to their lives on Earth, all without already knowing how they feel about Robert Muller or the #MeToo movement or their new puppy's inability to "MAKE" outside without dripping most of it on their dining room rug.
It's incredibly exotic to live in a world where I don't already know if I like someone before they begin speaking to me. It feels old fashioned and genteel, like laugh tracks backing bad jokes on a 3 camera sitcom and institutional racism...
this is a joke and if you don't get it, may I direct you to the "WHICH NOTORIOUS REAL WORLD/ROAD RULES CHALLENGE TV RACIST ARE YOU" Buzzfeed quiz your mom's salon friend recently took?
Perhaps this is why God, in my Christian tradition, rather than being content to solely communicate God's wishes for the universe via divine fiat occasionally mouthed by grumpy prophets, tribal conflicts, and odd dietary restrictions, chose to enter the human struggle through the birth canal of an impoverished woman in the ancient Near East.
Like one does.
In the person of Jesus, God brought clarity once and for all to the multitudinous ways in which people have wrongly thought about, believed in, acted toward, and worshiped the divine across the expanse of recorded history...
this is a joke and if you don't get it, may I direct you to the "WHICH VIOLENT DEATH WOULD YOUR DOG HAVE BEEN MOSTLY LIKELY TO SUFFER DURING THE CRUSADES" Buzzfeed quiz your old high school classmate recently took?
Even the divine, in taking on flesh, blood, and (at least according to most of the art adorning the cinderblock hallways of my childhood Baptist church) the flowing locks and dead-eyed salvation stare of American Idol Season 4's Bo Bice, continues to be (mis)interpreted by almost every human with whom he has directly or indirectly come into contact.
Except, of course, Jerry Falwell Jr., that dude's obviously got a direct line to the wishes of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ...
this is a joke and if you don't get it, may I direct you to the "HOW JUDAS ISCARIOT ARE YOU ON A SCALE OF 30 SHECKLES OF SILVER TO AN APPOINTMENT IN THE OVAL OFFICE" Buzzfeed quiz your local Evangelical non-profit CEO recently took?
Inevitably, you're asking:
"Yeah man, so what's the point of all this, because I've been skeptically reading for at least 5 paragraphs and you haven't given me a way of tweeting out a block quote of text from this piece that reads: "CHRISTIANS, EVERYONE HATES YOU BECAUSE YOU HATE EVERYONE WHO HATES YOU FOR HATING THEM (tweet this)," or listed the 5 things I'm doing that prevent me from doing 5 other things that I should be doing instead."
I totally get that.
Which, I guess, is kind of my point.
There isn't a blog, or a listicle, or an open letter, or a quiz (I think) that will explain why it mostly seems that God doesn't have a plan for my life, your life, or the life of any human pretending to be someone they aren't on Twitter (especially when they (hypothetically) brag about the size of their hands, their button, or their inauguration crowd).
If the physical manifestation of God on Earth (famous for saying incredibly straightforward things about what happens to wealthy folks who oppress poor folks, only to immediately have wealthy folks obfuscate this meaning in the name of the aforementioned physical manifestation of God on Earth's wishes for a spruced up Narthex and a balanced federal budget) created increasingly more confusion in both his analog life and analog death, the answer to the problems besieging our globe and our marriages and our student loan debt probably aren't confined to a character limit or a constantly-refreshed-News-Feed.
(and yes, I did already read that "Open Letter to Christians who refuse to read open letters because they love Hitler" your mom sent me.)
Life is complicated, and confusing, and complex, and endlessly fascinating, especially once you no longer have access to the person in front of you's preferences for the "work" of Tucker Carlson or Chris Matthews. When partisan binaries are no longer quickly at hand the only thing we have left to lean on is intuition, or gut, or a "sense about these things," or what people have -for years now- referred to as "the Spirit".
It was like God's plan for the universe all along was to have not one plan, but three.
(You can tweet that if you want, I guess?)
Maybe in a world desperate for one or the other, the traditional or the iconoclastic, the transcendent or the immanent, the conservative or the endlessly progressive, it was as if God said:
"Yeah, sure. oh, but when things become gridlocked, try this third thing. The third thing will know what to do when you get stuck."
So may you, whether you live online or refuse to Tweetgram, whether you're desperate for an idealized version of the past or an idealized version of the future, whether you're angry because of this or angry about that, finally come to the end of yourself (both online and in person). Not because a tidy answer awaits you at the limit of your struggle, but because when things become gridlocked, try this third thing. The third thing will know what to do. And the third thing, at least according to a few sources I've read, will lead you into "all truth".
In my experience, "all truth" doesn't mean every truth easily accessible from the comfort of your phone whilst piloting a two-ton vehicle in heavy traffic, it sometimes means this sense of knowing which truth is the one driving other truths.
Maybe complexity and confusion and three-ness in the face of a request for one-ness, is the answer to our struggles, rather than the question frustratingly igniting them.
(You could also maybe tweet that if you want.)