Red Pill

It is a harsh realization that you have become like some sort of cave dwelling fish, swimming about in the dark, sitting for hours in front of a glowing screen, staring. Sure, I suppose that I have my excuses, but this cannot be helping. Perhaps it was the way I was raised: hide in the dark and stare at the screen. Yet, our excessive television watching was tempered by being outside, interacting with the people around you and just getting some goddamn fresh air.
People that know me know that a glowing Screen is the candle to my moth, and to what extremes I will go to avoid it. I loudly and proudly went without a television for 10 years, not as a sociological statement nor an elitist dismissal, but because it works on me like a bug zapper in a Georgia Summer. When a dear friend of mine insisted that I finally get one (a.k.a. showed up at the door carrying one) so that there was something to do when he drove 4 hours to see me, I insisted that it be stored in the closet when he was not there…. But it sat on the floor at a weird angle, and when he brought over the N64 of his youth (this was still a rather new-fangled thing to me), we couldn’t play correctly without craning our heads strangely.

As most things in life, the trouble starts when you find yourself rooting in the trash for something. Since I was not going to pay for such a thing, and neither was my friend, we waited until trash day in the rich neighborhood and, in an hour and a half, our TV sat on a vintage 60’s rolling TV stand. It served both of our purposes, high enough to watch comfortably and on wheels, so that I could shove it back into the closet as soon as my friend left.

The problems began because the TV was put away, but all the furniture was left pointing at the closet in anticipation of my friend’s triumphant return, when the door would be flung open and the movie marathon would begin again. The cause of the issue was the stand, itself. When you dedicate furniture that is specific to a device, you give it a presence in your world. There is always a space that it must occupy.

When put away, the TV took up one of my two closets, and the bigger of the two at that. In true American fashion, I have accumulated an assorted collection of crap I refer to as my belongings which must be kept in specific piles. Without ready access to the storage, these piles started to spread, and to save what little dignity I had left, The TV was moved across the room, the furniture adjusted around this and the fate of my universe sealed.

I do not mean to imply that I was more sane before this.

Before the TV, my living room was arranged in a way that my weird little hermit self could sit and read Religion related works of an anthropological/sociological nature, fantasy novels where someone runs away and finds their true home and H.P. Lovecraft, or I could stare out of a 120 year old window onto what I always had considered ‘High Main Street’ when I was small, but was really a wide road in a small old suburb of a big city, Madison Avenue in Lakewood, Ohio. It was as close to a solitary hermitage as a drunken 20-something’s apartment could be.

The TV changed all of that. I could sit and watch movies. I could suddenly start keeping up with the news, something I had never done before. I could play stupid video games as long as I wanted. My creative input slowed and my creative output, “even though it may be small and feeble… and you can’t remember the last time you used it” (Miller’s Crossing), slowed to nothing. Yet, what’s the worst that could happen?

The Great Eastern Blackout happened right in the middle of my friend and I watching Robert De Niro and Al Pacino’s ‘Heat’ for the 12th time. We were sadly indignant for a while, because it had cut off at the climatic scene we had been discussing, and we sat there waiting for it to come back on. The Blackout of 2003 spread from Massachusetts to all of Ohio to all of Ontario up to James Bay. We had heard as far away as Oklahoma was affected. In Lakewood Ohio, it stretched for 3 days.

People like me are not supposed to be in front of glowing screens. A genetic curse so dire, we were expelled from the Amish Community and caused them to enact draconian rulings against all technology.

Yet, here I am 10 years later, staring at a screen that only differs in the diversity of content.

Like I said, I have my excuses. The very real threat that my wife could possibly die from the surgery level medication they have left her on after her brain surgery was unsuccessful has us on constant edge. The fact that tiny paperwork flubs can cause this delicate balance to shift wildly out of control makes planning get-togethers with anyone difficult and constantly subject to change. The fact that, in retrospect, we should have picked getting my service related injury, beaten apart by back breaking work and iced with car-accident whiplash, fixed so that I could function at capacity through this, instead of now putting that off, too, as we scramble to perform constant damage control and maintenance on my wife. These are things that would drive me back to smoking and drinking if I still did that. (knock on wood)

Instead, the loving glow of the God with the Glass Eye (as a preacher named Gary Chirkes once called it when I was 6) awaits me, to distract, to entertain, to inform but always to keep me carefully insulated from Life Itself. Yet, not for that reason alone.

Those few people that have waited around long enough to know will be able to attest to the fact that I function in life like I have relationship autism. When I am with a group of people, I can function normally if we are doing something, working or building something or whatnot, but ‘hanging-out’ is this elite royal dinner where the settings consist of 14 different forks. I want to interact, but the tools at my disposal, the ones that make perfect sense to everyone else, exceed my limits to figure out. When reflected on later, I can rationalize how I was supposed to act, but in the moment will throw me into an anxiety attack. This is just hanging out in social situations, not life. If we all met at a barn raising or were working in a garden, I am fine. Some of us were built for the monkish life, and have hell to pay for not doing it.

Believe it or not, I took a career test just recently based on Jungian Observational Classification, and found the why in black and white. Unlike the ‘Which LOTR Character are you?,” this one was just helping people find a career path that might interest their personality.  The first line, and I sounded like some Hero; “idealistic, self-sacrificing, and somewhat cool or reserved. They are very family and home oriented, and have a high capacity for caring. High sense of honor derived from internal values. 1% of the total population.

After that, it started laying on the hard truths: “Their natural tendency to identify with others, compounded with their self-sacrificial dispositions, tends to leave them confused as to who they really are,” or, “As stress builds, INFP’s become disconnected from their own personality and perceived place in life. They will lose sight of who they are in relation to time and place. They may not make basic observations, while instead they will focus on the more abstract and symbolic meanings of a particular interaction. This can sometimes baffle those who expect more direct communication and a fairly concrete relationship.” (Source: http://www.careertest.net/types/descriptions/infp.htm)

Finally. I wasn’t a freak. I was just different…. and that was the lure of The Screen. I could finally open up a line of communication with people I hadn’t seen in 15 years, lost because I stumble through life convinced that I have wronged everyone I have even cared for, but I could on my terms. If I was lonely at three in the morning, I could leave someone I was thinking of a note of my nostalgia. Everyone I have ever spoken with still crosses my mind, and the flinches of regret remain just as fresh. As I discovered when I moved back home for a short time, though,  you can be gone too long, you can never step in the same river twice and you really never can go home again.

Yet, I was finally getting better with the internet’s help. Of course, while you’re here, here’s a picture of a Grumpy Cat, and we want your opinion on every news story down the pike (though we’ll personally vette all of your statements because you don’t play by our unposted rules), and here’s all the people you once thought of yourself as somehow superior to being successful, happy and active. Here are all the things you want, and missing are the people who blocked you, cutting off any form of apology you could think to give.

Well, I say, “Enough!”. Since the delicate nature of my family’s condition forces me to continue using this medium of communication, I will be only using this one. If I hook it up right, I won’t even have to open a browser to post. You can still get a hold of me here or call me, but I am unhooking from this Matrix otherwise. As the Amish teach, technology makes its own paths for Sin (“The 7 Deadly Ones”) but also takes away from community.

I just can’t have this level of distraction anymore. I’ll take the red pill, and get out of this all-encompassing Matrix to see just what I can do in the really real world. Sorry if this will force you to read more of my ramblings. Let me know, and maybe I can work in bold lettering or something so that you can ‘Cliff Notes’ it.

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