Monday, January 04, 2016

Project for a Failing

I thought of what I wanted to say yesterday as I was walking and then came home and watched four hours of TV instead. Now I have a migraine, and what might have been a long, zigzaging post will probably be another mealy-mouthed, hasty scrawl.


Just read this piece by Rebecca Solnit. I feel old reading it but it also feels so right about technology and time and haste.

I have reconnected via Facebook to old friends who might otherwise never have resurfaced, and followed grassroots politics and movements. And I’ve wasted countless hours on it that I could’ve spent going deeper, with a book, a film, a conversation, or even a walk or a task. Meanwhile the quality of my emails deteriorated; after many years of marvellous correspondences it became hard to find anyone who still wrote anything resembling a letter. Everyone just dashed off notes about practical things, with maybe a little personal stuff in the mix, and you can’t get epistolatory with someone who won’t receive it with enthusiasm, or at least I can’t. A gratuitous clutter of bureaucratic and soliciting emails filled all our inboxes, and wading through that clutter consumed a great deal of everyone’s time.
Previous technologies have expanded communication. But the last round may be contracting it. The eloquence of letters has turned into the unnuanced spareness of texts; the intimacy of phone conversations has turned into the missed signals of mobile phone chat. I think of that lost world, the way we lived before these new networking technologies, as having two poles: solitude and communion. The new chatter puts us somewhere in between, assuaging fears of being alone without risking real connection. It is a shallow between two deep zones, a safe spot between the dangers of contact with ourselves, with others.


The park,  where I was walking and thinking thoughts, is dying of neglect. It's not hot enough yet to account for the wilting plants and brown lawn in the one section where there is a lawn. I'm told the maali who tended to all of this died a few days ago and now there is no one to water the plants. No one else employed by the GHMC for the care of the park will multitask. The GHMC will not appoint anyone else because municipal elections are round the corner and they are too busy trying to garner votes to actually do any of the stuff they're elected to do.

This is one park. Elsewhere in the city, other things moulder in their varieties of ways.


Failing. Project for. 

I imagined that this year, I would try to make my living by other means. Like, imagine if I could make money from just listening to people. Not like a counsellor, but more like a priest at the confessional.

In fact, I am imagining a lovely trellis in between, maybe some kind of verdigris wrought iron thing. My supplicants will sit facing me, though, because eye contact, even through a grill, is a wonderful thing and frankly, the only thing separating this experience from the evesdropping that I do regularly on the internet.

Of course, I must get paid for listening to people. 

I will offer no advice, prescribe no penance. This might bewilder the folk who come expecting absolution or achievable goals. 

I don't know what to tell them because I am forbidden from speaking (except to mention rates per hour).

Maybe I can offer fortune cookies filled with doom and gloom?  I can manage those. And baking is so therapeutic.


Here's a sunbird smashing herself against my window. This, then, is the new year.



pi-pu-xi-xu said...


I have already slipped up on my new year goals several times,and it is just day 4. Maybe I can help with those fortune cookies, if you let me sneak in the occasional terrible pun?

km said...

Somewhere, a flock of sunbirds had a loud, drunken New Year's eve party, woke up the next morning and resolved to master the skill of flying through closed windows.

Anonymous said...

To more listening, walking, talking. Writing letters perhaps. And you know, just saw a short film during MIFF selection, not a good film sadly particularly at the end, but about a paid listener. Someone who just listened without speaking. :)

Space Bar said...

pipuxixu: Me too, on the resolutions. And no - the fortune cookies are ALL MINE!

km: the poor things are just fascinated by their own reflection. A friend said they might be hurting themselves in the process but I'm not sure I can live with curtained rooms in the day time.

batul: Happy new year to you all! Also, mail address. I'll write. I am very sad to have it confirmed that nothing is original. Please tell me they didn't also have fortune cookies in the film?