11 December 2008

Total Noise

A professor/mentor came into the office yesterday as I was going through my facebook pictures and deleting photographs that certain new "friends" -- students, potential funders of my projects, family-friends -- might deem inappropriate for a teacher, chaplain, mentor. It's silly really, but my visiting professor/mentor friend asked me how much time I spent on facebook and myspace, and I know already that I spend too much time developing these relationships through popular and temporal mediums, but my professor/mentor's thoughts on these time-consuming and relationship-stunting endeavors hit home. Texting, chatting, emailing, myspacing, facebooking can't and don't compare to real face to face relationships. Sure, I'm thankful for the ability to stay in contact with those I love that live far away; nevertheless, I'm feeling the need to, at least, call friends on the phone.

The conversation with my professor/mentor turned to Wallace's thoughts on "Total Noise." Wallace seems to speak to the heart of the matter -- the need to be "in the know." I think it's an addiction and it's insanity in an age of seemingly limitless information, people, possibility.

I need simplicity.

David Foster Wallace, Intro to The Best American Essays, 2007 Edition

"...essays on everything from memory and surfing and Esperanto and childhood and mortality and Wikipedia, on depression and translation and emptiness and James Brown, Mozart, prison, poker, trees, anorgasmia, color, homelessness, stalking, fellatio, ferns, fathers, grandmothers, falconry, grief, film comedy -- a rate of consumption which tends to level everything out into an undifferentiated mass of high-quality description and trenchant reflection that becomes both numbing and euphoric, a kind of Total Noise that's also the sound of our U.S. culture right now, a culture and volume of info and spin and rhetoric and context that I know I'm not alone in finding too much to even absorb, much less to try to make sense of organize into any kind of triage of saliency or value. Such basic absorption, organization and triage used to be what was required of an educated adult, a.k.a. an informed citizen -- at least that's what I got taught. Suffice it here to say that the requirements now seem different.

...Or let's not even mention the amount of research, background, cross-checking, corroboration, and rhetorical parsing required to understand the cataclysm of Iraq, the collapse of congressional oversight, the ideology of neoconservatism, the legal status of presidential signing statements, the political marriage of evangelical Protestantism and corporatist laissez-faire ... There's no way. You'd simply drown. We all would. It's amazing to me that no one much talks about this -- about the fact that whatever our founders and framers thought of as a literate, informed citizenry can no longer exist, at least not without a whole new modern degree of subcontracting and dependence packed into what we mean by 'informed.'

1 comment:

td said...

The poem I mentioned the other day that I submitted to RipRap was about David Foster Wallace.